The past weekend was something of a three course classic; Saturday 9am Parkruns to get the ball rolling, the Tatton 10k on the Sunday, and a landmark Manchester Cross Country event at Woodbank Park in Stockport. A select few, in fact a Fab Four, faced three timekeepers at 9am and all four stayed close to home, Wesley Brown managing 115th in under 28 minutes at the St Helens event while Matt Shillabeer smashed his course PB in Warrington, 21:17 placing him fifth. Emma Shillabeer also managed a PB of her own and will surely go under 30 minutes soon. Chris Murphy was our sole entrant at Edge Hill and placed 33rd with a time of 24:02, but that was it for terra firma as the focus shifted south of the Trafford Centre for the fourth round of the Manchester Cross Country League.
First to race in Stockport were the U11 Boys, and Charlie Murphy and Joseph Duffy served up a taste of things to come later as they finished just 13 seconds apart. Holly Hirst provided some entertainment in the corresponding girls race as she lost a shoe just before the end, picked it up and ran across the line carrying it! In the event she finished in under 16 minutes, before a solid run from Reuben Wilson in the U13 Boys race and a similarly dogged effort from both George Houghton and Oliver Murphy in the U15 event.
After lunch the field of 300 ladies set off to take on the famous hill and the jaw-dropping descent Woodbank Park is so well known for. We had six entrants in the race, with Myka Heard and Claire Murphy leading the way. The end result was not only Myka coming out on top by just over a minute, but she also finished inside the top half of the field and, in being first club counter home, wrapped up the ladies championship with a round to spare! A perfect way for Myka to go into her second year as a Limar helmets athlete (hence the Italian themed title) and after she and Claire had caught their breath at the finish line attentions turned to the remaining runners headed on this occasion by Lynette Houghton who has undoubtedly improved over the course of the season, Helen Broderick who won both a wild three-wide sprint finish and “the Apprentice” award for most committed race face (at least until the usual suspect left the start line at 2:30pm) and then Chris Forber and Jennifer Pybis, the former cashing in once more on her consistent training and diverse racing schedule, the latter making a welcome first appearance for St Helens Tri this season after years of running road and track elsewhere.
At 2:30pm the men set off for the latest instalment of what is proving to be an epic back and forth season where nobody has held on to the top spot in the points standings for two consecutive races. Here, the returning Eddie Hirst made use of his experience on hilly, technical courses by placing first club counter in just under 44 minutes, keeping himself in contention for the title by moving to within 11 points of leader Michael Forber, who followed up his recent sub-7 hour Liverbird double marathon performance by finishing within two minutes of his teammate. Behind Michael Adam O’Shea edged a furious battle for the final podium spot with Colin Dobbs, as the pair finished just nine seconds apart, the same gap which also separated Patrick Neill from Kevin Dunbar to round out the A team. First to count in the B team was David Gaskell who, like Adam and Patrick, put in his best performance of the season as he overtook Che Heard to place seventh. Next up was Dean Golba who spent most of the Friday prior to the race playing a game of rock-paper-scissors over which shoes to bring (you’d never guess he’s also a champion go-kart racer) but ninth club counter represented a huge improvement, and he led home Robert O’Shea by over 90 seconds, while Gary Birch, Lee Stinch and Mal Balmer finished in a tightly bunched part of the field within a minute of each other. Rounding out the club’s finishers were Parkrun tourist Tony Waine and ever-present Azzam Taktak who made it fifteen over the line, and with several unavailable runners hoping to make the finale in three weeks’ time, the club may yet have enough to field three complete teams at Wythenshawe Park, while Michael Forber goes into the final round just six points ahead of Kevin Dunbar in the race for the club championship.
The Tatton 10k was held the following morning under clear skies, if rather breezy conditions, and Jennifer Miller opened her 2018 account with a fine run to a time of 55:46 around the leafy lanes of Cheshire, in an event that promises to be almost as much of a semi-regular staple as the cross country races, because the organisers are looking to stage a 10k several times throughout the year, with the next event scheduled for Saturday February 10th, the same day as the final round of the MACCL and the St Helens Tri awards night, for which members can still buy tickets at the time of writing.