Emma joins the elites, Team Isabella go Totally Wicked

After last week’s improbable drive to victory at Stadt Moers Park the only thing that could have put the cherry on the cake would have been the club defending its title, but thanks to the ever improving Robert O’Shea that is exactly what happened as he came out on top by 15 seconds in a closely fought race. A meteoric rise indeed for someone who had not finished in the top 10 before last Saturday’s fourth place. That set the tone for the rest of the weekend beginning with the other Saturday morning runners including Joseph Duffy cracking the top 35 in Ormskirk where he was joined by Chris Murphy recording a time of 27:19, Laura Banks sneaking into the top 150 off the back of a last minute push for the line and Liz Spensley making it home in under 35 minutes. At Victoria Park in Warrington Emma Shillabeer got very close to her PB and with a little more luck will soon go under 30 minutes while this week’s intrepid travellers were Oliver and Charlie Murphy at the Omagh Parkrun in Northern Ireland where on previous occasions it had been a close run thing between the pair of them, but this time Oliver came good finishing just over a minute clear.

Three short haul road trips and a journey to the East Midlands characterised Sunday as well as the big “community team” effort of the spring at the St Helens 10k. On the road it was the turn of Myka and Che Heard to excel at the Chirk Triathlon. Che has always been known for his ability on the first two stages of a triathlon but here it was his running that really caught the eye, as he recorded a 19:16 5k to finish in a remarkable 1:07:05, while Myka overcame a disrupted build-up to the triathlon season by finishing second in her age group which will undoubtedly please the team at Limar and NRG4 Cycling. Neil Wallace also raced well off the back of his top 12 at last weekend’s Stadt Moers Parkrun and made up a little time on Myka during the run, however he eventually ended up around three minutes further back but still in the top 150. Making a shorter trip south was Anthony McLaughlin who was running the Mersey Tunnel 10k. It was a close run thing for a sub-50 time but he managed it by all of one second, that must have been some sprint to the finish. Travelling north for the Clitheroe Triathlon were Eddie Hirst and Dean Golba. Eddie opened his season account with a fine performance, 1:40:09 being good enough for 22nd place as he distanced himself from fellow pedalling powerhouse Dean on the run stage to the tune of around three minutes, Dean still finishing in the top 35. Taking a rather longer trip south was Emma Austin, one of the stars of last week’s Edge Hill triathlon. She was taking part in the junior national championships at Loughborough University and was up against a whole new level of competition, but PB times on both the swim and bike stages helped her to 45th overall.

Eddie’s wife Lisa would be one of the stars of the show at the rearranged St. Helens 10k held at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Up ahead on the road Adam O’Shea came good on all the promise he has shown over the winter XC season by cracking the 40 minute mark and placing in the top 50. His brother Robert, still on a high from his stunning victory at Stadt Moers Park, was next up just over three minutes in arrears while Paddy Lee, Chris Levy and Tony Waine finished just 35 seconds apart. It was even closer between Emily Ashton and Wesley Brown as Emily edged that duel by just six seconds on the run in to the finish line. After a wait of around six minutes the first of last weekend’s marathon heroes crossed the line, Melanie Sayed improbably managing to go under 55 minutes just seven days after her remarkable performance in Manchester, and she was joined in the sub-60 club by Paul Brown. As previously mentioned, Lisa Hirst opened her 2018 account in style and was very unlucky to miss out on the sub-hour club, no doubt she will beat that mark with plenty to spare on a flatter course, while Kevin Dunbar joined his wide Rebecca and the Isabella Rose team in jogging round in a time of 1:08:01.

As it turned out there were plenty of IRF runners and the dual-registration members who really caught the eye were the ones also known as Team Forber. Out front it was a close run thing between Bethany and Chris Forber as they fought to beat the 55 minute mark but in a thrilling finish Bethany got the nod at the line by just two seconds. Meanwhile Molli was joined by dad Michael who was still getting last week’s inspirational effort in Manchester out of his legs as she took on her longest ever race, off the back of the Hale 5 two weeks earlier and here she was more than equal to the task, finishing as one of the many stars of the weekend show clocking a time of 1:08:34 to join Robert O’Shea, My,a Heard and Eddie Hirst as the star performers of the weekend. Next weekend’s Epic Event is the Kendal Triathlon, while the summer bike time trials begin at Bickerstaffe on Tuesday and Wednesday evening and the big one, namely the 38th Virgin London Marathon takes place on what promises to be the warmest weekend of 2018 to date.

