Saints in Super Spirit on the Slopes of Sherdley Park

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.

Christmas Curtain Call in Chester and County Donegal

The festive period is often a time to reflect, and there has definitely been a nostalgic sense of looking back on the past year more so than for a very long time, but several club members have truly raised the bar in 2018 and they enjoyed very productive party seasons to end the year in style. Eddie Hirst only took part in his first half marathon in early 2015 and recorded a solid time, but still over the 1 hour 35 minute mark. If you had tried to convince him that within four years he would be representing team GB at every level of multisport he would never have believed it. However, his rise through the age group ranks has been meteoric and he capped it during Christmas week by receiving the best present possible; qualification for the national team in the long distance (Ironman) world championships held in the Netherlands in summer 2019! Together with recent qualifications for Aquabike and duathlon events Eddie has set a new standard for members young and old to aim for, and together with Steve Williams has confirmed his status as the club’s most prolific athlete of 2018.

There were still plenty of other races in the weeks either side of Christmas, beginning with the Tatton Yule Yomp 10k in Cheshire. This event is on quite a fast course and regularly attracts hordes of runners dressed in Santa suits. Kevin Dunbar, however, was out to record a time after his recent heroics in Chicago and was rewarded with a top 50 placing, his time of 44:47 putting him seventh in his age group, while Helen Broderick also got a top ten age group result as she finished in 54:27. On Boxing Day four club members headed out to race, three in County Donegal, one in Chester. Over in Ireland the Murphy family enjoyed a day out at the Greencastle 5 mile road race, an ever popular event which attracted over 1,000 entrants in 2018. Oliver came good on his recent XC form as he led the family home, bagging a place in the top 150 and a time of 35:37, while Claire finished in just over 38 minutes as she looks forward to returning to the hills and mud in the new year and Chris dug deep to beat the crowds and the 40 minute mark, with all three finishing inside the top 300.

Meanwhile club reporter Robert Chesters stuck with his recent tradition of attending the Essar Round the Walls Race in Chester. First established in 1972, it is a 4-4.5 mile course (changing every year) starting and finishing on Chester Racecourse. The first and last 800 metres are mainly on grass but the middle part features flat sections, trail and most importantly the fabled steps up and down the walls which have stood for nearly 2,000 years. Such a technical course requires precision footwork and good balance and coordination, which Robert has not always been known for, but recent good XC outings both for the Saints and Penny Lane Striders paid dividends as he was up into 11th place in the first mile. Negotiating the descents on the city walls made for tough going and for much of the race it looked as though he would just miss out on a place in the Chester newspapers (the local press traditionally print the top 10 finishers) but upon returning to the racecourse two strong runners ahead started to tire. Robert has been researching physiology and running techniques ahead of a possible attempt to improve to BTF Coach Level 2 in 2019 and put his knowledge to use in the final 800 metres, as he had more stamina left in the tank for the final run on the racecourse than the aforementioned strongmen ahead and he capped his best season to date with a superb ninth place in a time of 26:22 just over 90 seconds behind the winner.

On New Year’s Eve, Sarah Taktak and Bethany Forber took part in their first ever 26.2 on the Liverpool waterfront at the Liverbird marathon. Conditions were mild but increasingly windy towards the end of the four lap race. Sarah and Bethany have been on many training runs together in preparation for the event and closed out the year with a gritty performance as they finished in under five and a quarter hours. They are  a credit to the club and we wish them well in their journeys to half and full Ironman races over the next couple of years.

 

