The first two weeks of March were nothing like the warm, sunny end to February and the race schedule suffered as a result with the cancellation of the much awaited Firefighters 2-up duathlon in Belmont. Running in rather warmer conditions was Jennifer Miller who took on the Benidorm 10k along the beach. Starting at sunset in an old favourite holiday resort/TV series (delete as you wish) she was more than equal to the conditions and the rolling terrain and soaked up the atmosphere to finish in just over an hour, her result plus the late news of George Houghton once again qualifying for the OCR World Championships being a nice little prelude to the following weekend’s races in St Helens and on the Liverpool waterfront.
The St Helens 10k has been a club favourite since its inception in 2011, even in 2018 when the Beast from the East forced a hasty rescheduling to mid-April. Conditions were hardly any more hospitable for the 2019 edition but the club had no less than eight entrants on the start line ready to take on the climb of North Road and the finish into the Totally Wicked Stadium. Leading the way for the club was Alan McKeegan who has had quite a year since joining the club last spring. Here, he slayed the slopes of St Helens and the tight confines of the city streets to great effect and beat the 42 minute mark as he recorded a time of 41:48 and a top-75 place. Next up were Mike Gregory, Chris Dyson and Will Bardin who were locked in a tight battle during the early going, however Mike pulled away later on and took the honour of second club member home in a time of 44:57 just over 90 seconds ahead of Chris whose 46:31 was a new PB. Will fell back after the halfway point but was always well clear of Jordan O’Shea, who was a further minute down the road, meaning that the first five club members had all beaten the 50 minute mark. Another trio were also locked in a close contest as Tony Waine, Lisa Hirst and Melanie Sayed were aiming for a sub-55 time. Tony took a while to get into his rhythm but eventually worked his way past to lead the group home, just 28 seconds separating the trio while Lisa took most of the plaudits for a new PB of 54:40.
Three club members attempted the Liverpool Half Marathon which suffered the worst of the shifting crosswinds on the waterfront. During the commentary of the 12noon game from Anfield the weather was described as “four seasons in one day” but that would have been of scant comfort to those who ran 13.1 miles as they could have been forgiven for thinking they were in Alaska rather than Merseyside. Robert O’Shea has travelled far and wide over the last 12 months with races in all corners of the country and at long last he was back on home ground battling the winds on the waterfront, and here it was his turn to lead the club home, a time of 1:38:50 being a just reward, around six minutes clear of club website designer Scott Farrow who did just enough to go sub-1:45, while Steve Williams used the race as strength training for his upcoming attempt at Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire and recorded 1:57:31, finishing seventh in his age group and making it home just in time for the football!
While Liverpool and Burnley tried not to catch frostbite in the aforementioned lunchtime kickoff, several St Helens Tri juniors were at the Wirral Aquathlon, the traditional multisport curtain raiser at the Bebington Oval where Sally Bearon was joined by Oliver and Charlie Murphy, plus Holly and Grace Hirst. First off to race were Grace and Sally, and both had a fine outing as they cracked the top 20, Sally finishing in 15 minutes. Grace put her regular Friday night track run sessions to good effect as she worked her way up to seventh by the end of the race. Her sister Holly faced stiffer competition at T3 level but still ran in good spirit and 16th place was her end result. Charlie Murphy has ran well throughout the winter cross country season and his improved strength carried him to 16th position at T3 level before watching his brother Oliver turn in arguably the performance of the day along with that of Steve Williams in Liverpool as he too came good on his XC campaign to take fourth in the youth race and round off a wet and windy weekend of racing where it was probably for the best that the flagship duathlon on the West Pennine Moors was postponed. In any case two signature duathlons characterise the next couple of weeks as next Sunday sees the return of the Parbold Duathlon while the second St Helens Tri club duathlon takes place the following Sunday, for which entries are still available at the time of writing.