Seventh (70th?) Heaven at Stadt Moers, Team Isabella Triumph in Trafford

On 26th May 1999, Manchester United completed the first “treble” with their stunning comeback to win the Champions League Final. Amidst the disbelief at the sheer improbability of their triumph it was almost unnoticed that it had been achieved on what would have been Sir Matt Busby’s 90th birthday. A member of St Helens Tri had his own once in a lifetime opportunity of a similar kind on a much smaller stage on Saturday as Robert Chesters took the start line of the Stadt Moers Parkrun together with 45 other entrants on the weekend of what would have been his mother’s 70th birthday. In his seventh Parkrun it was very much a case of seventh (70th?) heaven as it was straight into a thrilling contest with a long distance specialist who has completed the Manchester Marathon four years running (but not in 2018). The duo traded places during the course of the first lap but Stadt Moers Park has a testing incline just before the last corner leading onto the start/finish straight. In a spooky throwback to that match at the Nou Camp Robert came from behind to take the lead (rather earlier than Ole Gunnar Solksjaer did that night in Barcelona, to say nothing of what happened later on Saturday at the Etihad) and despite having to battle through dreadful conditions in which he has not always excelled previously, he came away with an emotional, unforgettable one of a kind victory in 18:03, 15 seconds clear of his nearest rival. It was also a fantastic race for Robert O’Shea who scored a career-best fourth place in a new PB of 21:03 and also a fine performance from Neil Wallace who placed 12th but less than half a minute from the top 10. Elsewhere Oliver Murphy was the school holiday tourist park runner this time managing a sub-24 at the Hove Promenade race, while Emma Shillabeer sneaked into the top 200 in Warrington and Kevin Dudley followed up last week’s club duathlon title with fourth place less than 20 seconds away from the podium at the St Helens event where he was joined by Molli Forber, last week’s hero from the Hale 5, as she powered round the hilly course with her mum Christine in under 35 minutes as she looks forward to next weekend’s rearranged St Helens 10k.

Sunday’s weather was far more pleasant for the first local triathlon of the season at Edge Hill in Ormskirk and the Greater Manchester Marathon. Daniel Jones has been one of the club’s most prolific juniors for many years now and stepped up to the plate admirably here, as one of the fastest swims of the day and a flyer of a 5k run lifted him to an astonishing fourth place, while Emma Austin and Harriet King also flew the flag for the original junior “class of 2015” when the club was inaugurated as they finished mere seconds apart, Emma overhauling Harriet on the final stage to finish in under 70 minutes and the pair being split by Emma’s dad Paul. Elsewhere it was a major leap forward for Anthony Bearon to finish in just over 65 minutes, while Nick Hall actually got off to a quicker start, however Anthony’s bike and run speed made the difference with Nick finishing in 1:17:25 just over 90 seconds ahead of a strong man’s effort from Parkrun regular Tony Waine. After the dynamic duo it was a gap of a few minutes to recent new members Harvey and Paul Brown, the pair being split by the super veteran Tony Dagnall. Another new member Pauline Taylor led the remaining members home as she managed a gap of around three minutes to a closely fought battle between Paul Neale and Joanne Jackson to round out the entrants at Edge Hill, while just up the road in Skelmersdale Holly and Grace Hirst were setting new PB’s at the junior Parkrun, finishing in 10:03 and 10:48 respectively and Holly also taking the bronze medal in the girl’s race.

Over in Manchester the hordes were out in force at one of the UK’s favourite flat marathons which sells out well in advance of race day every year. Racing for the St Helens Tri/Team Isabella collaboration were Michael Forber, Kevin Dunbar, Melanie Sayed and Kevin Richardson, a Fab Four with what appeared to be a Fab 40 supporters and photographers lining the route to cheer them on. The standout performance to go alongside the previous day’s “seventh heaven at Stadt Moers” story was undoubtedly that of Michael Forber who followed up his recent PB at the Wrexham Half Marathon with an outstanding performance to finish in 3:00:07 over five minutes quicker than his previous best. Kevin had endured a very disrupted build-up to the big event and is more used to running 26.2 in fancy dress rather than the IRF pink so was more than happy to record a 3:41:31 having not been far of Michael’s pace for much of the first half. Melanie Sayed has only recently joined the club but was rewarded with a fine run to a 4:25:25 while Kevin Richardson was glad of a winter of XC racing as he rounded out the club entrants in 4:49:40 to finish off a thrilling weekend full of epic stories at Stadt Moers Park, Edge Hill and on the streets of Great Manchester. Next week’s special is the rearranged St Helens 10k while the Clitheroe Triathlon featuring the fabled climb of Jeffrey Hill marks the third sprint race in as many weekends hosted by the Epic Events team.