Saints Santa season starts in a Stockport Sunset

It was a cool, breezy Saturday that greeted St Helens Tri to begin the month of December as they made their way to Woodbank Park for the third round of the Manchester Cross Country League in Stockport. Diane Taktak had got the ball rolling earlier in the day with a nice run to 27:48 at the Sunflowers Halewood 5k hosted by Knowsley Harriers, providing a nice starter to the main course down the M62. In the U13 Boys race Charlie Murphy came home ahead of Joseph Duffy by eight seconds and Oliver Murphy was able to place in the top 35 at U15 level. After lunch the ladies were off at 1:40pm for their two laps of the fabled course including the infamous hill which takes so much out of the legs. Claire Murphy was the first club member home in a time of 42:47 finishing less than 45 seconds away from the top 100 and giving herself a real chance of catching Cheryl Pace for the club championship, as Cheryl nonetheless kept up her consistent scoring despite nearly being eliminated on a tree stump. She finished in 45:28 just over a minute clear of Myka Heard who always enjoys this tough, technical circuit. Bethany Forber finished ahead of her mum Christine on this occasion, as she looks forward to her first marathon a few weeks from now. Her time of 50:37 sealed the deal for sufficient counters over the line to ensure a league placing for the ladies, and Yvonne Tinsley was next having run team Forber very close indeed. Another club member who has improved immeasurably at XC is Sarah Taktak, who came close to breaking 55 minutes and also was fifth junior lady overall on the day, while no-one ever doubts the spirit of Liz Spensley who once again dug deep and finished the toughest course on the calendar.

The last few ladies were still finishing at 2:30 as the men were set on their way for three laps of the course and the first mini-lap had the desired effect of spreading the field out to stop the usual traffic jam on the descent towards the fields. Colin Dobbs obviously thought this through very well as he scampered off early doors and was never to be headed by another teammate, as he finished in under 44 minutes despite mysteriously not being picked up by the timers at the finish. Robert Chesters found his longer spikes much more to his liking and, after overtaking Michael Forber at the end of lap one, put in a late bid to catch Colin but ultimately ran out of time, nonetheless finishing in 44:07 over two and a half minutes quicker than last year as he put his new-found knowledge from taking a BTF coaching course to good use. For his part Michael Forber finished 35 seconds back from Robert just ahead of a thrilling battle between David Isaac, who challenged Robert in the early stages, and Kevin Dunbar who was happy to have beaten the 45 minute mark. Patrick Neill and Kevin Dudley also had quiet but strong runs keeping the duelling duo ahead very honest, and it was a good first outing of the season for Paul Booth who was unlucky not to join his teammates in the sub-50 club. Two close battles followed, with Alan McKeegan just getting the better of Lee Stinch by 21 seconds and it was even closer between Chris Murphy and Peter Rawlinson, Chris (in black) coming home just four seconds ahead of Peter (in white wearing the club cycling kit – in the mud no less). With the sun setting over Stockport the pair came home less than half a minute behind Andrew Bridge whose contributions to the club at run sessions are most valued and appreciated, particularly last Friday night when a hailstorm soaked the track!

Here are the top 4 in the ladies points standings after round three:

Cheryl Pace 58
Claire Murphy 50
Myka Heard 45
Bethany Forber 30

And for the men:

Colin Dobbs 68
Michael Forber 55
Robert Chesters 36
Kevin Dunbar 30

It was a track of a very different type on Sunday morning as Mark Eccleston made the trip to Oulton Park for the Running Grand Prix. Comprising ten laps of the fabled racetrack, it’s a marathon like no other as it involves ten ascents of the punishing Knickerbrook Corner. On the day the competitors were greeted by strong winds and driving rain but Mark was more than equal to the task and finished in under four hours 40 minutes to close out a terrific first weekend of December featuring many star performances. Plans are afoot for a club awards night similar to the 2018 edition in February or March next year; full details will appear here as and when they become available.

Saints and Striders Salute to Service at Stadt Moers Park

It is rare nowadays that a Parkrun is the headline event of a St Helens Tri report but if ever there was an occasion for such a decision to be made it was Saturday 24th November at Stadt Moers Park. Off the back of Peter Rawlinson’s sub-47 minute time at the Movember 10k, Mike Goulbourne had led the club at the Preston 10 mile road race the previous week with an outstanding run to 58:34 and third in his age group while Lynette Houghton and Brian Davies finished just over three minutes apart and Diane Taktak recorded 100 minutes on the nose.

