The last ever Pomphrey 5K

2014-06-24, Comments

On a warm summer evening I cycled out of Bristol on the railway path. The verges were overgrown, the air dense with insects. Coming through Staple Hill the path enters a tunnel, water falling from the arching roof and onto the tarmac.

I count the Pomphrey Sports 5K as unfinished business. Last time I ran it — the only time I’d run it, in fact, the only timed 5K I’d ever run — on a dark, blustery winter’s evening it took me 18 minutes and 44 seconds to get round. Today, I had to do better. I wanted to test my speed ahead of the Swansea half. An email from race director, Chris Elson, warned me I wouldn’t get another chance:

This race incorporates the Avon AA mob match with the winning team (20 to count) being awarded the Andrew Rawnsley Memorial Trophy. We hope there will be lots of Avon Clubs with teams! This race will be the last, after some 15 years, to be held on the course but plans are at an advanced stage to move the race to a flat fast course using the mile circuit at Aztec West.

After a short warm up around Pomphrey Hill playing fields, I joined the other runners at the start of the course. Fewer than I expected — maybe a couple of hundred of us, and only seven from SRC. There was Sam Stone, a work colleague, running for Emersons Green. We gathered on the cycle track under the B4465 bridge over the ringroad. After a brief announcement, we were off.

For me, 5K is a tough distance. It feels like I’m running flat out the whole way. The track veers through a subway under the ringroad. At 1K, my watch showed 3:30. Now we skirted the new roundabout exit, trainers hitting plywood boards laid over fresh tarmac. Crossing the ringroad now on a pedestrian bridge. I hit 2K around 7 minutes in and realised my target, 18 minutes, was very much on. Matt was just ahead. Around us, red and white vests, Bristol and West. The track takes a left at the next roundabout and then at exactly 2.5K out doubles back.

My legs felt tired in the final kilometre. Somehow sensing my weakness Matt opened a gap which 5 Bristol and West runners smartly filled. I checked my watch. A PB for sure. 18 minutes, definitely, but having got into this position how hard would I push for the finish? Did I really want to set a best time which would be out of reach in future? My legs felt ragged.

I crossed the line under the bridge over the ringroad and stopped my watch. 17:48, it said.


At the presentation, Roger, one of the race directors, took the opportunity to talk about the history of the race which originated some 20 years ago to finance Bristol and West AC sending competitors all round the country, paying for petrol and entry fees. Back then there was no roundabout, no ring road, no cycle track. The sports pavilion we sat in hadn’t been built and so the Bridge Inn hosted the event, which was run on dirt tracks around the former quarry.

As the first MV50 to finish, in 22nd place with an official time of 17:50, I picked up a £5 Easy Running voucher. Without me being aware of it the next two runners, just 4 and 13 seconds behind me, were also MV50’s. Some race!

1      15.23   John Ashcroft   Bristol University      SM
2      15.34   Matt Whitfield  Bristol & West AC       SM
3      16.21   James Denne     Exeter Harriers         SM
4      16.33   Jarlath McKenna Bristol & West AC       SM
5      16.35   Matthew Krelle  Bristol & West AC       SM
6      16.48   Mark Edwards    Bristol & West AC       SM
7      17.06   Iain Stuart     Bristol & West AC       SM
8      17.08   Olly Sheppard   Team Bath AC            SM
9      17.09   Sam Hedley      Team Bath AC            SM
10     17.14   Jenny Jagger    Bristol & West AC       SW
11     17.24   Anthony Hall    Bristol & West AC       SM
12     17.26   Torran Elson    Bristol & West AC       SM
13     17.34   Jacob Hayes     Bitton Road Runners    M40
14     17.35   Matt Burns      Southville              SM
15     17.37   Chris Palmer    Westbury Harriers       SM
16     17.38   Peter Gandon    Bristol & West AC       SM
17     17.40   Alexander Whittaker  Bristol & West AC  SM
18     17.41   Helen Sharpe    Bristol & West AC       SW
19     17.42   Phil Lucker     Bristol & West AC       SM
20     17.44   Jason Barry     Stroud & District      M40
21     17.46   Ben Farrell     Bristol & West AC       SM
22     17.50   Thomas Guest    Southville             M50
23     17.54   Gary Hughes     Team Bath AC           M50
24     18.03   Phil Westlake   Bitton Road Runners    M50
25     18.04   Julian Bailey-Gard Westbury Harriers    SM
26     18.06   C McQuade       Unattached              SM
27     18.08   Andrew Malloy   Bristol & West AC      M40

Cycling back along the track which was once a railway I thought about Bristol traffic, transport and history.