Sunday, Oct 15 at 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Monday, Oct 16 at 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Monday, Oct 16 at 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Wednesday, Oct 18 at 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

RACE REPORTS 2017

BENIDORM 10K - 26th NOVEMBER 2017

DAY 1 (Friday 24th November) - Up at the crack of dawn, Diane & I were last to arrive at Terminal 3 (at 5am) only to find that we were already 2 pints of lager & a packet of crisps down on the other members of our contingent (Martina, Jill, Gail, Sharon, Sophie – oh & Rob). We arrived at our apartments at lunchtime, quickly unpacked & hit Levante Beach to make the most of the lovely blue skies & brilliant sunshine (plus Sangria – had to get our 5 a day in). After an evening meal we decided to have an early night, until someone (no names mentioned) found Dom Pedro’s Bar with a Johnny Cash look-alike. Ah well, we can always have an early night tomorrow.

 

DAY 2 (Saturday 25th November) - Some of us (no names mentioned) - the keen ones who had brought 2 sets of running kit - were up & out early for a morning bimble on the sea front, whilst others just slept In. Spent the rest of the day relaxing - i.e. drinking, although originally that was at the Salon de The where the girls (oh & Rob) enjoyed morning tea, coffee & cakes. After that we made our way to the Town Hall to collect our race numbers & running T-shirts & to meet up with Jill, Ian, Claire & Paul who had arrived that morning. We had a most enjoyable evening meal in the old town, with carefully curtailed drinking & then an early night ready for race day. Well 11.30pm is considered to be a very early night in Benidorm.

 

DAY 3 (Race Day) - Once again up at the crack of dawn for an early pre-race photo shoot with our concierge Jaime, who we had found out had recently run his first marathon in Valencia. As a proud RRR President I obviously had to make him an honorary member of our club by having his photo taken in the increasingly-valuable RRR bobble hat (the one previously worn by Paula Radcliffe, Steve Cram, Ron Hill & June Allingan). By the time we arrived at the start of the race we had heard of the state of the weather in the UK & spent at least 1 minute commiserating with our running buddies who couldn’t be with us in sunny (26 degrees) Benidorm & were probably snowed in as we spoke. We didn’t dwell on it too long, however, because the atmosphere was buzzing with almost a thousand runners, many of whom were from the UK. It was good to meet up with members of other local running clubs such as Greenfield Greyhounds,  Middleton Harriers, Oldham & Royton, Hyde & others a bit farther afield. The main cry from most of them (Shropshire included) was, "Hi Royton  - do you know Garry Bower?"


The race itself was well-organised & the people so friendly. After the girls (oh & Rob) had wished one another good luck, we made our way to the start line. Everyone had their own agenda, none more so than Sophie, & we were all willing her to achieve what she so wanted.  It was a mainly flat course, out & back again along the Avenue de Mediteraneo & then along the sea front, where there was no hiding place from the blazing sun. Then a prolonged climb up what some would call a hill & others (mainly people who run around Oldham) would call an incline, then we were back on the Avenue du Mediteraneo to return to the finish.


I think we all enjoyed the run, the medal, the atmosphere & the great goodie bag – actually a proper 'bag for life', filled with all sorts of...well, goodies. There was then a period of waiting for the results to be announced. We were all over-the-moon & so proud when Super Sophie came 1st in the under-23 category, an even more amazing 2nd female overall. After being presented with her trophy she received a 16-pack of Powerade energy drinks, a massive bottle of Powerade washing liquid (!), a bottle of bubbly & most surprising of all a massive Seranno ham (we're yet to know what she plans to do with it). We were then delighted when Rob’s name was announced as 3rd in the V60 category, a well-deserved award. Of course after freshening up we just had to celebrate. The girls (oh & Rob) met up to crack open the bubbly & then hit the town again for just 1 or 2, or maybe 3 or 4 cocktails/wines/lagers/vodkas – oh & non-alcoholic beer of course.


The results: Sophie Wood (38:41), Ian Dale (42:43), Robert Nixon (45:32), Diane Allingan (52:55), Gail Shaw (53:09), Jillian Heywood (54:58), Jill Hickson (55:13), Sharon Leach (55:45), Martina Naismith (59:58), Claire Timms (1:02:56) & June Allingan (1:09:19).

 

PS - the ham made it through Customs.

PPS - Rob enjoyed every minute of being with his girls.

PPPS - there are lots of great photos available.

PPPPS - even boarding the aircraft coming home we were asked "Do you know Garry Bower?"  [June Allingan]

DERWENTWATER 10 - 5th NOVEMBER 2017

At last, the ultimate race of the 2017 season was upon us. The annual trip to Keswick for the Derwentwater 10 provided the final obstacle to another successful year in the life of RRR. 47 of us ventured north to what is surely the most picturesque race of our club championship.


As we reached Keswick the day was clear & the sky was blue. Even though, for some, it was a tad chilly, the weather supplied the perfect backdrop to the event.


The course was unchanged from last year & so started from just outside the town centre. There was a huddled mass at the ‘rolling start’, not too dissimilar to cattle being herded off to market. Unfortunately, Ronnie Quinn didn’t run it this time so I can’t make any old heifer jokes, which is a shame.


Then, after a mile on the tree-lined Borrowdale road, the curtain of autumnal leaves opened up to reveal the majestic stretch of water that is Derwent. Many of those I spoke to about the course agreed that this is one of the most beautiful sections of a run that they’ve completed. Of course there is an equally impressive view later, when you’re ascending the hill, but by then all your focus is just on scaling the heights & scenic views blur into the pain.


The little humpback bridge at Grange, around 4 miles in, signals the end of the easy start & the beginning of the climb. I asked the locals what the climb was called, hoping for some expert knowledge. They said, rather flatly, that it was just called ‘the road’. The suggestion being that they too had ran it a few times & didn’t have the energy to think of anything more imaginative. After the road, it was a steady dash, peppered by a few short, sharp climbs, back to the finish.


It was a full race which meant the competition was tough with plenty of well-represented local teams taking part. Nevertheless, we still succeeded in coming home with a respectable number of prizes. Sophie Wood continued her rapidly-increasing rise by claiming 2nd overall in the female competition in a fantastic time. Equally impressive was June Allingan’s 1st place in the FV70 section. If she isn’t already, this achievement surely cements her place as a RRR hall of famer.


In the men’s section Jarrod Gritt was first RRR past the post & proved that dedicated training pays off in the end. Shane Reading bagged the MV40 award in a new PB. He also continued his amazing consecutive streak, extending it to 81 races.


As it was the last race of the season there were a few other achievements to note. 5 of us managed to complete all 16 races this year - Mick Wildbore, Lee Higginbottom, Paul Cooke, Shane Reading & little old me. From a personal point of view I can testify how hard it is to complete all the races, so high praise is due for all the long hours put in for this accomplishment. Incidentally, to complete all the races meant that you had to race 123.7 miles over the year (saddo stat calculated on the coach).