From one fast and iconic 2-lap course one week it was onwards to another for the Stadt Moers Special, as several club members who had not been to this underappreciated Parkrun made the trip to Tarbock Island for “the course that Aaron built” on Saturday 24th, as the Parkrun community remembered one of its greatest and most respected personalities on what also happened to be the 100th running of the 9am 5k at SMP. Conditions were near-perfect if a little on the chilly side as the runners stood to applaud Aaron Reading for a minute before they were set on their way as though the release of a week’s worth of cathartic energy had been fired from a cannon. It was a close race behind the runaway winner with mere seconds separating most of the top 10 positions. Mike Gregory lead St Helens Tri home in 6th overall in a time of 22:06; he also won his age group by just two seconds in the closest division race of the day. Helen Broderick has been a regular at the Saturday swim sessions since the club’s inception in 2015, yet here she brought her strength to a course that demands plenty of skill and toughness, and it paid off with a fine run to 26:05 which put her in the top 5 ladies for the day. It was also a day to remember for Wendy Webb, who ran the course together with husband Stephen plus Nick Hall; the trio completed the two laps of SMP in a little over 30 minutes and on a flat course must figure to go under the half hour mark soon. Also racing for the club were a number of other members whose names and times do not show up in the official results (as a reminder to anyone planning on entering a Parkrun, they are not chip timed but you need to register for a barcode), however one of the club’s most recent new members, Cheryl Pace, did remember to bring her slip of paper and while running for Penny Lane Striders, she banked a very satisfying warm-up ahead of next week’s Manchester Cross Country League fixture with the Saints as she finished in 24:14 and was second lady home.

Aaron Reading’s funeral will be held at Our Lady Help of Christian’s Portico, L34 2QT on Thursday 29 November at 10am, followed by the crematorium an hour later in St Helens, postcode WA10 6DF. 24th November 2018 will be remembered as the day when for one final Saturday morning, the moment belonged to a man who gave so much to the local running and triathlon community and would surely have had much more to offer had he been afforded the chance to do so. Therefore, on Thursday morning plans are afoot to honour him for the last time with a group ride to the funeral, with plans and timings to be announced shortly; this report will be updated in due course.

 

Aaron Reading, 1966-2018

It is with deep sadness that the club has to report that Aaron Reading, a much valued and respected member since the club’s inception in 2015, died last Thursday after an eight month illness.

Aaron came to the sport of triathlon relatively late after spending much of his earlier years participating in a variety of activities including mountain climbing, canoeing, paragliding and cycling. Perhaps he really was the club’s original “man for every occasion”. When he first joined St Helens Tri he never really saw himself as someone who would make his mark on the world of multisport but he quickly grew into his new venture and did what he did best, prove his doubts wrong. His most notable achievements included returning to Lancaster University, where he studied for his degree, to complete the autumn triathlon in consecutive years, as well as the Willowbrook Duathlon and the Warrington 10k. But perhaps his most significant contribution to the local racing scene was his involvement in the conception of the Stadt Moers Parkrun.

Set in 220 acres of land in the borough of Knowsley, Stadt Moers Park was cleared in 1983 by the local council to create an open space for all to enjoy, and in 2017 Aaron’s brainchild was born on the slopes, flatlands and (usually) muddy field on this once-barren wasteland situated between Whiston and Huyton just off Tarbock Island. He also competed on several occasions at his home event as well as appearing five times at St Helens Parkrun where he recorded his best time of 27:47 in July 2017. His future plans looking ahead had included his first open water triathlon, which he had mixed thoughts about, always one to sample the great outdoors but never keen on the idea of swimming close to fish!

Sadly such aspirations were never to be fulfilled, as he took ill just before Easter 2018. His battle inspired many, including Robert Chesters and Robert O’Shea who took back-to-back Parkrun victories at SMP in the weeks that followed, in two of the most improbable wins in club history. Aaron returned to Stadt Moers and St Helens Parkruns during his illness and even had the strength of character to complete both the Saturday 5k at SMP and the Griffin Grind in the same week just four months ago. However, he was not to beat his illness and tragically passed away on Thursday 15 November with the thoughts and memories of St Helens Tri with him until the end.

