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.