Easter Eggscellency in Skelmersdale, South Liverpool and the South Lakes

At long last the first club event of 2018 arrived, the postponed club duathlon. Originally scheduled for the first Sunday of February it was one of the many victims of the dreadful winter and as such was held on Good Friday, when 28 members took to the start line of a race comprising two 5k runs through the walkways of Pimbo and five laps of the Pimbo road race circuit on the bike. Adam O’Shea set off quickly and was the early leader but it soon became apparent that it was instead a three-way battle for the win between Kevin Dudley, Gez Roberts and Dean Golba on his new Giant Trinity. Dean was the only one to go under 34 minutes for the bike leg and looked as though he might take it, but Kevin put in a remarkable final run to seal the deal ahead of Gez and Dean. David Gaskell actually came close to taking the final podium spot continuing the Thatto Cycles Trinity connection with a very strong bike split and good run performances came from Andy Devaynes and the unfortunate Emma Austin, who was sadly destined not to finish. This left things wide open for the accolade of first female home and in the event it was won by Carole James who overcame a sizeable deficit after the bike course to take the victory. Notable age group performances came from Andrew Gaskell, Paul Austin and Steve Williams, the latter undoubtedly looking forward to another year of attempting to qualify to represent Great Britain. It wasn’t a purely multisport Friday either as Diane Taktak took on the first of two races she would enter over the weekend as she ran the ever popular Salford 10k, and recorded a time of 1:03:21 just missing the top 600 on a day when the first five elites were all under 31 minutes.

Easter Saturday always sees the appearance of the Parkrun tourists and one would shape the outcome of the Stadt Moers event in Whiston. Adam and Robert O’Shea used the event as a recovery run after their heroics the day before and were rewarded with top 15 finishes, Adam even using his excellent powers of recovery to nudge into the top 10. Meanwhile Robert Chesters tried to chase down a Lancaster and Morecambe fell runner and while the pair were evenly matched on the paved sections, the runner from up north had that bit extra in hand on the technical sections and took the flag in 17:50, with Robert still managing 18:08 on his first trip to the multi-terrain venue which is popular with cross country leagues and cyclocross riders. The club also appeared at their usual haunts of Ormskirk and St Helens, Callum Bishop collecting yet another top-8 at Edge Hill just six seconds away from his PB in less than ideal conditions while Liz Spensley finished 206th in just under 34 minutes. Meanwhile at Victoria Park Paul Austin got one over Kevin Dudley after the previous day’s racing as he cracked the top 40 in just over 24 minutes while Kevin came home just over 90 seconds ahead of Mike Gregory. For once we had an entrant at Croxteth Hall, as Neil Wallace cracked the top 100 finishing in just under 27 minutes.

Easter Sunday dawned, as did April Fools’ day, and two events took centre stage with the Ulverston Triathlon kicking off the Epic Events season and the Hale village 5 miler offering a party closer to home. Mark Turner was on a road trip to the South Lakes venue as a comeback race. He was quickly into the swing of things flying both in and out of the pool looking particularly purposeful as he set off like a true pro with blue (not suede) shoes already in his matching blue Boardman on which he posted a very fast time and while unable to really push on the run course as much as he would have liked a top 30 was still a fine reward. Meanwhile the Hale 5 mile road race has become a popular replacement for the old Runcorn bridge event which clearly cannot take place in a day and age when you have to register to cross. Instead, over 500 people took to the roads of south Liverpool including seven from the St Helens Tri/Isabella Rose Foundation collaboration with some choosing to run in fancy dress. Four came from team Forber with Bethany following up a breakout first quarter of 2018 with a top-250 placing aided by Michael the Tiger (yes really) while Molli was accompanied by Christine Forber and the pair finished together in a time of 52:47. In addition, two St Helens Tri entrants ran in costume with Kevin Dunbar finishing just twenty seconds ahead of Jennifer Miller, while Diane Taktak not only had enough energy after Salford to come in just four seconds adrift but also to go for a bike ride with daughter Sarah afterwards on the back of a long run home! The secret seven rounded off a three-part weekend full of surprises at every turn with excellent performances coming at the club duathlon, the Knowsley Parkrun and the Ulverston Triathlon. The month of April includes many signature races including the postponed Oulton Park Duathlon and the London Marathon while the evening bike time trials kick off, Southport CC hosting their season opener at Tarleton this coming Thursday while the Tuesday evening TT’s begin on April 17th.