His funeral will take place at Our Lady Help of Chrstian’s Portico, postcode L34 2QT on Thursday 29 November at 10am, followed by the crematorium an hour later in St Helens, postcode WA10 6DF. By a twist of fate, this Saturday sees the 100th edition of the Stadt Moers Parkrun that became such a big part of Aaron’s life. In recent months the club has rarely reported on these “unofficial races”, however in Aaron’s memory it would be a fitting tribute for any Saturday morning regulars to tackle one of the North West’s most iconic yet underappreciated courses, to run one final time in Aaron’s memory, and as such next weekend‘s report will cover the Stadt Moers Parkrun together with last week‘s Movember 10k and Preston 10 mile road race.

Full details, including course, start time and how to register for a barcode are here at http://www.parkrun.org.uk/knowsley/.

 

Aaron Reading, 1966-2018.

 

Carol and Cart-Man enjoy Breakthrough in Bagley

The second round of the Manchester Cross Country League was the focus point for St Helens Tri over the past weekend. After Keith Ashcroft made it home well under the hour at the Arley Hall 10k in the morning, attentions turned to the University Playing Fields in Bagley, the newest round of the championship. In fact the venue has proven so popular than when attempts to revive the Sherdley Park round as a season closer fell through, Bagley was selected to hold a second round on February 9th. In the morning the club enjoyed a spirited battle between Charlie Murphy and Joseph Duffy, with Charlie edging it in a sprint finish by just a single second and both making the top 40 overall. With temperatures struggling to reach double figures it was a cooler version of round 1 that greeted 23 club members for the afternoon races, with only a slight breeze and even some sunshine – surely not cross country weather?

On return to the Saints fold, Claire Murphy strode confidently to take the title of first club counter home by just over a minute, her time of 33:12 giving her 158th overall. Behind her a cracking three way battle was son between debutant Carol Clive, a regular at the Edge Hill Friday morning swim sessions, Cheryl Pace who took first last time out at Wythenshawe, and Myka Heard, last season’s champion. The trio finished in that order, Carol scoring an outstanding debut result less than 15 second ahead of Cheryl while Myka eventually finished around a minute further back. Helen Broderick was next, her performance at last week’s Striders Trail 5 obviously having given her a confidence boost, while Bethany Forber chased Sheena Shearman all the way to the line and looked like she might overcome her more experienced teammate, but in the end their positions from round 1 were reversed leaving them both tied in the series standings. In recent months questions have abounded as to whether there is anything that Sarah Taktak cannot do, and until now she had little in the way of XC history to fall back on. That would all change as she put in a spirited performance to open her season account in a good strong run to a sub-40 time placing her eighth club counter home and in the top 300 overall. Her mum Diane was next home having just done enough to get under the 42 minute mark and Liz Spensley showed the inspirational spirit that has won her so many fans with a determined drive to the line as she rounded out the club’s entrants, also finishing less than three and a half minutes from winning her category.

Current ladies point standings, top 6:

Cheryl Pace 40
Myka Heard 30
Claire Murphy 25
Carole Clive 18
Bethany Forber 18
Sheena Shearman 18

At 2:30pm the men ploughed their way over what was left of the playing fields for the longest race of the day. After last year’s thrilling four-way finale at Wythenshawe this season’s edition is looking like a two horse race between Colin Dobbs and Michael Forber. Clearly Michael enjoyed the course more having raced well here last season and his time of 38:22 was enough to place him as first club member home, well inside the top 200 and the top 20 in his age group. In fact Colin was having a battle to hold onto second place because in a major turnaround from the season opener David Isaac was hot on his heels and Colin only held onto the position by four seconds, however after two rounds he still holds the lead in the club points competition. There were more surprises to come as while Ian Orford can usually be relied upon to finish on the podium or close to it, Dean Golba, who rarely featured in the headlines last season (as the aforementioned Cart-Man in the headline, nothing to do with the South Park character rather his own storied karting career) put in an outstanding effort to pip Kevin Dunbar for fifth club counter, Kevin apparently being the only person in the club who is actually looking forward to more muddy conditions! Indeed, Kevin just got home ahead of Patrick Neill, another major improver from Wythenshawe, who gave his illustrious teammate a real race for the last slot in the A team (first six counters for the interclub league) coming home just eight seconds in arrears. Kevin Dudley and Mike Gregory were the next two home, separated by less 20 seconds and it was even closer between Mal Balmer and Andrew Gaskell who were both unlucky not to break 45 minutes. With eleven runners home only two remained to finish, and they were Chris Murphy enjoying a well earned break from the role of chief supporter for Charlie, and Andrew Bridge who continues to grow into his role as a dynamic club coach.