Finally, the '50 Club' welcomed 3 new members to its ranks: Garry Bower, Dave McBride & Lee Higginbottom. Lee has now completed 2 full seasons of races & is only a few years behind Shane’s record! Once again, it takes a lot of time & dedication to reach this milestone, so congratulations; remember to wear your gold-embossed polo shirt with pride.


The coach journey home was of course a sedate affair, as everyone had exhausted themselves on the run. Perhaps next year, the committee might see their way to providing us with some alcohol to liven things up...


All RRR finishers & times: Jarrod Gritt 01:01:10, Shane Reading 01:01:55, Paul Bannister 01:03:13, Chris Lowe 01:04:17, Sophie Wood 01:04:28, Dave Peart 01:05:37, Michael Fleming 01:06:18, Owen Flage 01:07:36, Robert Fairbanks 01:07:52, Neil Brock 01:08:17, Michael Wildbore 01:08:28, Bernard Goodwin 01:08:49, Elliot Stone 01:09:29, Carl O'Callaghan 01:09:56, David McBride 01:11:15, Ian Dale 01:13:30, Robert Kellett 01:14:37, Bryan Lawton 01:15:29, Stewart Jones 01:16:23, Jason Keast 01:18:36, Rochelle Evans 01:19:52, Robert Nixon 01:21:24, Vikki Smith 01:23:10, Paul Cooke 01:23:32, Helen Radcliffe 01:24:16, Valerie Kilburn 01:24:17, George Meynell 01:24:47, Gary Smith 01:24:58, Mark Heaney 01:26:03, Anthony Kane 01:27:59, Diane Allingan 01:28:32, Lisa Cummins 01:29:29, Stephen Davies 01:31:02, Susan Heaney 01:31:54, Lee Higginbottom 01:32:19, Michael Harrison 01:32:19, Gail Shaw 01:32:49, Jillian Hickson 01:35:45, Jillian Heywood 01:36:09, Martina Naismith 01:39:04, Simon Howard 01:39:05, Stephen Jones 01:46:40, Bernadette Ball 01:48:40, Garry Bower 01:49:21, Sharon Dracup 01:58:41, June Allingan 02:01:43 & Claire Timms 02:07:16.


Hats off to everyone who participated in a race this year, we look forward to seeing you again next year. Don’t forget the Christmas 'do' (drinks on the committee!).  

[Elliot Stone]  

OLDHAM HALF MARATHON - 15th OCTOBER 2017

It was always going to hurt, wasn’t it, but how much does a beautiful sunny day in downtown Oldham lessen the pain? Well, maybe not much, but it doesn’t half help.

 

Oldham’s new sports centre & a new starting line (50 yards difference) provided the setting for our penultimate championship run. Numbers were down on previous years but it was still the most popular of the half-marathons in the club championship this year. Of course, we were the best represented team in the race as usual – is there a race where this isn’t the case, one wonders?


The course followed its traditional route, which meant an easy start through the town centre before the slap of Ripponden Road. Personally, I don’t mind this road until – mmm, let’s say – 20 yards into it. It seems to go on for ever. However, it is always a pleasant experience to reach the top where a throng of supporters, mostly RRR affiliated, greet you. The photos taken at this point are the least flattering anyone would want to look at, or at least that’s what they said about the one taken of Ronnie Quinn.


The flat stretch through Delph & Dobcross was only a brief respite as the monster of Ladcastle awaited. Boy oh boy, does it bite. I like how just when you think you’ve done the worst, the worst bit still lingers – yes, that bit leading to the top. The steepest and hardest part of a hill I’ve ever run I think.


The top of Lydgate supplies that bittersweet sensation of knowing you’ve finished the longest hill yet you have a long downhill in front of you. You want to make up some time but your legs argue most forcefully against that silly notion.


The icing on the cake is Waterloo Street. I for one can understand why Napoleon decided to surrender there (one for the Abba fans). Then, finally, the finish where you force that grimace into a half-smile for the crowds that enthusiastically cheer you over the line.


RRR had a marvellous day overall & this was reflected in the prize-giving ceremony. Most notable was Sophie Wood’s victory in the women's race in 1:32:10. This was made more remarkable as she had competed in a parkrun & cross-country race the day before. If I may disclose a little secret, Sophie has been paying me to pace her until halfway before she goes into hyper-gear. That’s what I like to think anyway.


In the men's race, Rob James (1:17:55) claimed 3rd place overall & further cemented his position as RRR champion for 2017. Following closely behind were Jarrod Gritt (1:21:52) & Shane Reading (1:24:52), who claimed the 1st V40 award.


Shane's wasn't the only age-category success. Dave Peart (1:27:50) was 1st V50, Ronnie Quinn 1st V65 (1:50:20), Val Kilburn 1st FV50 (1:48:51) & Teresa Hollins 1st V60 (1:57:02) to complete a prize bonanza for the club.


Well done to those like Jill Hickson (2:12:42) who completed their first half marathon. All I’ll say is watch out for the marathon bug, as it's very infectious. A special mention too for Angela Rogowskyj, a very late entrant who suffered cramp from early on in the race but (typically) battled through to finish in 3:02:43.


It was nice to see some old faces in re-cycled vests too. Welcome back Gary Fielding (1:33:00) & Iain Dredge (1:51:31).


All the other RRR finishers: Chris Lowe (1:30:05), Michael Fleming (1:30:44), Michael Wildbore (1:30:57), Bernard Goodwin (1:34:35), Elliot Stone (1:35:03), Richard Cummins (1:35:22), Carl O’Callaghan (1:35:34), David McBride (1:37:58), Michael Pickering (1:38:33), Paul Anderson (1:39:23), Matthew Kilburn (1:40:48), Richard Fiddling (1:42:11), Bernard Cassidy (1:42:40), Eamonn Nolan (1:46:25), Jason Keast (1:46:57), Vikki Smith (1:49:50), Robert Nixon (1:50:05), Garry Bower (1:52:26), Ray Williams (1:54:49), Helen Radcliffe (1:55:24), Phil Austin (1:58:17), Paul Cooke (2:00:01), Gary Smith (2:01:29), Tony Kane (2:02:02), Lee Higginbottom (2:03:56), Clare Darraugh (2:03:59), Lisa Cummins (2:05:30), Stephen Davies (2:12:34), Selina McLean (2:12:42), Martina Naismith (2:18:48), Simon Lake (2:18:55), Bernadette Ball (2:27:56), Karen Stuttard (2:31:54) & Carol Robinson (2:42:05)


Next up is the last race of the year - for my money the best. This opinion is in no way influenced by the monkey bus return journey from Keswick – not at all. See you there.  [Elliot Stone]  
BEN NEVIS ULTRA - 16 SEPTEMBER 2017
Whilst travelling around Asia last year, not being able to run on the fells & mountains a great deal because it was too hot, I decided that upon my return to the UK I would feed my hunger & book on a 'few' ultras. I tried to book them in some kind of logical sequence so that I had a 2-3 month gap between races, with each slightly longer than the previous one. I ended up going with the White Rose Ultra 30 Mile, Tour de Helvellyn 38 miler, Oldham Way Ultra 40 Mile, Calderdale Way Ultra 50 mile & then finally the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra 120K. So here I am 12 months later writing a race report on my 5th & supposed final ultra of the year.