All you need is Love, Liverpool and a Lionheart – Runners Relief special

It is somewhat rare that St Helens Tri venture to Croxteth Hall for a Saturday morning Parkrun but Tony Waine and Neil Wallace took on the technical, twisty confines of this iconic Merseyside landmark on St Patrick’s Day as they finished just seven places apart both cracking the top 40, Tony leading his teammate home by just over 50 seconds. At the more familiar venues of Ormskirk and St Helens Garry Banks enjoyed one of his most productive runs for a while as 23:20 was good enough for a top 30 placing while at Victoria Park Paul Austin repeated Garry’s result, minus one second and also one position, how’s that for a bit of symmetry. The mini Beast from the East put paid to the rest of the weekend schedule so it was on to the following weekend where the main focus was on Craig Abbott tackling the double Gin Pit marathon to raise money for the Isabella Rose Foundation. Held over two days, it is a long standing favourite among marathon specialists and ultra runners alike. Craig put in a remarkable performance as he soaked up the support of his club mates who even supplied him with true athletes nutrition 15 miles into the day. A pie, in case you were wondering. Results for the two day event are not yet in at the time of writing but his fundraising page is open for donations and has garnered much deserved support.

Craig wasn’t the only one running on the Saturday as Callum Bishop was just 10 seconds off his PB in placing seventh at a hotly contested Ormskirk Parkrun, Charlie Stirrup came within a few lengths off joining him in the top 10 and Liz Spensley made a welcome return to her favourite course. Meanwhile Kevin Dudley was 16th, but just 25 seconds away from the top 10 in St Helens where he was joined by a sub-26 performance from Mike Gregory and Tony Waine’s Tour de Parkrun continued as he recorded a sub-22 and top 20 finish at the Southport event in Hesketh Park.

Those who weren’t running the relays for their various second claim clubs at Birkenhead Park had the choice of the Liverpool Half Marathon or the Harlech Triathlon as the multisport season which awoke a couple of weeks ago finally kicked into top gear. Over on the Lleyn Peninsula Mal Balmer and newcomer Philip Hughes were taking on the first triathlon on the Saints 2018 calendar, a testing early season race with a run along the beach and some steps to finish. Both enjoyed their day out and have recommended it as a season curtain raiser for 2019, with Mal completing the course in 1:22 just over 15 minutes ahead of his new teammate. On the Liverpool waterfront six club members took on the first local 13.1 miler that actually went ahead since the Central Lancashire New Year race, the Wilmslow half marathon having been rescheduled for 24 June. Dave O’Connell, who has specialised in 10k races for many years, led the club home with an excellent run to a time of 1:33:29, but there were plenty of feel good stories further back, including the next member home, Emily Ashton, one of the club’s strongest young runners, who recorded a 1:42:35 which put her in the top 1000. She was just over 90 seconds clear of newbie Neil Wallace who led Parkrun regular Jill O’Connor over the line to the tune of around four and a half minutes, both placing inside the top 1500. Robert Saile was kicking off his 2018 fundraising campaign as someone who has overcome a brain infection and in arguably the performance of the day he blew away his previous PB with a determined run to a time of 2:08:43 around four minutes ahead of the returning Nick Hall, to round off the first variety show of 2018. The Easter weekend promises to be just as diverse with the club duathlon, the Salford 10k and the Ulverston Triathlon on the schedule.

Saints Spring and Spin into Action – Multisport Season 2018 is on!

Anyone who has frequented the news page on the club website over the last few months could be forgiven for thinking that it was a pure running club with Parkruns and cross country races aplenty while the worst winter in seven years has kept people off their bikes but the multisport season finally got underway over the weekend at the Epic Events 2-up duathlon in Belmont and the ever popular Wirral Junior Aquathlon. Kicking things off, however, were the usual Parkruns as Callum Bishop replicated his fourth place finish from St Helens a fortnight ago as here he finished in 19:54 just seven seconds away from the podium. Garry Banks beat the 25 minute mark and it was a good return for Laura Banks to her home event. Chris Levy was just edged out of the top 40 on home ground, while it was a first ever top 10 for Tony Waine with a sub 23 time to boot at the Stadt Moers event around four and a half minutes clear of John Lunt. Mal Balmer was this week’s intrepid traveller over in Mullingar, Ireland just a few hours before the Six Nations title winning party began and he had something to celebrate himself, a top 15 finish in a time of 22:28.

