With action calming down, in our first full month of term the club made the most of being back in Birmingham together, training for various races.
With some alumni in the London Marathon and a swathe of new bests at the Mallory Park 5K, there was still fast running on display late in the year.
London Elite Marathon
In its first ever hosting outside of spring since its 1981 beginnings, the London Marathon had a very different look when the rearranged fate of the 4th of October came around. Whilst tens of thousands raced their virtual London Marathons across the world, alumni Jack Gray and Naomi Mitchell were two of the lucky few to be able to race around St James' Park.
Making his marathon debut, Gray ran 2:20:26, a highly impressive time that placed him 10th Brit overall, and one that also backed up his rapid 63:15 half marathon best.
Mitchell had raced the distance plenty of times before, but after improving her best by eleven minutes to 2:37:51 in 2019, her 2020 race took another four-and-a-half minutes off, as she carried herself to a new best of 2:33:23. The run placed her UK#3 in 2020, as well as UK#46 all-time.
On a perfectly flat go-kart track in Ashton-on-Makerfield, the aptly-named Fast 5K was an outstanding proving ground for Amelia Quirk in her first ever road 5K. After 15:43.35 in winning her bronze medal on track at the British Championships a month earlier, Quirk was arguably better value in running a 15:54, on a windy and wet night in Wigan.
Finishing behind Laura Weightman, having the season of her life, and Australian international Jess Hull, Quirk's time was a new club record, beating the previous best of 16:13. Unsurprisingly, the result also placed her very high on the UK rankings, ending up UK#6 U23 and UK#50 all-time, as well as UK#11 in 2020.
Vinco coverage of the event can be found here.
The fifth of October also saw scholarships announced for the new academic year. As well as those who were continuing their scholarships from previous years, the club had the addition of Saskia Millard, Taylor Campbell, and Laura Zialor.
With no sports nights to speak of, club social events needed innovation more than ever, and thus the BUAC Challenge Weekend was born. Here we hear from Jas Clark, club social secretary, on becoming a committee member and organising ways for the club to connect.
One of the things that makes BUAC one of the best clubs on campus is its social side. No matter what sporting background you come from, you're made to feel included and feel like you belong in BUAC, which is one of the things I wanted to exemplify when I became social sec.
It was definitely strange going through the process of becoming a committee member online, but its something we’ve all had to adapt to over this past year. We knew that COVID-19 presented us with a challenging first term, with nearly all social events cancelled. As a consequence we had to come up with new social events that fitted around this new obstacle, which is when we came up with the Challenge Weekend.
We organised teams and set up 15 challenges, with each team trying their best to beat the others. This was a great success and brought together the social and competitive sides of the club and allowed the freshers to see the fun, social side of BUAC.
Mallory Park 5K
A dozen past and present club members raced at Mallory Park in mid-October, and all but one of them achieved PBs on a fast course, racing in waves.
Alum Will Bryan was fifth-fastest on the day, racing to a new best of 14:27. Joining him in the top ten was Kristian Imroth, his 14:30 PB placing him 10th as he raced his first road 5K for four years. One position behind was Joe Hudson, seven seconds back from Imroth as he placed 11th with 14:37, over 20 seconds better than his performance in Armagh.
It was great to finally race again. It was an exciting format getting set off in waves and having people to chase down. I didn’t know what to expect, so I was delighted to come away with such a big PB. Joe Hudson
Joe Tuffin had run 15:25.33 on track in 2019, but his 14:51 took over 30 seconds from that, and 90 seconds from his road best, as he placed 19th on the circuit in Leicestershire. Jack Shayler was the sole BUAC athlete without a new best at the event, placing last of the top 25 as he came home in 15:00 on the nose.
Sam Knee-Robinson and Shreyas Kanyady were the final men home for Birmingham, and alumnus Knee-Robinson performed well on his 5K road debut to run 15:16 for 35th. Kanyady was exactly a quarter of a minute behind, his 43rd place accompanied by a time of 15:31.
Leading the women's contingent home was Maisie Grice in her first 5K showing in two years. As eighth athlete home, Grice ran 16:46 to take almost two minutes from her previous best. Joining her in the top 20 was alum Justine Anthony, whose 17:04 was better than her track and road bests, and placed her 19th.
With it being such a bizarre time in the season, I was really looking forward to racing a competitive road race and get some races in before Christmas. The event was brilliant - a great course, perfect weather and really well organized, and even better to see the BUAC family running so well! Maisie Grice
The final trio to attack the course were Ruby Whyte-Wilding, Elisha Tait, and Lucy Thornton, who finished 24th, 25th, and 34th. Whyte-Wilding took more than a minute from her best in perfect conditions for 17:29, while Tait took nearly a minute off hers, running 17:31. Thornton made a great debut over the distance, finishing in 17:50.
