An increasingly popular triathlon, a junior classic and the London Marathon were the three signature events on offer for St Helens Tri on St George’s Day weekend. First off the start line, however, were the time triallists, as David Gaskell made good use of the warm, fast conditions to post a 26:26 and open the club’s Rainford account for 2018. It was then into the Saturday Parkruns where there were highlights aplenty, including three in the top 20 at Stadt Moers where Robert O’Shea was just 15 seconds away from making the podium and Paul Austin getting within 15 seconds of his PB at St Helens where Tony Waine joined him to post a 35:33. At Edge Hill Charlie and Oliver Murphy were separated by around 90 seconds with both making the top 30, while Laura Banks found a big chunk of time in just seven days to record a promising 28:54 around three and a half minutes ahead of Liz Spensley.
The country was very much split into two halves the following morning because while it was sunshine and heatwave conditions for both the London Marathon and the FA Cup semi-final it was almost back to winter up north. Travelling furthest were the Kendal Triathlon entrants including Lynette Houghton, entering her first triathlon after years of specialising in cross country running and obstacle racing. Here, she recorded a 9:10 400m swim, good for anyone but excellent for a first time racer, and while the tricky bike course was somewhat unnerving for a newbie she made up some time with her run strength to place 245th in a very encouraging time of 1:27:39. Also travelling north were the juniors tackling the Blackpool Trawlerman Aquathlon as five of the club’s young stars took on the best of the north west. Grace Hirst was first to set off in the T1 Girls race and made up several positions with her fine Parkrun form to snatch a top 10 finish. Two juniors took part in the T2 Boys event, with Charlie Murphy racing for the second time in as many days to a top-20 placing as consistent pace on the swim and run lifted him to 16th while Reuben Wilson looked as though he might give Charlie a close race but ultimately Charlie’s Parkrun strength proved to be the difference as Reuben finished around two and a half minutes further back and in the corresponding girls race Holly Hirst looked as though she had the sprint finish to make the top 20 but ultimately fell just short. Last to race was Oliver Murphy at T3 Boys level and he overcame a difficult start on the swim to produce a terrific run that lifted him to 13th just ten seconds away from making the top 10. Meanwhile just down the road Lee Stinch was racing in the Blackpool Festival of Running in the half marathon and overcame the torrid conditions to record a satisfying 1:37:59 putting him in the top 25 in his age category and he was joined by Tony Doyle who opened his 2018 account with a time of 2:13:03. In addition Sean Dalby showed a major improvement over last year by beginning his season with an excellent fifth place at the Delamere Go Tri off road duathlon staged in the Blakemore Moss.
The big show in town, however, was the 38th London Marathon which had been the subject of many un-British weather warnings in the build up and although it was not as hot as first anticipated it was still a tough day for all who ran. On a historic day when Mo Farah broke the British record dating back to 1985 five St Helens Tri members took on the streets of the capital. Jordan Clarke, star of the Boggart Hole XC race last November, led the club home as he went off like a rocket at the start. He might not have kept his pace up all the way but a final push saw him record a time of 3:01:01. Further back an equally inspiring story was developing as Michael Forber was running 26.2 just two weeks after his 3:00:07 on the streets of Manchester. Here, he ran with Patrick Neill the whole way as the black and red of St Helens Tri combined with the pink of the Isabella Rose Foundation to finish together in a time of 3:33:05. Kevin Dudley was behind the dynamic duo at the halfway mark to the tune of just over three minutes but would eventually overhaul them with an excellent second half to beat the 3:30 mark and record a 3:27:17. To top off a day of inspirational stories in the capital Diane Taktak, who won a place in the VLM via a raffle of all things, enjoyed her day out as she finished strongly in 5:21:18 to round off another superb weekend with star performances coming from Robert O’Shea, Lynette Houghton, Grace Hirst and everyone who completed the London Marathon. Next weekend is a somewhat lighter schedule but the Bank Holiday weekend that follows is somewhat more significant as it includes the Liverpool Festival of Running and the Horwich Triathlon.