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.