Awesome Aaron “Takes 5” at the Griffin Grind

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The third instalment of club results in two weeks rounded off the pre-Ironman fortnight in style, with landmark results in various single-discipline events as well as a breakout performance at the Deva Divas triathlon. Derwent Lake was the curtain-raiser on the Saturday where the club had five competing in the 1 mile race and one opting for the Ironman distance of 3.8km. Lynette Houghton went for the longer option and was rewarded in her first non-OCR event for quite some time with a time of 1:19:23, while her son George took part in the 1 mile and produced quite the surprise of the day as he clocked an excellent 27:52. In fact, the only club member who finished ahead of him was Paul Austin, who took time off from supporting his daughter Emma to have a race of his own and his 26:21 was good enough to put him in the top 50 and, moreover, 4th in his age group. Laura Banks also went home happy as she knocked over two minutes off her time from last year, 29:01 giving her 71st overall while it was a close run thing between Rachel and Anthony Bearon as they finished line astern, Anthony eventually coming out on top by just 14 seconds. A similar event was being held simultaneously at the Salford Quays where the Uswim Manchester was in full swing. Wendy and Stephen Webb took park in the 1500m distance held in this iconic location near the Granada TV studios and were very evenly matched. Stephen finished two places ahead of Wendy (24th to 26th) but Wendy’s performance was arguably the more memorable of the two as she beat her 2017 time by an astounding 12 minutes, not to mention finishing less than a minute behind Steve! She would also turn out the following day at the Griffin Grind 5 mile for Team Isabella; the St Helens Tri story of the weekend will feature from that very race later in this column.

The Sunday was more typical of an early season weekend as the club had one or two members at a wide variety of races around the North West. At the Deva Divas in Chester Carole James, who has rarely featured in the club results columns, was out of the water in just over 18 minutes and this gave her a strong platform from which to attack the bike stage. She held firm during the middle stanza and a strong run lifted her to 21st overall, and second in her age group. Her teammate Helen Curran was actually over a minute ahead coming out of the water having completed the 750m swim in a time of 16:50, but Carole made the pass on the bike and that is how they finished, however Helen was still able to crack the top 100 with a time of 1:50:56. Also making the trip over the River Mersey was Reuben Wilson who competed in the Wirral Junior Triathlon hosted by Mersey Tri. Results are not yet available at the time of writing but plenty more scores on the doors came in during the course of the day, including the final results being confirmed from the BTR Events Tour of Merseyside. A six-day, 52 mile race, it began with the Epic Events Southport Half Marathon and actually finished mere hours before England’s World Cup quarter-final win over Sweden on the Saturday, but by the Sunday several club members had turned their attentions away from the football and had already entered for the 2019 edition which begins on 30 June. Kevin Dunbar and David Isaac completed the week-long campaign for St Helens Tri and both were rewarded with a place in the top 30. Kevin was able to give David a run for his money on the technical courses such as Thurstaton and Stadt Moers Park but David’s straight line speed eventually proved the difference (though apparently fancy dress isn’t all that aerodynamic either) and he came out on top having remarkably finished in under six hours, while Kevin was 18:45 further back but was nonetheless delighted to place second in his age group less than a quarter of an hour behind the division winner. Meanwhile, Jennifer Miller took on a bit of multi-terrain of her own in the Northwich Festival of Running 10k where her time of 1:02:37 was more than enough for a place in the top half of the field.

However, the most inspirational story of the weekend, if not the entire season, came at the aforementioned Griffin Grind 5 miler. Several club members turned out to marshal and offer support for this ever-popular “middle sprint distance” running race which always sells out in advance of race day and this year’s helpers included several who have starred at similarly tough events, but Aaron Reading produced unarguably the most gritty performance by a club members all year as this was his comeback race following a lengthy illness. To even take on such a difficult race was a daring challenge in itself given that 5 hilly miles in such heat is probably twice as difficult as a morning Parkrun (you may also remember that he was the driving force behind the inauguration of the Stadt Moers Parkrun in Knowsley where the club took such a thrilling double win back in April) and here he was soaking up the atmosphere from the crowds lining the road. His outstanding effort to finish in just over 1 hour 10 minutes deservedly put him in the top 200 and cemented his place as a club legend. Speaking of which, the stage is now very much set in Bolton town centre for more legends to be made, not just for the World Cup Final, but for the biggest multisport event of the year, Ironman UK, starting at 6am sharp in the murky waters of Pennington Flash next Sunday. While some will take on the ultimate triathlon distance, other club members have already made their own three-stop plans including the lakeside, the Rigbye Arms and Bolton town centre for what could be not only the most epic day in English sporting history but also in the already-rich annals of St Helens Tri. Seven days and counting at the time of writing………

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