Six teams of two represented St Helens Tri at the rescheduled Firefighters 2up duathlon on Sunday amidst conditions only slightly better than what caused the race to be cancelled back in March. The race comprises two 3.5 mile runs and a bike ride of around 23 miles into the wilds of the West Pennine Moors. Leading the way were two of the best runners in club history, Mark Turner and Peter Fairclough. They finished the first run in under 25 minutes, and although they are not as renowned for their speed on two wheels as other long serving members they still recorded a fantastic bike split of 1:15:49. Remarkably, they even managed to come close to their first run split on the final stage as they powered past a duo from Horwich to grab third place with room to spare. Next up were Michael Forber and Kevin Dunbar. Kevin later described the race as “Michael dragging him round” (maybe he forgot he’d been to Wythenshawe the previous day) but in any case the strongman duo were in their element here as they built steadily towards the final stage and made their way through the pack to finish in under 2:25 bagging a top 30 placing. Patrick Neill and Gary Birch have always been fast on the bike and Patrick in particular looks like figuring at the sharp end of the winter racing season. Here, they actually got in front of Michael and Kevin on the bike stage but ultimately had to give best on the second run. Nonetheless they still beat the two and a half hour mark and made the top 40. In keeping with the theme of “everyone had a story to tell” perhaps no team has been quite as storied over the last few months as Myka Heard and Carole James. Myka only recently learned that she has earned another team GB call up after a season disrupted by a bike accident, and Carole must surely be in contention for newcomer of the year after her age group wins in Helsby and at the St Helens Triathlon. Here, the dynamic duo were into the pitlane in under 35 minutes and overtook their age group rivals on the bike course, never looking back as they obliterated their division to win by over ten minutes. Antony Lindley was joined at the last minute by Dave Ashworth after Anthony’s teammate was forced to withdraw. The newly formed pairing didn’t skip a beat as they headed Myka and Carole into the changeover but ultimately had to yield to their fellow club members on the bike. Their strong second run still helped them up the order somewhat to a very satisfying result; in better conditions they would certainly have beaten the three hour mark. No long distance team race would be complete without a chapter from Sarah Taktak and Bethany Forber, and once again they had a race to remember. Despite a fall on the first run and both chains coming off during the bike course they still completed the course to a rapturous applause, beating the three and a half hour mark by just 41 seconds in their most rewarding team effort to date.
While the Dirty Dozen were battling around Belmont, Mike Gregory (pictured below) thought the same as Kevin, that one race for the weekend wasn’t enough, and joined sprint specialist Chris Hayes at the Manchester Half Marathon. The city was still buzzing from the Super League Grand Final the night before and the Saints really did come back to town for more with a bang, as the City of the Buzzing Bees was spared the worst of the weather that plagued the duathlon. The question was, would Mike’s experience overcome his tired legs or would Chris’ exuberance win the day? In the event Mike came out ahead, as he worked his way into the race gradually, peaking during the middle phase, and eventually recording a 1:43:21, three minutes and 23 seconds clear of Chris who clearly relishes the long distance races and promises to be a breakout star in 2020. Next week’s signature event is the Stockport Duathlon starting 8:30am at Poynton Leisure Centre, while the Petzl Night Run series and the usual Halloween themed races promise to provide plenty of surprises – hopefully of the treat variety!