The Ben Nevis Ultra is described by the organisers as consisting of "remote runnable tracks, technical single track, airy trackless ridges & some connecting remote mountain roads. Truly this course is for the boldest all-round ultra runners...with considerable height gain, great variability in the terrain, multiple river crossings & an airy traverse of one of Scotland's most famous ridges leading to the summit of Ben Nevis. It is almost certainly the UK's toughest 100K+ ultra route”. It certainly lived up to the description!

At 2.45am on race day I sprung out of bed, knocked the alarm off, switched the lamp on & unwrapped the 1st of 2 SIS energy bars. I was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire Cat. The moment I’d been waiting for, for months on end, was finally here! I had an hour to get ready & walk to the rendezvous where we got on the coach to take us to the start in Fort Augustus at 6am. It was a nice fresh morning - a bit chilly, but the main thing was it wasn’t raining or too cold. 

When I got to the masses at the start I was looking at everybody’s packs & guessing what they had in them. Some were the tiniest I’d ever seen & it made me wonder how they had passed kit check! It amazes me how some people can run so far on so little. A lot of people were talking about making the cut-offs. I was trying not to think too much about them, telling myself it’s simple - just get to the Nevis range checkpoint (approx 50 miles) before 5.30pm. If I could cover on average 5 miles per hour for 10 hours then I'd have 5 hours to get up & over Ben Nevis before the 9pm cut off.

At 6.03ish we all went off into the dark, headtorches on - it was cool seeing all the lights in a line in front & behind me. The first 12miles were hard compacted trails, relatively flat & very runnable with really gradual climbs. Not my cup of tea - everybody ran off & left me, I can’t run fast especially on the flat. After I dibbed in at checkpoint 1 at about 13 miles, the next 12 miles or so saw a drastic change in terrain. The hard compacted trail had gone & the 'bogs' & river crossings started. I was in the zone now, the pace had slowed right down to 12/3 min mile pace, it was near impossible to run with any sort of speed especially with the footwear I had on & the last thing I wanted to do was slip, potentially sparking off an episode of the dreaded cramps I usually suffer during long distance events. So I took my time & began picking a few people off. The bogs were good fun - 1 minute you were hopping along covering good ground & the next you were calf deep in pure swamp, sometimes even waist deep. I passed a few more people ploughing through the rivers.

Checkpoint 2 - the 1st with water & food - was overcrowded & It was cold enough to make me not feel my fingers. I swigged 2 cups of Coca Cola, ate a piece of cake, a piece of flapjack, a sandwich (all small bite-size pieces of course) & a protein flapjack before setting off on the next leg, walking while I finished eating. I wasted far too much time at that control point, about 7 minutes in total when it should have been 2 minutes maximum. Now we were back on hard compacted ground, running back up alongside the river we had just come down. Soon a little orange flag pulled us back onto another boggy, swampy, marshy section. It was uphill to begin with for about 8 miles, following some rusty old fence posts with several river crossings over a meandering river. I overtook quite a few people on this section, until there was just one guy about a minute behind me. Eventually I lost him & went into autopilot mode, before coming back to my senses & realising I’d not seen an orange flag for a few minutes. I stopped dead in my tracks & spent a minute looking for a flag in the distance - they hardly stood out at the best of times, as they were covered in mud & the rainy drizzle impaired my vision. I was just about to backtrack when somebody shouted - it was the guy who was behind me, waving his arms & pointing across the river to the missing flag. I gave him 2 thumbs-up, ran down to the river & continued on up the slippery ascent, soon catching up & thanking him. The going was really slow on this section even on the downhills - it was like marshland & swamp, with my average pace 13/14 minutes per mile on the ascent & about 12 on the descent down to control point 3. I was still passing people at this point,  even some who had started in the 1st wave at 5am, which really upped my morale & confidence. I looked back just before the next checkpoint at a major road crossing & there was not a soul in sight.

Checkpoint 3 was a warm welcome. I was told there was about 20K of solid ground from this point & to fill my water bottles from the stream at the bottom of the road if I was low, which I was - I’d gone from needing 0.75 to 1.5 litres between checkpoints now. The next section leading to the Nevis range was very runnable. Everything had just clicked into place now & I felt settled - the best I've ever felt in an ultra race. I’d stuck to my nutrition plan religiously - 2 shot blocks every half hour, 1 salt tablet every hour & 1 SIS electrolyte gel every 4th hour instead of 2 shot blocks. I had no stomach problems, no sickness & no cramps, just focused on what I had to do. I passed a few more people along a beautiful forest trail, back on 10/11 minute miles now & over the 40 mile mark. I plodded on until I got to the Nevis range, where quite a big crowd was gathered at Control Point 4, all cheering & shouting & ringing cowbells. The staff here were really helpful, immediately asking if I’d like my bottles refilling. I was 1hour 20 ahead of the cut off. I was just putting my pack back on when everybody started clapping & cheering again as a flood of about 8 runners came into the checkpoint, moving fast.

4 of us set off at the same time, a couple about my age & an older chap who later tells me he’s 51. He was a nice bloke, told me he’d done the Cape Wrath Ultra, so we chatted about that for a few minutes while I ate my last protein bar. It suddenly started to get cold & since we were at the beginning of the climb up Ben Nevis I thought it wasn't going to get any warmer. The ground was getting steeper now & the forest opening up so you had full view of the Ben - awesome! Then the sun came out. I caught up with the couple & we got chatting - I was amazed at how much they had done, especially the guy who had completed the Lakeland 100 not so long ago. Strong runners, I thought, as they began to leave me on the swampy, boggy ascent up to the Carn Mor Dearg Arête. At this point I had really slowed down, the 1st time I’d felt any fatigue at all during the race. It had to happen at some point, I thought, as I looked at my watch…53 miles, the furthest I’d ever gone on foot. I kept moving, slowly but surely, 1 foot in front of the other. I’d only ever been up Ben Nevis once from the other side, a typical mountain trail route with solid rock steps. So before the event I’d imagined the route we’d take would be similar to that & those I’d trained on - Helvellyn, Scafell & Snowdon. How wrong I was - this was soggy, wet, muddy, grassy. 2 guys that I had passed way back before the Nevis range control point were now overtaking me. I stopped to admire the view, gobble a few shot bloks, take a few photos & sort my head out. The sun shining off Loch Eil made it look silver & rays were shining through the clouds, giving an awesome photo. Then It started to rain & the wind picked up. I pressed on, determined to make it to the start of the arête. I could see a little pop-up tent in the distance & as the ground levelled out a little I began to feel 10 times better. I broke into a yomp, climbed up some rocks & dibbed in at the control point which was pushed outside through a little opening in the pop-up tent - I could hear cheers & words of encouragement coming from inside.

