It was a relatively light schedule for St Helens Tri last weekend as most attentions had been turned to the first club duathlon of 2018 only to be cancelled by the threat of black ice. Before that, however, we had Kevin Dunbar and Kevin Dudley starring in one of the most startling race start videos of recent times at the St Helens Parkrun. The pair both finished in the top 6, Kevin even getting under 20 minutes but they were also on the front row to watch a St Helens Sutton member to launch off the line like he was on a bike! The winner who clocked a staggering 15:20 must figure to be one of the favourites for next month’s St Helens 10k. Matt and Emma Shillabeer joined over 400 other runners at the Warrington event, both recording new PB’s with Matt placing 16th in under 21 minutes and Emma nudging into the top 250. As already mentioned ice put paid to the club duathlon so the only beneficiaries of ice cold conditions were Chris Forber and Tony Waine, the former recording an impressive sub-2:05 PB on a tough course at the Heaton Park half marathon, the latter doing likewise in a freezing crosswind at the Mad Dog 10k as his recent excellent Parkrun form on fast circuits translated perfectly to the long straights and sweeping corners of the Marshside course at the north end of Southport.
All attentions now turn to the second Super Saturday of 2018 at the final round of the 2017/18 Manchester cross country league at Wythenshawe Park. While the men’s team will be looking to lock up second place in Division 3 and promotion for next season, the club championship is still up for grabs. Myka Heard clinched the ladies’ title with one round to spare last time out at Woodbank Park but five club members (four of whom are competing on Saturday) still have a theoretical chance of becoming the men’s champion. The Wythenshawe course is the flattest and usually the fastest course of the season with only a short section on gravel so in normal circumstances would suit those with suspect balance who have long stride speed to burn, but the predicted wet conditions could yet prove to be the fly in the ointment to produce a thrilling conclusion to a season where the points leader has changed four times in as many rounds.
1st: Michael Forber (61 points, 0 wins) Despite not winning a race so far, Michael Forber heads the standings with 61 points. He’s been strong on all the courses so far and but for a loose shoe plate may well have been almost out of sight. A win on Saturday, amongst other permutations, will confirm him as the series winner. But will he come to rue that day at Heaton Park when his shoe plate cost him a definite podium and a possible win?
2nd: Kevin Dunbar (55 points, 1 win) Kevin put in arguably the performance of the season so far at the University Playing Fields in December to take the lead. Some difficult weeks of training and racing followed, but last week’s starring role at the St Helens Parkrun had set him up very well to come back to form at just the right time. Again, a win on Saturday will clinch the title.
3rd: Eddie Hirst (50 points, 2 wins) On paper, the early favourite to win on the day, as a previous first club counter at this venue. Eddie’s winter season has been marked by two particularly notable performances, winning last time out in resounding at Woodbank Park and even recording a time of just over 19 minutes at a Parkrun course he had never been to over the festive period. A win plus Michael Forber finishing out of the top three will crown him champion, and as such could make for a riveting final lap if, as is likely, the less technical nature of the course keeps the runners relatively close together.
4th: Che Heard (43 points, 0 wins) For Che to join Myka and make it an NRG4 Limar Helmets double in the winner’s circle the task is simple; come first and then see what happens with the three in front of him. He starred at the University Playing Fields holding off Michael Forber for second and nearly taking Kevin on the line for first. The win itself is far from impossible given how much his Ironman 2017 campaign has improved his running strength, but the other three permutations (Eddie no higher than 3rd, Kevin off the podium and Michael out of the top 6) seem more unlikely. Still, if the Philadelphia Eagles won last weekend’s Super Bowl from almost as unlikely a position, what’s to say the same couldn’t happen here?
A full report will be written on Sunday after the race results and the awards night, scheduled for a 7pm start at the Eagle and Child in Billinge, where there will be a raffle with generous prizes donated by various club members together with hotpot supper before the club recognises the members who have achieved and inspired the most over the past 12 months.