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Wed 11th Dec 2019
© Dave Tyrell
Spring Ballbuster race report
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Saturday 21st March 2009

Tags  Ballbuster  |  Emma Smith  |  James Gilfillan  |  Lee Piercy

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Fran Therin reports on the Tri and Run Spring Ballbuster – 21st March 2009

With the sun rising over Box Hill, Surrey, and perfect conditions forecast, over 240 competitors were ready for the ever-daunting challenge of the Ballbuster. Many of the newbies to the event were wondering what to expect from this iconic race, whilst many of the hardcore following that the race has attracted were wondering where the rain was – with the Spring sunshine being a welcome change to the harshest of conditions experienced at last November’s Ballbuster.

Those who took the time to scan the list of entrants would have seen the names of Lee Piercy and Emma Smith and realised that there was going to be some serious business going on up and down the hill. And so, with the early morning frost just melting away, the 241 competitors started the gruelling circuits of Box Hill – with an 8-mile run, 24-mile bike, and then 8-mile run course navigating its way over the ups and downs that Box Hill has to offer.

Spring Ballbuster 2009 © Dave Tyrell

In the men’s race, the first to come through the 8-mile run was Lee Piercy (43:17) who was running well and looked fresh. Close on his heels were James Brown (43:27) and James Gilfillan (43:32) meaning the upcoming bike stage would be a good battle. In the women’s race the early lead was taken by Heidi Wilson (52:46), with Joanne Proudlove (53:47) and Emma Smith (54:08) following and looking intent on gaining ground on the bike stage.

It was the demands of the 24-mile bike course that really showed those who had the balls for this event – after three laps the lead in the men’s race changed and James Gilfillan showed his mettle by completing the bike course in 1:05:57, and he was followed by Lee Piercy (1:10:13) and James Brown (1:11:13). In the women’s race the bike course also turned things round with Emma Smith completing the bike in 1:18:11, and leaving Holly Tomlinson (1:18:47) and Heidi Wilson (1:23:50) in her wake.

Then, towards the end of the final 8-mile run the crowd saw the first runner heading swiftly up the infamous zigzag road, James Gilfillan showed just what a class athlete he really was by finishing strongly and completing the race in 2:37:14 – just missing out on the course record by a few minutes. A creditable second place went to Lee Piercy (2:43:10) and third to James Brown (2:44:30). In the women’s race Emma Smith continued to dominate and finished first in 3:07:50 (32nd overall), with Holly Tomlinson in second (3:10:33) and Heidi Wilson in third place (3:13:49).

Winner James Gilfillan © Dave TyrellCommenting on his performance after the race, James Gilfillan was both “pleased and surprised” – which is not so surprising when you realise it’s the first time he’s ever competed in the race. “Ultimately, I entered as I wanted to see what all the fuss was about regarding the race – now I know why people rate this race so highly!”. Equally surprised by his performance was James Brown who was also competing in the event for the first time “It was much harder than I expected. And with James and Lee so strong on the bike I was really pushing hard.” Asked if he’d come back and do it again he didn’t hesitate in saying “Yes, definitely!”

The women’s winner, Emma Smith, was not a newbie to the race having competed three times previously and so asked if she had a race strategy she said “The trick to this race is to not go too hard at first and be able to push hard in the second half of the race”. This is seemingly a good winning strategy.

This race certainly lives up to its name with those with steely grit and determination making it over the line. The best comment heard on the day must have been “This race is a beast!” However, it would seem that for some duathletes this beast really can be tamed.

For full results and photos check out

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