What a view this was - it reminded me of a huge dragon's back. I could see 2 figures about halfway along & within 5 minutes I’d caught them up. The technical stuff is one of my strong points, especially the ridges, I was loving it, making good progress over the ridge. I caught up to another man at the end of the arête, but upon trying to pass him safely & without slowing him down I lost my footing once or twice & nearly fell backwards- it wasn’t life-threatening but would have hurt like hell on the sharp jagged rocks. I’d gone from feeling on top of the world coming over the arête to feeling like death at the end of it, on the final steep ascent to Ben Nevis summit. The rocks were loose & moved when I stepped on them. I stopped for a few seconds, as I felt dizzy & light-headed. I kept feeling like this with every few steps I took. I looked up & saw a photographer, so I forced a brave smile & pretended to be happy while he took a few pics.  I felt terrible now & I was talking to myself. On I went, starting to get really cold, I couldn’t feel my hands at all now. It was a scramble up the last 100m to the summit & I felt like I was putting my hands on pure blocks of ice as I clambered up. The guy I was close to before was now about 50m ahead of me, making good progress, & I was losing sight of him. I’d also lost sight of the orange flags, I was slightly off course. In an ideal world all I needed to do was put my gloves on & have a minute, but to do that I’d have to stop, take my coat off, take my vest off, pull my dry bag out of my race pack to get to the gloves right at the bottom, then re-pack it all & put my jacket & pack back on. All that would take me a few minutes – I'd probably have perished before I did all that. It was bitterly cold & the wind was cutting through me like a knife. I felt dizzy again - what happens if I need help? The SOS button on the trackers had been disabled & the battery had died on my phone. I took a few deep breaths & looked at the altimeter on my watch, which said 1250m. I know Ben Nevis is 1300 & something metres high so I just kept going up, knowing I was only 50-100m from the summit.

In 5 minutes I’d made it to the top & was rewarded with a beautiful sunset. I could see the silhouette of the trig point now standing out against the orange sky & 2 human beings stood next to it. I broke into a bit of a jog to warm up, holding my hands under my armpits now I didn’t need them to scramble up the rock face. I could feel the heat transferring into them. The wind had stopped now on the summit & it was eerily quiet - then I noticed little traces of ice which still remained from when it had snowed the other day. I reached Control Point 6 at Ben Nevis trig with about an hour & a half left to make it to the bottom before the cut-off. The 2 checkpoint staff were nice & cheery, asking if I was OK – I was about to tell them how I felt back there but decided to swerve that one. I dibbed in they wished me good luck & off I went. It was getting darker by the minute & the track was littered with loose rocks of all shapes & sizes. I was struggling to see the rocks so on went the headtorch & it was like getting a new pair of eyes. After a few minutes I could hear movement behind me & saw a headtorch gaining on me. A lady came hurtling past me, saying something like she was worried about not making the cut off. I was struggling to hear her with my buff & torch strap over my ears, so I didn’t say much back, just sped up & let her pace me. The next few miles we really ramped it up, or so it felt. We were running down technical steep rocky trails in the dark with 60 miles in our legs, probably only moving at 11/12 minutes per mile, but the rate at which our legs were turning over due to the technicality made it feel faster, if that makes sense? I looked up behind me & I could see other runners starting to descend Ben Nevis - little specks of white in the night. I could also see people in the valley below us. I was out of water now but I estimated we were only 2-3 miles away from Glen Nevis control point, so every time we crossed a stream I quickly grabbed a handful of water & sucked it up out of my hand, rather than stop to fill my bottle. We passed another guy on the way down who was limping but said he was OK & he was, as he joined us.

All 3 of us were clock-watching now, we had 20 minutes left until cut-off & we could see the lights of the village below us where the control point was. It seemed so close but didn’t seem to be getting closer. Eventually we could hear a cowbell & screams of support from people shouting in runners who must have been only a minute or so in front of us. This made all 3 of us speed up & put on a cracking sprint into the checkpoint. There were about 4-5 people already there. I had it that I had around 9mins to spare. I started looking for the control point to dib in & they wouldn’t let us until on our way out after we had finished at the aid station. So they quickly filled my water for me while I had a cup of Coke. The guy rammed 2 butties in my hand & started leading me towards the dib point, almost pushing me out of the checkpoint to keep me going & give me as much time as possible. I stuck my dibber into the box, heard it beep twice & off I went into the night.

I was on my own now. It was pitch black & I was on a tarmac road. I opted for fast walking for a further minute whilst I tried to keep the food I’d just wolfed down inside me. I turned my torch brightness setting down to minimum now - the last thing I wanted was to run out of power & have to stop to change batteries on my torch. Upon doing that the tiny orange flags now became darker & even harder to see. I set off into a jog again & soon enough spotted a headtorch in the distance & sped up a little more. I started going uphill, so it turned into spurts of jog then a fast walk until I caught up with a lady. We chatted for a bit – she told me that back at the checkpoint they had told her it was 12 miles to Kinlochleven. I looked at my watch - I was on 63 miles & that sounded about right. We walked for a bit before hitting a sign for the West Highland Way. The final stretch…or so I thought!

I felt grumpy. The ground had turned from hard compacted track to a horrible loose gravel with loads of big stones that I kept tripping on. I was counting down the miles now a bit too much & doing a lot of clock-watching as time seemed to be dragging on. I was hitting a bit of a low too – forever looking at the blacker-than-black horizon for signs of Kinlochleven or even checkpoint 8. Nothing! I slowed to a walk now. It dawned on me that I’d not eaten anything for about an hour & a half - no shots or gels. I pulled out an electrolyte gel & a few minutes later I felt slightly better. In the distance I could see a flashing yellow triangle. It had to be Lundavra checkpoint! I plodded on to the checkpoint, a road crossing, stopped to dib in, then carried on, but walking - I was still on a low. Only 4 miles now, I kept telling myself, my watch was on 69 miles. I was adamant the course was 73 miles long & not 75! Even the transfer on my arm said 'Finish 118K'. I kept switching from running to walking for the next few miles, desperately searching for streetlights. The West Highland Way is beautiful in the daylight, I bet, but it wasn't right now! It had calf-deep streams crossing every 2 minutes, the ground loose & energy-sapping with big jagged rocks determined to trip me up. My watch finally hit 73 miles & still all I could see was pitch black. I’d been holding back a caffeine gel for the last 2 miles because I knew I wanted to sleep when I got in, but when I realised Kinlochleven wasn’t coming any time soon I decided to have it. Within minutes I was doing 10/11 min miles again. Before I knew it I was on 74 miles & still no sign of lights. I carried on for another minute or so then saw a single yellow streetlight, it didn’t look to far away! I was buzzing, speeding up a little bit, but the light had gone. I didn’t care, that was enough, that was all I needed to see, it had given me a new lease of life. My watch hit 75 miles & I grinned a little. The pain had gone now, I was back on a high & could see all the lights of Kinlochleven village. It wasn’t as close as I thought. I snarled out loud as I nearly tripped up - it was a really tricky little winding path full of stepping stones. I hit the tarmac road at the bottom & sped up again, I wanted this over & done with. I looked at my watch - I was on 75.5 miles, doing 9 mins per mile, & had about 10 minutes left to finish within the 18 hour cut-off! I couldn’t see any flags so I followed my nose through the streets of Kinlochleven, a ghost town at this time of night. I was running ever so slightly up hill & the 9-minute mile pace was tough. I could see some people on the pavement about 100 yards ahead of me in shorts & down jackets, they looked like finishers – at least I’m going the right way I thought! People clapped me & pointed behind them where I could see the Ice Centre & a man waving at me in a yellow Salomon jacket. I crossed the line in 17 hours 55 minutes - the feeling was immense! I stood there for a few seconds bent over with my hands on my knees stretching out my back. They cut my tracker & dibber off & printed off my result - 26 out of 100 starters!