Current men’s point standings, top 6:

Colin Dobbs 43
Michael Forber 40
Ian Orford 22
Kevin Dunbar 20
Robert Chesters 18
David Isaac 17

It wasn’t purely a cross country Saturday as Lee Stinch was running the last ultra of his 2018 campaign, the Warrington Way 40, which meanders through Cheshire to many quaint villages. Lee has done this event on numerous occasions in the past and he would have been forgiven for having the weekend off after running one and a half marathons in the past two weekends, and yet here he was on a mission to beat last year’s time when he dipped under seven and a half hours. In the under the radar story of the weekend he put in a spectacular performance to finish in 6:45:04, over 43 minutes faster than last year, to round off a super Saturday which will be remembered for Carol’s breakout debut and Dean’s rise to prominence as he came good on all the promise he has shown on the bike in 2018. The next few weeks are rather quiet with several club members running cross country for their first or second claim running clubs but the next St Helens Tri big day out is the third round of the Manchester cross country league at Woodbank Park in Stockport featuring a difficult off camber descent and the fabled climb at the end of every lap. As the final major league race of 2018 and the toughest on the MACCL calendar, the much anticipated finish under fading light promises to be an epic backdrop to a perfect calendar year finale.

The Mike and Melanie Show in Llanberis and Lancaster

Mike Goulbourne has long been a man to lead by example and he marked the final weekend of October by putting in yet another epic performance at one of his favourite haunts, the Snowdonia Marathon. Often regarded as one of the most picturesque 26.2 milers in the country it combines road, trail and, you might say, a bit of fell terrain. In the event Mike placed in the top 25 overall in a time of 3:05:17, over 10 minutes quicker than in 2017 and good enough for a top six finish in his age category. Lee Stinch managed to get a last minute number for the race and despite not having ideal preparation he managed to complete the testing course in under 3 hours 50 minutes. Clearly one marathon in October was not enough for Kevin Dunbar as he followed up his Chicago trip (and Manchester detour) with a fine run to a time of 4:11:49 while Craig Abbott marked his first race in a long while with a dogged run to finish in just over five hours.

Kevin and Lee would play a starring role the following weekend but it was actually Melanie Sayed who got the ball rolling with a real off-the-radar special at the Epic Events Fireworks 500 swim at Capernwray Diving Centre. This is a popular end of season party race with hot drinks, bonfire and, obviously, fireworks at the finish. Melanie has mainly become known for her excellent marathon performances earlier this year but here she scored her best result since joining the club as her time of 10:22 put her eighth overall and even won her age group! Such a terrific feel good story was the ideal springboard for another grand day out for the club at two races, the Striders Trail 5 and the Lancaster Half Marathon. In St Helens Kevin Dunbar was once again the star of the show, as he ran in tandem with Michael Forber (competing for the Isabella Rose Foundation) and completed the mixed terrain course in a time of 36:32. He was just over a minute ahead of Neil Hunter enjoying his first outing in quite a while, and Helen Broderick showed the strength of character that took her to so much success during the summer as she rolled home in just over 47 minutes. Meanwhile in Lancaster the dust had only just settled from Melanie’s standout performance the previous day as Lee Stinch was joined by Emma and Matt Shillabeer plus Diane Taktak for the 3-1-5 races Half Marathon. Set in one of England’s most historic cities, the course features diverse scenery and a very tough hill at the end. Lee Stinch somehow managed to complete the seemingly impossible of Snowdonia Marathon, Friday track session and this testing 13.1 miler all in eight days, not only finishing but recording an excellent 1:37:12. He was able to sit back and enjoy the remaining trio roll in just 20 seconds apart, with Diane finishing in 2:11:22, edging clear of longtime members Emma and Matt Shillabeer who ran the course together, to fittingly round off another fortnight of road running and open water swimming where the star turns came from Mike in Snowdonia and Melanie at the Fireworks 500. Next weekend’s main race is the second round of the Manchester Cross Country League at the University Playing Fields in Bagley, a medium speed course with some flat straight for speed merchants, but also a testing infield section with some particularly tricky descents.