The following morning saw Andrew Gaskell and Paul Fisher team up at the traditional season opening duathlon in Belmont. A longtime favourite on the Epic Events calendar, it is a unique duathlon where teams of two take in a “long sprint” course running together and sharing turns into the wind on the bike. Drafting is allowed but the team must stick together and the clock only stops when the second man crosses the finish line. Andrew and Paul had a grand day out on the West Pennine Moors and were rewarded with a sub-2:35 time and a place easily in the top half of the field. While Andrew and Paul went north and east, the juniors headed south and west through the Mersey tunnel for the Wirral junior aquathlon at the Bebington Oval hosted by Mersey Tri. Grace Hirst got things going in the T1 Girls race and her swim had her on course for a top 10 finish, but ultimately the high standard of runners ended her chances and she would place 13th in under 17 minutes. By contrast, Charlie Murphy was star of the St Helens show at T2 Boys level as he followed a solid swim with a rapid run to sneak into the top 10 and he was joined by three other Parkrun regulars who finished in the top 30, interestingly defined more by their run than swim. As an example, Joseph Duffy was near the back after the swim, but put in an excellent run of just over 13 minutes to lift himself to 24th overall, while Reuben Wilson and Ben Bearon were pretty evenly matched on combined swim and run times but Reuben’s blistering transition made the difference. Holly Hirst was our sole entrant in the T2 Girls race and was in the thick of things for much of the way, but would eventually finish just at the tail of a very tight midfield battle in 23rd position. Oliver Murphy came within 40 seconds of repeating his brother’s top 10 finish in the T3 Boys race while a very fast changeover saw Sally Bearon claim sixth place in the Tristart category and George Houghton used his obstacle course run strength to finish eighth in the Youth Boys race. Only Emma Austin was still to leave the starting blocks and she was up against a very strong entrant from the host club who pulled away on the swim and opened up a gap that Emma could not cover, but she kept pace all the way after that to place second in the Junior competition and conclude the first true multisport event weekend of the year. It continues in much the same vein next week as the Oulton Park Spring Duathlon takes place at Little Budworth in Cheshire while the Liverpool Half Marathon on the following weekend sets the pre-Easter schedule up for quite a compelling few weeks of racing.

Half Marathon Heroics for the Flowers of Wrexham

Plenty of Parkruns and two long standing signature events characterised the post-cross country fortnight. Before reporting on the individual efforts of the past two weeks, however, the final team standings from the cross country season are now in and the ladies placed well with seventh overall and fourth in the veterans league. Meanwhile the men’s veterans team won division 3 and, coupled with third place in the overall standings, secured promotion to division 2 for the 2018/19 campaign. The MACCL AGM is scheduled for 6:30 this coming Friday at Wilmslow Rugby Club, tickets can still be purchased at the time of writing but orders for food must be received by Tuesday evening.

Ormskirk and St Helens were the two stages for Parkruns on February 17th with Anthony Bearon recording a new PB and a top-20 finish at Edge Hill as he came within two minutes of the top 10 while Rachel Bearon did likewise in placing 85th. Dave Gaskell provided the biggest cheer of the day with a new PB of 19:47, a podium finish and a resounding age group victory at the St Helens event while Paul Austin edged away from his closest rival to place second in his division and 25th overall. In the afternoon three club members who were unable to make the cross country races made up for lost time (and miles) by participating in the 48th Parbold Hill Race to open their accounts for 2018. A local classic, this 6.5 mile course involves long climbs and descents, stile jumps and a bit of tarmac, and Craig Abbott led the trio home in a race he described as a great day out all for less than the cost of a pint. Any such refreshment was well earned as he cracked the top 200 around seven minutes clear of Andy Fisher, who in turn was a similar distance ahead of Mark Derbyshire. That was it for the first “half-term” weekend but some who were unable to race on the 17th would get their chance in freezing conditions as the latest icy blast of Arctic air hit the country just in time for the rendition of Flower of Scotland on Calcutta Cup day. Kicking things off were the usual Parkruns and it was a pair of top four finishers who stole the headlines with Robert Chesters taking part in one of the most competitive Southport Parkruns in a long time to record third place and a new course PB of 17:38 while Callum Bishop had a club debut to remember, as he finished fourth at St Helens in an excellent 19:50 and Kevin Dudley made it two in the top 10, his 21:18 being good enough for 9th place, with Tony Waine making it home in under 27 minutes. At the club’s favourite haunt Edge Hill Oliver and Chris Murphy finished just ten seconds apart in 35th and 38th respectively while Liz Spensley finished 181st in under 33 minutes. The cold frosty conditions may have been a blessing in disguise given the muddy conditions that have plagued the Standish Hall trail race over the years and Craig Abbott made good use of the favourable conditions to place in the top 60 finishing in just over 49 minutes, which served as a prelude to the 24th Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon the following morning.