I’d recommend this race to anybody. It was exactly as described - it's not for softy trail runners. A bit pricey but if you can afford it, do it. It was the 1st Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra, so I’m sure there will be improvements made for next year's race. I hope they don’t change the cut-offs too much though - ultra racing isn’t meant to be easy!  [Howard Dracup]

(This is an edited version of Howard's 'Ben Nevis Ultra' blog. Click here to read the full story!)
NORTHERN ATHLETICS ROAD RELAY CHAMPIONSHIPS - 16th SEPTEMBER 2017

It's been a whole year since we last took part in a team event - the North West Counties Road Relays in Delamere Forest - & given how much everyone seems to enjoy these days out, it would be nice to do them more often. Quite how we fit them into our already-crowded race calendar I'm not so sure...


It's not that often that the Northern Athletics relays are as conveniently local as Sport City in Manchester, so we perhaps might have hoped to be able to enter more than 6 teams. However that's still 30 relay legs to be completed & there are always people who would like to run if it weren't for injury or work, family & other commitments. It's an indication of our strength-in-depth that of the 28 who took part at Delamere Forest last September, only 10 were running this time (team captains Val Kilburn & Shane Reading, Simon Howard, Carl O'Callaghan, Jillian Heywood, Michael Fleming, David Ellis, Rochelle Evans, Mike Pickering & Rob Fairbanks), so it was great to have our squad boosted by a number of relay debutants. Hopefully some of those first-timers will have enjoyed the experience sufficiently to put their names forward again next time!


For once the men's teams were over-subscribed, which meant that Garry Bower, Eamonn Nolan & myself, all in attendance as reserves, were not required to run. While Garry found useful employment taking a great set of photos, I just ran aimlessly around parts of the course shouting encouraging phrases such as "Keep going!" & "Not far now!". An injured Selina McLean & Rob Marsden, the latter in full tapering mode ahead of the Berlin Marathon, were also out giving great vocal support to our runners. 


As for the course...there was a good start & finish of each leg, involving 3/4 of a lap of the Sport City outdoor track, but the rest of the course wasn't particularly inspiring, including as it did 2 laps of the car park. The point at which the men's & women's routes split, with an extra section added for the men, caused a bit of confusion, while some of the later runners reported having to dodge around some inconsiderate early leg athletes on their cool down. Those on the later legs probably also got the worst of the weather conditions as it started to get quite breezy, although the light rain may have been welcome. 


The standard of the competition was remarkably high, demonstrated by the fact that all 6 of the winning men's team from Lincoln Wellington AC completed the course (officially 6.5K) in less than 20 minutes. in that sort of company our finishing positions of 31st, 61st, 63rd for the ladies & 68th, 87th, 100th for the men were not bad at all. Admittedly we were helped a little by the disqualification of 18 teams - 11 from the men's event, including 2nd-placed Salford Harriers, plus 7 of the ladies teams - which had included athletes ineligible to run because they had not paid their England Athletics affiliation fees. A member of that Salford Harriers team has been quoted as describing this ruling as "an example of the mindless bureaucratisation of our sport", but if the runners were not current EA members it's difficult to agree...


Congratulations & thanks to all of the RRRs who took part - Rochelle Evans, Val Kilburn, Vikki Smith, Sophie Wood, Gary Fielding, Mike Pickering, Michael Fleming, Rob Battye, Paul Bannister, Shane Reading, Jill Hickson, Gail Shaw, Helen Knight, Rochelle Evans, Robert Fairbanks, Robert Kellett, David McBride, Carl O'Callaghan, Neil Brock, David Ellis, Jillian Heywood, Sharon Leach, Martina Naismith, Stewart Jones, Paul Cooke, Robert Nixon, Simon Howard, Matthew Kilburn & Paul Anderson. Star performers (in terms of pace) were Sophie Wood, anchoring the Ladies 'A' team with a marvellous 22:18 & Paul Bannister, whose 23:12 was just 10 seconds quicker than captain Shane - but everyone ran well. Special mention to Rochelle Evans & Jill Hickson, who both stepped up & ran twice to ensure that we had 3 complete teams - both ran only a minute & a half slower on their 2nd circuit. A great effort!  [David Emanuel]      

SHEILA PHILLIPS 70th BIRTHDAY 5K RACE - 14th SEPTEMBER 2017

I AM WRITING THE FIRST SENTENCE OF THIS REPORT IN UPPER CASE LETTERS, AS THE SOUND OF ANDY O’SULLIVAN’S MEGAPHONE VOICE IS STILL RINGING IN MY EARS.


There, that’s better. On Thursday evening, RRR gathered to celebrate our esteemed team-mate Sheila Phillips’ birthday. Most seemed unsure of Sheila’s precise age, with guesses starting at 45 & fluctuating from thereon in. Of course, some scoundrel suggested she might actually be 70, but obviously no one believed them.

On a windy night, Sheila had the honour of starting the race. After this she decided to run it too, which may explain why she didn’t finish in the top 10. On the line there was a young chap not much bigger than a grasshopper. Worried for his safety, I asked his mother if he should move to the back. "Well, he is a sub-20 runner, so I think he’ll be okay," came the unexpected response. In fact, apart from Bernie Goodwin, he whooped us all. Remember the name of Matthew Jackson – definitely one for the future.

The race, as usual, proceeded with the tough start up the hill followed by an equally fierce wind on the back straight. Once across the bridge, however, the wind - though still strong - was on our backs & pushed us around the more picturesque side of the reservoir.


Some of the big guns from the Club Championship divisions had decided to take a well-deserved rest & this meant a pleasant change in the names cropping up in the final reckoning. As mentioned earlier, Bernie Goodwin (19:08) was the 1st RRR home in 4th place & he also bagged the MV45 award. 1st woman home was our captain Val Kilburn (22:16) & she also claimed 1st FV50 prize. Although she won’t thank me for this, I’m sure it won’t be too long before Val is holding her own commemorative race.