Superb weekend for Saints in Spain and Stockport

It was very much a “Spain and Stockport” theme for St Helens Tri over the weekend as duathlon took centre stage at home and abroad. First of all, though, Lynette and George Houghton represented team GB at the OCR World Championships in Essex. Held over three days, it requires competitors to complete three separate races totalling 33 kilometres with obstacles aplenty. The standards are set extremely high and it is particularly difficult to record a pass on any of the three courses but both George and Lynette had the strength to overcome the challenges thrown at them and end as proud finishers. Two remarkable all round athletes who have carved out their niche and done so with commitment and enthusiasm.

The main focus of the weekend, however, was in Ibiza where four club members were competing in the ETU Duathlon Championships. On the Saturday Shirley Fox participated in the sprint distance race. Shirley has really upped her game on the bike in the last 12 months and her strength carried her to a creditable 17th place in her category. However, the big story of the weekend was undoubtedly that of Jeanette Fisher who was competing at international level for the fist time. Jeanette has always been a fast runner but here it was her bike performance that caught the eye, as she recorded a bike time quicker than most of the eight who finished ahead, and only a handful of seconds behind the overall winner! Ninth place was the very least she deserved for a stunning conclusion to what has easily been her best season to date. The following afternoon saw the standard distance races take place and competing for St Helens Tri were Eddie Hirst and Mark Turner, who were only racing a week earlier in Bedfordshire and Parbold. Eddie has concentrated on his bike strength (you might see a trend here) due to a few minor niggles in recent months and it paid off, as he matched Jeanette’s 9th from the previous day in the M40-44 standard distance event. Mark Turner recorded the best result, however, as he fought the rising temperatures and a strong M25-29 field to go sub-38 for his first 10k. He held firm on the bike course and despite having to back off in the final stages so as to make the finish he crossed the line in an outstanding sixth place, and less than two minutes away from the podium!

Closer to home, three members enjoyed rather shorter journeys to races in Liverpool and Manchester. Sarah and Diane Taktak changed into fancy dress for the Beat the Reaper 10k at Croxteth Hall. Sarah was flying round the iconic venue with her time of 55:51 putting her in the top ten of her category and Diane recorded an encouraging 1:02:17. Meanwhile, Robert Chesters  pictured belowb took on his first solo multi-sport event in nearly four months at the end of season Stockport Tri Club Duathlon held at Poynton Leisure Centre. This is definitely one for your 2019 diary, comprising two technical 5k runs with some sharp climbs through a forest and a few stiles to swing round, together with a two-lap, 21km cycle stage featuring a very tough climb which caught out many a seasoned competitor. Robert came into T1 at the back of the top ten but made use of the flat time trial sections and his own recent weight loss on the hill to move past several competitors on the first lap of the bike course, and he remained at the sharp end all the way to the flag to finish fourth, with third in his age group, in a time of 1:20:39 and round off a terrific weekend where the star turns came from Jeanette Fisher and Mark Turner for their standout performances in Ibiza as well as Lynette and George Houghton in the OCR world championships. The Halloween weekend is a relatively quiet one but Kevin Dunbar returns to one of his favourite haunts at the Snowdonia Marathon, while November’s schedule includes the Fireworks 500 open water swim at Capernwray on the first Saturday and the second round of the Manchester Cross Country League at the Kenworthy Woods University Playing Fields on November 10th.