This event has always proven popular and regularly sells out well in advance of race day; indeed it is highly recommended for anyone thinking about the 2019 Manchester or London Marathons or Ironman UK as a gauge of strength and fitness. Michael Forber proved why he was the deserving winner of the club cross country league as his time of 1:22:30 was enough to place in the top 100, as he just keeps getting stronger and stronger en route to 2018 Ironman UK. There was a wait of around five minutes for Kevin Dunbar who must surely figure to beat the 1:25 mark soon with uninterrupted training, and Tracy Hampson, who has long been one of the club’s top swimmers put in an inspired performance to finish in well under 1:40 just over 45 seconds ahead of Jamie Tomkinson. Will Bardin and Craig Abbott also made the top 800, the latter doing particularly well after tackling the Standish 10k less than 24 hours earlier, but the biggest stories of the day were developing behind him. Charlie Taktak has already got grand plans to take on Ironman UK herself in the next couple of years but here in Wrexham she ran a storming race to go under two hours in a time of 1:58:13 and, incredibly, place third in the U21 division while her mum Diane who also has numerous long distance races on her schedule came in around five minutes further back. A similar double act came from Bethany and Christine Forber, with Bethany finishing fourth at U21 level just nine seconds behind Charlie while Christine edged clear of Diane to the tune of 11 seconds at the line to round off a memorable day when Michael Forber reminded us why he is the club’s strongest runner on current form and Charlie and Bethany pulled off a double for the ages. Next week’s main event is the St Helens 10k; for those whose legs come back with them from North Wales, this signature race features the fabled climb of North Road and passes many famous landmarks including the start and finish at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Wythenshawe XC Race Review – the Myka and Michael Show

And so it arrived, the final round of the Manchester Cross Country season and the last chance to build off road strength ahead of the spring 10k and marathon season. The curtain closer in Wythenshawe would not only confirm the club’s best ever season in the league, but also offer the four contenders for the men’s club championship a real opportunity for honours at the awards ceremony in the evening. The Parkruns offered something of an appetiser to get things going and Steve Martin sneaked into the top 200 of the increasingly popular Warrington event while on home ground in St Helens Kevin Dudley placed ninth just over two minutes ahead of Mike Gregory and Tony Waine just missed the top 300 by mere seconds. That was it for terra firma as all attentions turned to the frozen slippery tundra of South Manchester. The juniors kicked things off in the morning with Joseph Duffy climbing into the top half in the U11 Boys race and Holly Hirst finding that two shoes really are faster than one in the corresponding girls race. More good efforts from Reuben Wilson and George Houghton set the tone for a great afternoon of racing with five ladies and eleven men set to face the massed start, the mad dash into the first corner, and the never ending battle to stay upright (lost by a couple of Stockport Harriers, notably) in the afternoon races. Myka Heard has dominated the club competition this year and another sub-45 minute time and first club counter position (in the top 100 overall and 5th in her age group) gave her a final tally of 118 points. It was fitting that Lynette Houghton, who developed her strength for XC on obstacle races around the world, should be next home for the club around three minutes further back while a fascinating battle was developing between Christine and Bethany Forber for third, the pair having arrived at Wythenshawe deadlocked on 32 points. They were closely matched throughout the race but on the final lap Christine pulled away to round out the podium while Bethany finished 39 seconds further back. Also racing was Liz Spensley who made the top 250 and must surely be a candidate for the MACCL inspiration award at the forthcoming AGM and presentation event scheduled for March 2 at Wilmslow Rugby Club, starting at 6:30pm.