2nd across the line for RRR in 8th place overall was Paul Wolstenholme (19:47). After him, wait for this, was none other than yours truly (19:51) in 9th place overall & 2nd MV45. Rumours that a blue moon is on its way have yet to be confirmed.


Neil Brock (19:53) claimed the MV50 prize, closely followed by Ian Dale (20:16) in a spirited battle. Well it was until the boathouse, at least. Well done also to Rob Nixon (23:06) who took the MV60 award. Ronnie Quinn was not available post-race for a comment about Rob’s achievement.


Vikki Smith (23:41) came 1st in the women’s FV45 race. Further up the age categories, George Meynell added another MV70 prize to his burgeoning trophy cabinet - although tagging a bag of liquorice allsorts to the wall might prove tricky.

 

At the end we all celebrated Sheila’s birthday with a drink or two. Andy also informed us that all proceeds from the evening would be going to local charities, including Dr Kershaw's Hospice. As they say, a right good do was had by all. Well done to all of the 42 RRR finishers (in a field of 89).


Oops, sorry, I forgot to mention that the Club Handicap winner will be announced at the Christmas do. We tried to break Brian Moore’s resistance with the liquorice allsorts, but he was having none of it.

 

Please click here for the full results.  [Elliot Stone]


GRIZEDALE HORSESHOE FELL RACE - 2nd SEPTEMBER 2017

Jason, Neil & myself set off from Oldham base camp at just after 8am and were parked up at 10.15 in good time for an 11.00 start. Rob James, who was on holiday in the area, also did the race.


This penultimate race in the Run the Moors series is organised by the exotically-named Achille Ratti Climbing Club after Monsignor Achille Ratti, a parish priest in Northern Italy who was an accomplished climber & who later became Pope Pius X1. The starting point is Glenridding Village Hall in the centre of the village, on the shore of Lake Ullswater.


Saturday morning weather was fine & settled, the village already crowded with mountain & road bikers, backpackers & dog walkers, as well as 150-odd runners. The race organiser had been put into a bad mood by the number of runners who were without various kit items, "and we’ve had to give out 20 maps". It’s a fair point. No-one should really attempt this race without some prior knowledge of the route and/or map-reading ability. I was also disconcerted when the RO said, "It’s your race, you choose the best route." Er what!? A ‘route’ was displayed on the noticeboard in the hall, with runners expected to mark the checkpoints & grid references on their own map.


The route (officially 9.9 miles, 5003 feet of climb) takes in Catstye Cam followed by Helvellyn, Dollywaggon, Grisedale Tarn & then St Sunday Crag. The return journey is via Grisedale Beck, up over Grisedale Brow & then a final descent back to Glenridding Village Hall.


I didn’t feel confident from the start & felt sluggish trudging up the first ascent on a well-used flagged path. Runners quickly became strung out & I was fortunate to be able to keep up with three Radcliffe runners - Kris, Kate & Lisa. As the two ladies had recced the route last Monday, I didn’t have to worry about losing my way. We did less running than walking as briskly as we could, but when the route allowed us to run I found it difficult to go more quickly. There was a climb up & across large jagged boulders at Swirral Edge before we finally crested Helvellyn & could go downwards.  We made the checkpoint just 10 minutes before the cut-off time of 2 hours. I normally enjoy descending, but my legs were completely done in & the gradients were so steep that it was tiring just trying to stay upright. At St Sunday Crag I had to sit on my backside & let gravity take me down. It’s less fun than doing it on a slide in the waterpark!


After crossing the beck I was imploring the marshal to say, "Not far now, the worst is over". Instead he pointed at the steep-sided Grisedale Brow behind him. I then wanted to give up. I could barely move along the bottom track & all the other runners overtook me before we had to climb. Neil had overshot the start of this final climb & lost time here. If this climb had been a ladder or ship’s rigging I would have fallen off - I was that exhausted, despite 2 energy gels & a Clif Bar [available from a running store near you - shameless plug from the editor]. I must now record my thanks to Kris Lee of Radcliffe Athletic Club, who sacrificed his own time & position to stay with me, sharing his water & encouraging me to continue. Only with his support did I make it back to the village hall, waking up the now slumbering timekeepers.  I was starving as well as dehydrated at the end, but the free coffee, cheese & pickle butties & Chorley cakes were a great way to start recovering.


Those intrepid RRR finishers: Rob James (2:31:29), Neil Brock (3:07:14), Jason Keast (3:29:06) & Gary Smith (4:05:40).


In truth I shouldn’t have done this race, which was less fell, more mountain. I came onto it straight after a holiday when I had become so listless that I was hardly bothered to get up & move the beach towel around with the sun, plus I was without full mobility due to a muscle tear in my right leg. Yet to get to the finish, as all four of us did, is a great achievement. It would be fantastic to do one of these races with more RRRs around me.  [Gary Smith]

TATTON 10K - 3rd SEPTEMBER 2017

Up with the Larks! Boy, was this an early start. Despite most of us beating the birds to the worms, it did not stop us putting in a remarkable team performance at this hastily rearranged club championship race.


The course, set in the beautiful grounds of a National Trust park, was a fairly flat but challenging affair. Wind blew fiercely in our faces for the first 6K of the race. The course twisted around the park's lanes before leading us to a long, long stretch around the 5K mark. Everyone I spoke to after the race commented that the 5K flag almost seemed to slap them in the face & that this was the toughest part of the race. After the bend at the top of the long stretch the wind switched direction. This gave most of us a much-needed boost for the lengthy run in to the finish.


As mentioned earlier, the results were remarkable. Of the first 21 finishers (extended especially for Mr O’Callaghan) 11 were RRRs. If it was a race of 100, that would have been good, but in a race with 314 finishers that is tremendous.


First over the line was Shane Reading (36:32) who finished in 3rd place overall & 1st in the MV40 section. Closely trailing him, maintaining their season-long rivalry, was Jarrod Gritt (36:47) who finished 4th overall.


First in the MV50 category was Richard Cummins (38:22) who also finished 6th overall. Michael Fleming (38:54) continued his rise up the rankings with 1st place in the MV35s & 9th overall. Also claiming an age category prize was the perennial Bernie Goodwin (39:29) who took the V45 award as well as 12th overall.


Our first female finisher was Sophie Wood (40:30), mysteriously entered as 'Sophie W', who finished 2nd in the female race & 16th overall. Janet Jobey (43:49) claimed the FV40 prize, ensuring she bounced into a placing for the 2nd race in succession.


As a team, everyone who entered the race completed it in under the hour mark, which for 31 runners is a superb effort & I will allow you to have a drink to celebrate this achievement. Statistically, the average time for all the competitors in the race was 54:44 & all our runners bar a few beat this time. Told you it was remarkable!


Incidentally, if your result wasn’t quite up to scratch, please feel free to use Ronnie Quinn’s ‘technical’ results system. To quote the venerable RRR directly, "In the last race I technically beat him, even though he caught me in the last 200 yards. It means I was in front of him for most of the race, so really I won." You can’t keep a good man (or a cheat) down!