I hadn’t originally planned to race at Mallory, as it was only a few weeks after my end of season break in September. However, after being back training with BUAC for a few sessions and knowing a few others had Mallory 5K as a target, I didn’t want to let the opportunity of racing slide. I went into the race with no real expectations of myself, I was just happy to be back racing and to see what I could do. My last official 5K was in 2018 and I ran 18:47, so I knew this was a good opportunity for a big PB because the conditions for the race were absolutely perfect. When I finished the race, breaking 17:30 for the first time, I was over the moon. I think pretty much everyone ran PBs that day too, so it was very lovely to share the excitement with everyone else as well. Ruby Whyte-Wilding
After plenty of action at Mallory Park, we got to have a roundup of everything of note since the beginning of the month, which can be found here.
BUAC Bios - Adam Day
On the 22nd, we got to hear from middle-distance runner Adam Day, as we had the first of our BUAC Bios published.
Talking about his athletics history, as well as looking back on the year in which he set 800 and 1500 bests, the article gave great insight into the life of an athlete in the most unusual of years.
I really appreciated the opportunity to race this past season, and was happy to be able to turn my hard work in training and the support of the club into two PBs from five races. Adam Day
Adam's BUAC Bio can be found here.
Freshers Settle In
As we got deeper into October, plenty of newcomers to the club transitioned to being part of BUAC. Here we hear from two of them on joining the club, starting with Cypriot youth international Petros Kousis.
I always wanted to study abroad. During my search for universities, when I came across the University of Birmingham, I felt excited about it. That’s because it would enable me not only to study at a higher academic level, but also to continue my training, as it provides one of the best athletics clubs in the UK. So, I couldn’t wait to start that new part of my life at the University of Birmingham, to gain new experiences and to improve myself in both academic and athletic aspects.
Little did I know that I would be surrounded by an enormous amount of runners. The club’s size was my very first impression. That was very beneficial for me, because I had the opportunity to meet new people from the beginning of the term, despite the Covid restrictions and the difficulties to socialize.
Getting involved with training was something that I was looking forward to every day. Not only were the other athletes supportive, but the coaches were also very encouraging and willing to help. I have learnt a lot from them already.
The first term has definitely been hard, as I had to adjust in a new environment and also deal with the difficulties of Covid. However, the athletics club helped me go through all that and more importantly, enjoy my first term.
Another newcomer was Adria Dongo Munoz, who, like many, got into his running over lockdown. Joining the club at the beginning of term, here are his thoughts.
I must admit, up until last year, running was never my number one sport. I was very passionate for team sports, such as football or basketball, but it was during the first national lockdown when my love for running was born. Initially, I would just go on short, chilled runs just so I could stay active.
The freedom of running through the vast, green landscape of Oxfordshire naturally made my runs so satisfying that eventually I would keep on running for longer and longer. 5K one day, 10K the next day… I just couldn’t stop! So it doesn’t come as a surprise to say how excited I was to discover there is a cross country club at the University and I immediately became desperate to join!
Fast forward to September, I went to my first BUAC training! Although I had been active during lockdown, I was incredibly nervous on my first training session! I had never compared myself with anyone else so, clearly, I did not expect to impress anyone on the first day. I remember meeting Dean, Bud, and some of the lads and to be honest with you, I was so nervous that I was ready to turn around and go home!
Nevertheless, I pulled myself together and proceeded with the session doing laps around Metchley (with 75s rests in between). My initial thoughts were “damn, these guys are fast!”. Every time I finished a rep, I would watch attentively at other people’s reactions. I wanted to know how awful I was by reading people’s facial expressions. I guess I was desperate to prove myself to others at that point.
Walking home after that session, I remember Bud said to us just before he started his stopwatch, “You don’t have to impress anyone.” I like to think he was wrong. If there was anyone I was trying to impress, it was myself as I ended up doing 5 reps that day!
To me, the word incredible would be an understatement when describing the coaches and all the people at the club.
The people I have met so far have been fantastic and they truly represent the community spirit of the club. With the current restriction on our lives, I feel it has been even more important to stay physically active and, above all, mentally strong and everyone at the club has helped me do that. Whether it’s been through small talk or communal suffering from Dean’s intense Wednesday sessions, in some small way it has kept me sane from all my Uni workload! I cannot wait to return to training in 2021. I really hope to keep meeting more and more people at the club and make this new year one to remember!