Myka may have wrapped up the ladies club championship with a round to spare but four men arrived at the season finale with a chance to join her in the winner’s circle. Michael Forber led the standings going in and knew a podium finish would likely secure the title. He battled with Eddie Hirst for much of the early going and was probably always mindful of the shoe plate incident that cost him at least third if not second at Heaton Park. In the event the shoe held out when it mattered most and second place just over a minute behind Eddie confirmed him as the St Helens Tri men’s cross country champion for 2018. Behind him it was a close run thing and a real clash of three different styles as Colin Dobbs built on his recent performance for Penny Lane Striders at the Helsby half marathon to pull clear of a spirited battle for fourth between Robert Chesters, racing for the first time under the shadow of a balance condition known as vestibular migraine, and XC specialist Kevin Dunbar whose recent training schedule has been somewhat disrupted by injury. Given the ice rink conditions it was therefore a big surprise to Robert himself that he edged it by a mere handful of seconds especially after the aforementioned Stockport Harriers incident towards the end of the second lap – and just when you thought Robert was the more likely candidate to end up with a mouthful of mud. For his part Kevin still had more than enough to secure third in the club competition ahead of Che Heard and the tie for fifth between Robert and Colin. Speaking of Che, he turned up for the races this year with only two spikes in his shoes but despite his unorthodox approach to footwear choice and even losing his race number he still held off David Gaskell and Dean Golba to round out the A team, with Dean recording his best finish yet just seven seconds behind Dave who did a rather better job of dodging the precariously placed poles at the back of the circuit than one or two teammates………..Three more members rounded out our participation for 2017/18, with Lee Stinch finishing around a minute clear of Gary Birch and Azzam Taktak deservedly bringing the curtain down as one of very few members who participated in all five rounds.

While most national sporting focus shifted to Twickenham for the England-Wales rugby match, our club awards night followed at the Eagle and Child in Billinge where the club’s top achievers of the past twelve months were honoured. A full hall of fame post will be uploaded in the coming days but many thanks are due to Adele and Wayne Fisher as well as Helen Broderick for organising a memorable night, as well as those who donated raffle prizes and also to Cottam’s for their expert catering. As if enjoying the club night wasn’t enough Diane Taktak rounded the weekend off with a trip to Stockport for the Crazy Legs trail half marathon where she battled Arctic conditions to place well inside the top 300 of a strong field in under 2 hours 8 minutes. What a weekend it has been for so many reasons, and more is to come as Terry Bates who hosted the awards like a true MoC is planning to reorganise the cancelled club duathlon from February 4 while the St Helens 10k takes place next month, and the Oulton Park and Bedford Autodrome Spring Duathlons offer members a chance to qualify for Team GB in the forthcoming world championships.

Double PB in a Deep Freeze + Wythenshawe XC race preview

It was a relatively light schedule for St Helens Tri last weekend as most attentions had been turned to the first club duathlon of 2018 only to be cancelled by the threat of black ice. Before that, however, we had Kevin Dunbar and Kevin Dudley starring in one of the most startling race start videos of recent times at the St Helens Parkrun. The pair both finished in the top 6, Kevin even getting under 20 minutes but they were also on the front row to watch a St Helens Sutton member to launch off the line like he was on a bike! The winner who clocked a staggering 15:20 must figure to be one of the favourites for next month’s St Helens 10k. Matt and Emma Shillabeer joined over 400 other runners at the Warrington event, both recording new PB’s with Matt placing 16th in under 21 minutes and Emma nudging into the top 250. As already mentioned ice put paid to the club duathlon so the only beneficiaries of ice cold conditions were Chris Forber and Tony Waine, the former recording an impressive sub-2:05 PB on a tough course at the Heaton Park half marathon, the latter doing likewise in a freezing crosswind at the Mad Dog 10k as his recent excellent Parkrun form on fast circuits translated perfectly to the long straights and sweeping corners of the Marshside course at the north end of Southport.

All attentions now turn to the second Super Saturday of 2018 at the final round of the 2017/18 Manchester cross country league at Wythenshawe Park. While the men’s team will be looking to lock up second place in Division 3 and promotion for next season, the club championship is still up for grabs. Myka Heard clinched the ladies’ title with one round to spare last time out at Woodbank Park but five club members (four of whom are competing on Saturday) still have a theoretical chance of becoming the men’s champion. The Wythenshawe course is the flattest and usually the fastest course of the season with only a short section on gravel so in normal circumstances would suit those with suspect balance who have long stride speed to burn, but the predicted wet conditions could yet prove to be the fly in the ointment to produce a thrilling conclusion to a season where the points leader has changed four times in as many rounds.

1st: Michael Forber (61 points, 0 wins) Despite not winning a race so far, Michael Forber heads the standings with 61 points. He’s been strong on all the courses so far and but for a loose shoe plate may well have been almost out of sight. A win on Saturday, amongst other permutations, will confirm him as the series winner. But will he come to rue that day at Heaton Park when his shoe plate cost him a definite podium and a possible win?