All the other RRR finishers: Mick Wildbore (39:20), Dave McBride (40:37), Owen Flage (41:17), Dave Peart (41:32), Carl O’Callaghan (41:45), Elliot Stone (42:15), Bernie Cassidy (42:42), Paul Anderson (42:44), Bryan Lawton (42:45), Ronnie Quinn (44:37), Mark Heaney (44:38), Rochelle Evans (46:03), Adrian Marshall (46:08), Kevin Heenan (47:22), Adam Stirling (47:27), Paul Cooke (47:40), Phil Austin (48:02), Rob Nixon (48:12), Lee Higginbottom (50:28), Gary Marshall (52:05), Gail Shaw (52:23), Lisa Cummins (53:02), Simon Howard (53:46), Martina Naismith (56:02), Amanda Richardson (59:54), Bernadette Ball (1:00:58) & Andy Chadwick (not currently in the results - time TBC!).


Altogether, in spite of the early rise, the race was generally agreed to be well-organised & enjoyable. Maybe we'll see the larks again next year...as I certainly didn't see any deer!  [Elliot Stone]

FLEETWOOD HALF MARATHON - 20th AUGUST 2017

Flat? Flatter? Flattest? For a renowned hill-hater like me, the Fleetwood Half should have been a ‘flatliner’s heaven’. However there was just one problem - It was 13.1 miles long. Oh, make that two problems, I almost forgot that it was very warm, too.


As we arrived in Fleetwood we were greeted by an announcer in a garish outfit & with the obligatory loud voice, shouting ridicule at passers-by through his megaphone. Most of the waiting around before the race was for the few toilets available. Some of those still in the queue as the start time approached had to cut short their planned visit & make their way hastily to the start line, as the organisers weren’t prepared to delay proceedings. There was also a problem with the chip timing - some RRRs had to ask for their times & some didn’t get them at all. Maybe the organiser could spend more time on the details that matter rather than his outfit next year. At least the race was well marshalled.


The course – have I mentioned it was flat? – consisted of 2 roughly equal loops of the Fleetwood promenade & accompanying streets. On the back stretch it was possible to see just how far behind the next RRR runner you were. Some found this an encouragement, some found it painful - that’d be me then! The temperature rose as the race went on & by the time we were on the home straight it felt as though your trainers were sticking to the promenade. The finish was one of those awful, dispiriting ones where you have to run past the finish line first & then complete another mile or so before you actually get to cross it. Nevertheless, once you left the prom for the final time you were once again greeted by the loud-mouthed, garishly-dressed announcer who very kindly personalised some jolly quip about you, whether you wanted him to or not. I shouldn’t complain too much as I think he said I looked cool (not since the time of Happy Days has anyone ever said this to me).


The results, after a bit of mix-up, were rather pleasing for the RRR team. Chris Lowe (1:20:11), he of the effortless style, finished in the best position overall & claimed the MV45 prize too. Perhaps the best performance by a RRR went to Shane Reading (1:20:42), who in completing his umpteenth consecutive race managed to claim a PB for a half-marathon. As I shared a lift with Shane on the way home I can assure you that he is not content with this PB & is planning many ways to improve it further – get on those hill sprints, Shane! Dave Peart (1:27:46) also claimed 3rd in the V50s.


In the women’s race we had the perennial Jenny Bloor (1:31:33), claiming another prize for herself as 2nd woman overall. On top of this, Janet Jobey (1:38:10), she of the bouncing style, managed to claim the 1st FV40 award despite coming back from a recent injury. She was followed home by Rochelle Evans (1:43:49), who finished 2nd FV40. Well done too to Susan Heaney (2:01:24) who managed 3rd in the FV55 category. 


All the other RRR finishers: Michael Wildbore (1:28:31), Bernard Goodwin (1:29:14), David McBride (1:31:35), Paul Wolstenhulme (1:34:52), Elliot Stone (1:35:19), Paul Anderson (1:36:48), Kevin Heenan (1:45:40), Robert Nixon (1:46:25), Ray Williams (1:47:06), Paul Cooke (1:50:18), Simon Lake (1:52:30), Andrew Chadwick (1:55:02), David Crewe (1:55:53), Lee Higginbottom (1:58:36), Gail Shaw (2:01:15) & Martina Naismith (2:09:37).


Congratulations to everyone who finished or helped the team - your support is always appreciated.  [Elliot Stone]

RIVERSIDE 10 - 6th AUGUST 2017

On the way in to pick up our numbers, we hailed RRRs spilling off the Royton coach & exchanged greetings with the other car-sharing club members in various stages of undress on the other side of the road. We had paid for this race twice (a hazard of having a running partner in the same club!) so I was anxious to get my refund from the race organiser & gave grateful thanks to the runner behind me who picked up the £20 note that I had let fall out of my pocket. The other concern was my knee ligament injury. I got chatting to Chris Nicholson, who was running his first non-stop 10 miler for a long while due to injury, & I also thought about Stephen Jones who runs every race with persistent knee problems. Another RRR approached Bernadette (who is qualified to give sports massages) about a sciatica problem & an enquiry by me as to whether a rival in my group was running also brought news of injury. It seems that injuries start to come to the fore at this point in the club season ,but there was some good news as Ian Dale now seems fully recovered.


The forecast was for heavy rain, but it stayed dry & warm for the run duration. The race starts on the Lancaster Quay then goes onto the flattish & straight Lune Estuary footpath, which follows the River Lune towards Condor Green. A road section follows, including 2 hills & downhill sections, before you’re back on the footpath & a flat run in for the finish further back along the quay.


At the start line I was feeling my injury & hoping that I could go the distance. It was just as painful watching Ronnie Quinn (groin strain now cleared up), Val Kilburn & Stewart Jones confidently running in sync with each other ahead. I came up to Howard Dracup, who is in training for his upcoming ultra, & he told me he was doing a measured pace of 8.5 mins per mile. While I was still laboriously converting 10 x 8.5 into hours & minutes he had already accelerated forward.


At around 3 miles my next RRR running companion was Mark Rigby, running steadily, checking his watch, but he was to move away from me as well. Then at 6.5 miles I was behind Garry Bower, stopping & starting, obviously suffering from his canal-side fall on training night. Garry yelped with pain going down the slope & it was a struggle for him to continue. That was the sum total of the RRRs I had sight of in the whole race,  apart from Simon Howard taking photos, whose vocal encouragement as always was very welcome.


The presentation roll of honour: Jen Bloor (3rd female overall, 1:07:49), Sophie Wood (4th female, 1:09:07), Rochelle Evans (3rd FV40, 1:18:35), Val Kilburn (2nd FV45, 1:17:42), Bernadette Ball (3rd FV60, 1:42:57), Shane Reading (2nd V40, 1:00:44), Ronnie Quinn (2nd V60, 1:18:30), Chris Lowe (3rd V45, 1:00:13), Robert Nixon (3rd V60, 1:21:02) & George Meynell (1st V70, 1:27:02). Well done also to the formidable trio of Jen, Sophie & Val for taking the Ladies 1st prize.