Storm Eddie plays a Starring Role in the South East

Sunday would prove to be just as busy for St Helens Tri as the first round of the Manchester XC league the day before. The long haul tripper of the week was Eddie Hirst, who was travelling by far the furthest to compete but was actually in the most significant race of the weekend. Bedford Autodrome is a smaller, twistier version of Oulton Park owned by Jonathan and Jolyon Palmer (both former Formula 1 drivers) and Eddie was competing in the standard distance duathlon which also served as an ITU Duathlon qualifier. With a series of calf and hamstring niggles over the past few months the last thing Eddie would have wanted would have been a poor weather forecast; unfortunately so it transpired as large puddles of water courtesy of Storm Callum made progress very difficult for everyone especially on the bike course. Nevertheless, his black and orange bullet also known as his time trial bike served him as well as ever and he held on tenaciously during the second run to place 31st overall in just over 2 hours 6 minutes, which also gave him fifth in his age group and leave him in with a chance of world championship qualification. Closer to home, Mark Turner (pictured below) led the club by example as he has done so often in 2018 by taking an excellent seventh place at the ever popular Parbold Duathlon, where he was backed up by Will Bardin, who also had a strong outing particularly on the cycle stage, as he got home under the two hour mark which put him just outside the top 50. Strangely, for two events that were originally scheduled for March 18 (and both fell victim to the final Beast from the East) Parbold and Lancaster were rescheduled for the same date again, so it was left to Chris Murphy plus Sarah and Azzam Taktak to tackle this increasingly popular race which comprises two off road runs with some fast roads to stretch those cycling legs on. Chris Murphy was on fine form as he was into his stride from the off, and a good show of consistent pace over all three stages saw him place 32nd overall, while taking a top-six place in his age group. His 6th place was matched by Sarah who recently set a new mark to aim for in training with a fine run in a recent club 3000m time trial at Edge Hill University, and the first signs of this improvement were evident from the off, yet she actually saved some of her best pace for towards the end as her running strength combined with two lightning fast transitions saw her match Chris Murphy’s sixth place, in the junior women’s standings. The pair were split by Azzam who seems to be fitting in a race every weekend at the moment, but he showed no sign of burnout as he finished in just seven seconds over two hours, yet cracked the top 50 overall.

Sarah and Azzam weren’t the only ones racing from the Taktak family as Diane had to contend with some rather miserable conditions in Liverpool for the Alder Hey 10k. Hosted by Sports Tours International, it is a scenic route round Croxteth Hall and Country Park, normally associated with the weekly Parkrun. According to some runners there were some rather tight turns marked out by some rather haphazardly placed cones but Diane overcame it all in her usual cheerful manner to go well under the 58 minute mark and place 263rd overall, scoring, you guessed it, yet another sixth place to match her daughter and Chris Murphy in Lancaster. Meanwhile several club members who raced at Wythenshawe Park the previous day were out in force for Team Isabella at the Manchester Half Marathon, widely regarded as one of the fastest courses in the country. While their results counted for the IRF, Danielle Buckley raced for St Helens Tri in the hope of getting under the two hours mark after a year plagued by injury and as such she was delighted to cross the line in a time of 1:57:35, rounding off a super Sunday where the star turns came from Mark Turner in Parbold, Chris and Sarah in Lancaster and, with the result of the weekend, Eddie Hirst at the Bedford Autodrome. Next weekend’s schedule is rather more sparse but while Eddie and Mark go for glory at the ETU standard distance championship in Ibiza, the Stockport Tri Club Autumn Duathlon at Poynton still has entries available at the time of writing while there will no doubt be plenty of pictures doing the rounds on social media as the plethora of Halloween themed races offer plenty of tricks and treats in the run-up to October 31st!

