It was a busy second weekend of October as four events took centre stage with the Manchester double of Cross Country season opener at Wythenshawe Park and the Half Marathon close to home, while the Epic Events 2up duathlon and Eddie Hirst’s Ironman Kona adventures drew plenty of attention further afield. Part one of the roundup centres on the events in Manchester and Hawaii either side of the Super League Grand Final. While Eliud Kipchoge was resting up in Vienna after his historic sub 2 hour marathon and St Helens RLFC were preparing to do battle with the Salford Red Devils at Old Trafford, seven St Helens Tri members faced the flat but muddy confines of Wythenshawe Park with Claire Murphy off first in the ladies race. She had an open goal to take a commanding early lead in the club championship standings (with the best four results from five races to count this year) and she opened the defence of her title with an excellent run to a time of 40:40, placing her 137th overall. As she returned to base to join Andrew Bridge on photography duties, six members made their way to the start line for the men’s race. Robert Chesters had a history of getting off the line well at this venue, but here he spotted an open lane on the right, flew off like he’d been fired out of a cannon, took up a good position into the first corner and after passing a few fast starters on the opening lap, was into a good rhythm, apart from some difficult moments on the second lap when slowing pace in the mud led to falling blood pressure levels and some awkward lightheaded moments (proof that compression socks can be a lifesaver) but despite nearly landing on top of a Chorlton runner who fell over in the woods on the final tour, he finished in a new course PB of 38:12, 101st overall (bumped up to 93rd after removal of unattached runners) and take the first lead in the men’s club competition. Kevin Dunbar had the 2up duathlon on his mind and would definitely have challenged Robert in normal circumstances, but he still managed to record a good mid-41 time which put him easily in the top 200. Mike Gregory only managed to make it to Prestwich for round 4 last season but you wouldn’t have known it here, as he put in a gritty sprint finish just six days after his excellent Rainford 10k performance to clock a 44:06. Behind him a cracking battle was on between the more experienced Lee Stinch and the more powerful Peter Rawlinson. In the event Lee’s knowledge and all round abilities won out as he came out ahead to the tune of just 28 seconds, the pair finishing inside 47 minutes. It was great debut for John Wilson whose contribution endured the club finished 38th overall; with further experience the 39 second gap to Peter doesn’t look quite so insurmountable.
While the Saints Community was enjoying the Super League Grand Final and looking forward to Japan vs Scotland the following morning, Eddie Hirst’s incredible story was into chapter 132 (or whatever his current strike rate is) on the lava fields of Kona as the Ironman world championships rolled into Hawaii. After a packed week of activities including familiarisation swims, running races and swimming with turtles, Eddie lined up with the backing of his whole club and indeed of team GB. He was out of the water in a little over 68 minutes and his bike split was a 19.47mph. Amazing any day of the week, but it transpired that he’d hurt his foot and he spent some time in T2 having it seen to. He was advised to walk/run the marathon and wouldn’t quite beat the four hour mark but if anything it made his story all the more epic, the blur in the picture below was somewhat befitting of such a performance (no Eddie wouldn’t slow down) and he finished in under eleven and a half hours to close out a thrilling first half of the weekend. Part 2 will follow later today covering the 2up duathlon and the Manchester Half Marathon.