2nd: Kevin Dunbar (55 points, 1 win) Kevin put in arguably the performance of the season so far at the University Playing Fields in December to take the lead. Some difficult weeks of training and racing followed, but last week’s starring role at the St Helens Parkrun had set him up very well to come back to form at just the right time. Again, a win on Saturday will clinch the title.

3rd: Eddie Hirst (50 points, 2 wins) On paper, the early favourite to win on the day, as a previous first club counter at this venue. Eddie’s winter season has been marked by two particularly notable performances, winning last time out in resounding at Woodbank Park and even recording a time of just over 19 minutes at a Parkrun course he had never been to over the festive period. A win plus Michael Forber finishing out of the top three will crown him champion, and as such could make for a riveting final lap if, as is likely, the less technical nature of the course keeps the runners relatively close together.

4th: Che Heard (43 points, 0 wins) For Che to join Myka and make it an NRG4 Limar Helmets double in the winner’s circle the task is simple; come first and then see what happens with the three in front of him. He starred at the University Playing Fields holding off Michael Forber for second and nearly taking Kevin on the line for first. The win itself is far from impossible given how much his Ironman 2017 campaign has improved his running strength, but the other three permutations (Eddie no higher than 3rd, Kevin off the podium and Michael out of the top 6) seem more unlikely. Still, if the Philadelphia Eagles won last weekend’s Super Bowl from almost as unlikely a position, what’s to say the same couldn’t happen here?

A full report will be written on Sunday after the race results and the awards night, scheduled for a 7pm start at the Eagle and Child in Billinge, where there will be a raffle with generous prizes donated by various club members together with hotpot supper before the club recognises the members who have achieved and inspired the most over the past 12 months.

Title for Tony in Wintry Widnes

Two weekends of Parkruns and the latest Appley Bridge duathlon hosted by the Endurance Store rounded off January nicely for St Helens Tri ahead of a busy opening to February. On January 20th we had Oliver and Charlie Murphy plus Jill O’Connor at Edge Hill where Oliver just about got the better of his brother by less than twenty seconds and Jill recorded a 27:21 just outside the top 100. At Victoria Park in St Helens it was another close run thing as Kevin Dudley came home ahead of Mike Gregory by 18 seconds, the pair separated by twelve places in a very close field. As has often been the case, Tony Waine was the one to buck the trend and decided to visit the slippery temple of speed known as the Widnes Parkrun where any frustration at missing out on a sub-23 time was forgotten when he realised he had won his age group on his first trip to this little known but fast and flowing course just north of the Runcorn bridges.

Tony’s travels took him to Highbury Fields the following week where he just missed the top 100 but got within half a minute of his time from Widnes. On the local circuit we had Paul Austin leading home the dynamic duo from the week before in St Helens as he also recorded a new course PB into the bargain. With no-one opting for the Edge Hill course the remaining results came from Matt and Emma Shillabeer in Warrington, Matt recording a PB once again and coming close to breaking the 21 minute mark while Emma came close to achieving a PB of her own. The weekend wasn’t over just yet as Louise Hogg finished in the top 30 overall and sixth lady home at the latest round of the Endurance Store Winter Duathlon races. Their series continues in mid-February but the St Helens Tri members only duathlon is the main event for next weekend provided the predicted snowstorm misses the local area, while the final round of the Manchester cross country league and the cub awards night take place the following Saturday.

My Experience of Cross Country – Holly Hirst

For the past few years my dad and I have taken part in an event for all ages (from 11-80), Manchester and Cheshire Cross Country League. Through our triathlon club, my dad and I have taken part in just a few of these hard-core races which are not for the faint-hearted.

Dad had started doing cross county around 3 years ago and he would come home with legs covered in mud and I just wanted to have a go. So last year, I did my first cross country and I loved it; I went on to do several more after that.

Last Saturday, I was just one of the many people in St Helens Tri that took part in the race in Stockport. Including a massive downhill, a killer up hill and lots and lots of mud. Along the way, people were falling over and getting stuck but luckily, I had turned round the last corner and therefore nothing could go wrong …

Although, in the last fifteen seconds of the race, my shoe was sucked up by the colossal amount of mud along the finishing straight.  Skidding in the mud, I turned back around, making sure to scoop my shoe out of the boggy mess before finishing the race with only one shoe left on my feet.

After the race, it was time to get warm by wrapping myself up in several blankets and eating loads of sweets and cake: so I guess it wasn’t all that bad!