Setting the Pace in South Manchester

The second weekend of October is always one of the busiest weekends of the season with the first round of the Manchester Cross Country League and the Manchester Half Marathon but this year the postponed Parbold and Lancaster duathlons, a corresponding event in Bedford and the Alder Hey 10k made for an action packed schedule. First on the fixture list was the flat, fast expanses of Wythenshawe Park where the club enjoyed a record turnout on an unusually hot and windy day, which together with a modified course made shoe selection a minefield to say the least. The U13 boys got the ball rolling early doors with Charlie Murphy both cracking the top 40 and finishing just three seconds apart, with Reuben Wilson coming home less than three minutes adrift. Oliver Murphy took 39th in the U15 Boys race and George Houghton made the top 25 at U17 level but after lunch the focus switched to the seniors, with ten ladies and sixteen men facing the starting horn in the 1:30pm and 2:30pm races. A remarkable story developed in the ladies race as debutant Cheryl Pace was first club counter home! Coming from a long background of trail racing at Penny Lane Striders, she completed the course in a little over 40 minutes holding off fellow PLS/St Helens Tri member Myka Heard in a close battle. Lynette Houghton carried on where she left off from last season in bagging another podium finish coming in less than two minutes behind Myka, but another fascinating story was concluding just over 90 seconds Lynette as Bethany Forber, who stepped up to half marathon level earlier this year, came good on all the promise she has shown by beating the 45 minute mark and being fourth club member home to round out the A team. The next two were spaced out by just over a minute apiece, Sheena Shearman marking her first appearance for the club with a strong run to 45:17 just ahead of Chris Forber who would also turn out the following morning at the half marathon for Team Isabella. Yvonne Tinsley has only recently joined the club but was right at home from the off as she recorded a time of 47:22 on debut just over half a minute clear of Jennifer Miller, while a case of mistaken identity saw Shirley Fox credited with a time of 53:18 just two seconds clear of the (present) Liz Spensley! Quite how someone can score a couple of points for the club XC league when they are in a swimming pool is anyone’s guess, but the report will be updated when corrected results became available. In the event the ladies placed 46th in the overall team standings.

With the ten (nine?) ladies home and dry, sixteen men lined up at 2:30pm for the start and the main question was whether Michael Forber could maintain the form that saw him take last season’s club championship. On this occasion, however, with the terrain unusually flat and dry, different running styles proved to be equally productive and he was quickly into a congested upper midfield pack featuring teammates Colin Dobbs and Robert Chesters, the former having seriously improved his strength following a recent marathon in Iceland, the latter able to use his straight line speed for once on a day when the conditions would not punish poor downforce and road-holding ability. Colin edged away over the final lap to take the honours in a time of 39:07 and place 123rd overall but Robert and Michael planned things to take advantage of their strengths, with Michael able to fly on the technique parts of the course while Robert made up ground on the long straights. The pair traded places during the second half of the race but in a thrilling sprint finish, Robert found that little bit extra on the home straight to not only take second club counter but also boost the club’s overall points tally, making it a double-double for St Helens Tri/PLS registered runners. After a wait of just over 90 seconds Kevin Dunbar completed his Chicago Town Pizza burn-off with an excellent effort to finish as fourth club member over the line, just missing out on the top 200. He in turn was 16 seconds ahead of Ian Orford who in turn cleared Patrick Neill by just under two minutes to secure the A team a top 25 place in the team standings. Andrew Gaskell was next man home as both he and Kevin Dudley got into the sub-45 club, while David Isaac was listed as next in 45:28 but his time is subject to confirmation from the race officials. Mal Balmer and Garry Banks enjoyed a sprint finish every bit as enthralling as the Robert/Michael one earlier as they came home just red seconds apart, Garry proving that it’s never too late to return to cross country (this being his first XC in over a decade) while Andy Devaynes performed heroically after his performance six days earlier in Chester to get close to the duelling duo ahead and round out the B team.

There were still more to finish, however, and they were led home by the running section’s biggest contributor Lee Stinch, whose resume includes track coaching, race number administration and, you might remember, guiding people to car parks (especially in Bagley last year with the infamous “broken down bus” incident). Here, he ran Andy very close to only finish seven seconds behind and he was just over two minutes ahead of Lord Lucan, or should that be Peter Rawlinson, who took a unique double of proving hard to find (at least for one of the officials) while simultaneously winning the club fashion parade award for racing in the club cycling top (well they say white reflects heat while black absorbs it). Rounding out the club entrants were the closely matched duo of Ben Mason and Dave Shearman who finished in 54:11 and 54:15 respectively, Ben also providing much appreciated alternatives for those who abstain from dairy in the club’s tea and coffee department! All in all a fantastic first round of the 2018/19 season with many memorable moments including Cheryl’s stunning debut performance, Colin leading by example, the madcap finish between Robert and Michael, and Kevin and Andy picking their legs up off the floor to run so well just six days after their marathon efforts. In part 2 of the weekly report we will cover a diverse collection of duathlons as well as the Manchester Half Marathon and the Alder Hey 10k.