When you think of sporting occasions that require competitors to peak shortly after the final rendition of Auld Lang Syne, you generally think of the same annual events; the World Darts, the Masters snooker and the NFL playoffs on the road to the Super Bowl. Closer to home, members of St Helens Tri and other running/multisport clubs has just as much of a reason yesterday as they participated in their county cross country championships, with the man focus being at Sherdley Park for what was very much a home date to kick off the 2019 calendar year.
Sherdley Park was a staple of the Manchester league calendar until 2016 when it was moved aside to make way for the new course in Bagley. As such it was a welcome return as an unofficial sixth date for St Helens Tri to get their teeth into ahead of the fourth MACCL round next week in Prestwich. With its long start/finish straight and gentle gradients it is a fast course on the right day and so it proved, with plenty of senior club members turning out to set their stalls out for the forthcoming season. In the ladies race Helen Broderick overcame numerous pre race doubts to finish in under 43 minutes and place ninth in her age group, while Diane Taktak was obviously inspired by the efforts of her daughter Sarah at the Liverpool Marathon and finished just under the 51 minute mark while Liz Spensley lifted the whole team’s spirits as she was second V70 home, and returned to the team gazebo just as the men set off at 2pm. David Isaac carried on where he left off at Woodbank Park as he led the club home in a time of 48:26 to finish less than half a minute away from the top 50. Kevin Dunbar’s MACCL season preparations were somewhat disrupted by his drive to the sub-3:30 Chicago Marathon time but having had a couple of weeks away from racing he was positively recharged and led the remaining senior men home with an excellent performance, clocking a terrific 49:05 over the 12km of Sherdley. He was just over a minute ahead of Ian Orford who in turn was around two and a half minutes clear of a hugely improved Lee Stinch, perhaps benefitting at long last from a few years of near-constant long distance racing; here he led Robert O’Shea home to the tune of seven seconds as the pair came home around thirty seconds clear of Alan McKeegan who will undoubtedly improve as the off road season approaches its conclusion over the next few weeks. Kevin Dudley was next having run a fairly solitary race throughout while Andy Devaynes and Andrew Bridge rounded out the club’s entrants, both finishing under the hour. The top six finishers from each club counted towards the standings and St Helens Tri finished a creditable 11th in a field fairly closely bunched apart from the deserving winners at Liverpool Harriers.
The following morning saw three members take the trip to the Fylde coast for the ever popular Central Lancashire New Year Half Marathon. Jordan Clarke is probably the club’s quietest achiever of recent times having not always kept a high profile on social media but here he put in the performance of the weekend to finish in an outstanding 16th recording a 1:22:02. Chris Murphy was also in fine form easily cracking the top 200 in a time of 1:47:32 while Lynette Houghton, fresh from supporting her teammates at the New Year’s Eve marathon in Liverpool, got a good start to her OCR training as she finished comfortably under the 2:05 mark. Next week’s signature event is the fourth round of the Manchester cross country league at Heaton Park in Prestwich, featuring a sequence of fast straights separated by some short technical sections and the iconic final uphill dash to the finish.