The festive period is often a time to reflect, and there has definitely been a nostalgic sense of looking back on the past year more so than for a very long time, but several club members have truly raised the bar in 2018 and they enjoyed very productive party seasons to end the year in style. Eddie Hirst only took part in his first half marathon in early 2015 and recorded a solid time, but still over the 1 hour 35 minute mark. If you had tried to convince him that within four years he would be representing team GB at every level of multisport he would never have believed it. However, his rise through the age group ranks has been meteoric and he capped it during Christmas week by receiving the best present possible; qualification for the national team in the long distance (Ironman) world championships held in the Netherlands in summer 2019! Together with recent qualifications for Aquabike and duathlon events Eddie has set a new standard for members young and old to aim for, and together with Steve Williams has confirmed his status as the club’s most prolific athlete of 2018.
There were still plenty of other races in the weeks either side of Christmas, beginning with the Tatton Yule Yomp 10k in Cheshire. This event is on quite a fast course and regularly attracts hordes of runners dressed in Santa suits. Kevin Dunbar, however, was out to record a time after his recent heroics in Chicago and was rewarded with a top 50 placing, his time of 44:47 putting him seventh in his age group, while Helen Broderick also got a top ten age group result as she finished in 54:27. On Boxing Day four club members headed out to race, three in County Donegal, one in Chester. Over in Ireland the Murphy family enjoyed a day out at the Greencastle 5 mile road race, an ever popular event which attracted over 1,000 entrants in 2018. Oliver came good on his recent XC form as he led the family home, bagging a place in the top 150 and a time of 35:37, while Claire finished in just over 38 minutes as she looks forward to returning to the hills and mud in the new year and Chris dug deep to beat the crowds and the 40 minute mark, with all three finishing inside the top 300.
Meanwhile club reporter Robert Chesters stuck with his recent tradition of attending the Essar Round the Walls Race in Chester. First established in 1972, it is a 4-4.5 mile course (changing every year) starting and finishing on Chester Racecourse. The first and last 800 metres are mainly on grass but the middle part features flat sections, trail and most importantly the fabled steps up and down the walls which have stood for nearly 2,000 years. Such a technical course requires precision footwork and good balance and coordination, which Robert has not always been known for, but recent good XC outings both for the Saints and Penny Lane Striders paid dividends as he was up into 11th place in the first mile. Negotiating the descents on the city walls made for tough going and for much of the race it looked as though he would just miss out on a place in the Chester newspapers (the local press traditionally print the top 10 finishers) but upon returning to the racecourse two strong runners ahead started to tire. Robert has been researching physiology and running techniques ahead of a possible attempt to improve to BTF Coach Level 2 in 2019 and put his knowledge to use in the final 800 metres, as he had more stamina left in the tank for the final run on the racecourse than the aforementioned strongmen ahead and he capped his best season to date with a superb ninth place in a time of 26:22 just over 90 seconds behind the winner.
On New Year’s Eve, Sarah Taktak and Bethany Forber took part in their first ever 26.2 on the Liverpool waterfront at the Liverbird marathon. Conditions were mild but increasingly windy towards the end of the four lap race. Sarah and Bethany have been on many training runs together in preparation for the event and closed out the year with a gritty performance as they finished in under five and a quarter hours. They are a credit to the club and we wish them well in their journeys to half and full Ironman races over the next couple of years.