The autumn season is usually defined by the opening rounds of the cross country leagues around the North West but the Snowdonia Marathon and St Helens Striders Trail 5 are always two occasions to raise a cheer, and 2019 was no different. Weather-wise it was a tale of two contrasting days as the marathon entrants knew they were in for a tough one from the moment some of them got such in a storm at Northop Hall on the way to the venue the night before. As such it was hardly the perfect build-up to the toughest marathon of the year but they responded brilliantly the following morning amidst stormy conditions which made even the tarmac sections extremely treacherous. Leading the way, as he had done so many times before, was Mike Goulbourne, perhaps the club’s most well rounded runner, as he mastered the course like a seasoned pro, got to Pen-y-Pass within 35 minutes and finished in the top 50 in a time of 3:09:54. David Isaac’s excellent 2019 marathon form continued as he was next home for the club, keeping remarkably close to Mike in the early stages before dropping back a little. Nonetheless he still recorded a creditable 3:28:46 putting him in the top 150. David had Lee Stinch for company early on l, Lee showing no ill effects from nearly catching frostbite at the abandoned Friday night track session (maybe the A55 traffic jam wasn’t so painful an option after all) and he held the gap down to around 10 minutes at the halfway mark before Ian Wright and Kevin Dunbar overtook him and while Lee finished in 4:11:55, Ian and Kevin enjoyed a fantastic battle with a few friends from the Isabella Rose Foundation, the pair eventually separated by just 35 seconds on chip times with Ian coming out ahead. Louise Johnson enjoyed her first trip to the Welsh classic as she closed a little on Lee over the final few miles, eventually recording a 4:33:42. Also taking part were Thomas and Alan Ralfs, two regular participants in the Friday night track sessions; on this occasion Thomas got the better of his dad to the tune of around five and a half minutes, while Helen Broderick’s long history of toughing it out on challenging courses paid dividends as she put in a spirited performance to finish in under five and a half hours.
The following morning’s Striders Trail 5 was once again a roaring success with many club members both racing for St Helens Tri and various first claim running clubs. First St Helens Tri entrant home was James Nairn, one of the club’s top improvers of 2019 who took to the trail like a duck to water and finished in a little over 36 minutes. There were also a couple of star turns from Alan Mckeegan who recorded a 38:53 and Michael Lucas who got round in just over 40 but the most amazing story of the day came from Kevin Dunbar who somehow crawled out of bed after Snowdonia to add another 5 miles on for the weekend, and even setting ba decent time of 42:31! Surely there must be an easier way to run a 50km ultra………..
Capping off the weekend was a calm and composed Diane Taktak (as per the headline) who beat the Liverpool-Tottenham match traffic to take on the Arriva Scouse 5k. This ever popular event hosted by Mersey Races includes a Scouse wig as part of the entry fee but it didn’t seem to get in Diane’s way as she overcame a foot issue to complete the course in under 45 minutes and round off an action packed weekend which will be best remembered for Mike’s top 50 performance in Wales and the remarkable effort of Kevin Dunbar to combine for 31.2 miles of off road racing within 24 hours at two different venues – surely a new club record!