We missed the presentation as we walked very slowly from the car to the George & Dragon, by which time everyone had moved on to the city centre. In a near-empty pub Bernadette & I had to put up with the ‘strange man in the corner’ who, without prompting, told us about all the coins he had picked up off the street & how he was down on his total from last year. I'm just glad he wasn’t behind me when I dropped that £20 note!


All the other RRR finishers:Nefa Nessa (2:00:45), Tracey Hall (1:48:06), Stephen Jones (1:38:47), Martin Jones (1:38:07), Martina Naismith (1:35:30), Jillian Heywood (1:34:38), Chris Nicholson (1:34:05), Selina McLean (1:32:45), Susan Heaney (1:30:08), Gail Shaw (1:29:32), Jill Hickson (1:26:26), Lee Higginbottom (1:25:55), Tony Kane (1:23:38), Garry Bower (1:23:29), Gary Smith (1:23:00), Mark Rigby (1:22:02), Adam Stirling (1:21:39), Paul Cooke (1:20:42), Howard Dracup (1:17:30), Mark Heaney (1:17:28), Ian Dale (1:15:43), David Crewe (1:15:35), Stewart Jones (1:15:14), Rob Marsden (1:12:59), Rob Kellett (1:12:43), Matthew Kilburn (1:12:41), Paul Anderson (1:12:32), Neil Brock (1:12:22), Paul Wolstenhulme (1:11:03), Elliot Stone (1:10:35), Carl O'Callaghan (1:08:47), Bernie Goodwin (1:08:30), Michael Wildbore (1:06:36) & Paul Bannister (1:00:25).


Here’s wishing a speedy recovery to those who are currently injured & hoping that everyone else stays injury free for the next one!  [Gary Smith]

TODMORDEN PARK SUMMER 5K SERIES - 22nd JUNE TO 3rd AUGUST 2017
No doubt encouraged by my enthusiastic race reports in 2016, a few RRRs were tempted to give these races a go for the 1st time this year. A grand total of 11 of us took part in the series at some point, although only 3 - Robert Nixon, Jill Heywood & me - managed to complete 3 of the 4 races, while Ronnie Quinn managed about 100 yards on his sole appearance before pulling up with a calf problem.


It's difficult to choose between Jill & Robert as our 'star performer' over the series - both have strong claims, so I think we'll to have to call it a draw. Jill picked up 1st FV45 prizes in both of the early races, with times of 26:59 & 27:31, before recording 27:54 in the finale. Rob missed the 1st event, but his impressive improvement from 25:09 to 23:23 to 23:15 suggests he quickly got the measure of the 5-lap circuit. That progression earned him a well-deserved 2nd place prize in the 'best improver' competition (by contrast I got steadily slower over the 1st 3 races - 19:54, 20:18, 20:27 - before injury stopped me competing at all in the last).


The other RRRs each completed a single race, with Michael Fleming's 18:13 for 1st V35 (4th overall) in Race 3 the standout performance. That run also ensured our best team position in the series, 2nd to Clayton-le-Moors Harriers, with Michael joined by myself & Richard Fiddling (20:31). Neil Brock (20:05) & Jason Keast (22:01) made an appearance in Race 1, Elliot Stone (19:50) was our 1st finisher in Race 2, also joined by Andy Chadwick (22:38), while Paul Wolstenhulme (20:42) joined us for Race 3.


A clash with the Sale Sizzlers probably didn't help turnout this year - but if this series returns in 2018, it's certainly worth the trip!  [David Emanuel]     

LAKELAND 50 - 29th JULY 2017

Having completed the race in 2016, I believed I knew what I was in for by running the Lakeland 50, but the 2017 version was a much tougher event due to the underfoot conditions. Heavy rain started in the Lake District on the Friday evening before the race & even by Cumbrian standards it was quite a downpour.


Upon waking up at about 5am on Saturday morning, the forecast for better weather on the day seemed unlikely, as the skies were rather black. However, at the race briefing we were told that the rain should stop at 12pm & wouldn’t return till about 4am Sunday morning, so if I could run close to last year’s time I would be tucked up in my tent by then. If only...


After the long & winding drive to Dalemain Estate on the far side of Ullswater, the nerves started to set in, as I was concerned that a lack of miles due to my rib injury earlier in the year could turn this year’s race into an even trickier affair. However compared to Paul Craddock I was perfectly ready, as he had decided earlier in the week to run even though he had only run about 100 miles all year!


The race started at 11.30am and the first part is probably one of the least enjoyable parts of the wholle event, as you run through a grassy estate which with the overnight rain was quite treacherous. I certainly didn’t want to have my race finished within the first couple of miles, so I just safely trotted round this part before settling into a better rhythm once the loop turned onto a track leading back to the start.


The next part of the race consists of a crossing of fields by really good paths, so a decent pace can be maintained before arriving at Pooley Bridge. After this the first minor climb of the day takes you up past Ullswater, with views of numerous fells reminding you why you complete these sorts of runs. After a couple of hours I arrived at the first checkpoint feeling quite strong, which I should be after only 10 miles. Time for a quick refuel before starting the next section, which although quite scenic is one of the tougher sections due to the climb to the highest point on the course. The route up Fusedale, which can be tough in normal conditions, was unbelievably hard. It is a huge climb of about 2,000 feet with a hidden summit about halfway up. To make matters worse the ground was totally saturated & was extremely muddy & claggy. I decided the best approach was to just power walk up & try to gain time once at the top. However, upon reaching the top, Lower & Higher Kop were also victims to the weather & it was like running through a bog, very energy-sapping. Even the climb down to Haweswater was tough due to the conditions. The lengthy path along Haweswater was so slippery that no rhythm could be found & in places the path was so eroded that you had to be careful with your footing. Eventually I reached the checkpoint at Mardale Head in a similar time to last year’s race (which I had finished in just over 15 hours) so I was pleased with my progress so far. Unfortunately, my feet were quite badly blistered due to the wet, so from this point onwards I was only able to walk due to the pain. Never mind, it’s only 30 miles to the finish! (I did have some spare socks but think they would have been very little use as my shoes were so wet. With hindsight, maybe I should have taped my feet up at the checkpoint.)


After the checkpoint at Mardale Head I started the long & windy climb up Gatescarth, which then has a long drop down towards Kentmere. About halfway through this leg I bumped into Mark, a good friend of mine, so we stayed together for the 2nd half of the race.


After reaching Kentmere I was quite disappointed, as last year this checkpoint had the most awesome fruit smoothies. From Troutbeck village the route cuts through to Ambleside, although unsurprisingly by the highest route possible. Ambleside was probably the highlight of the race as there is usually a huge crowd here due to the number of pubs & it certainly didn’t disappoint. This gives you a huge boost with just over 15 miles to go.


By this point it was rather dark, so it was time to turn on headtorches. After a short climb (by Lakeland 50 standards), the route then drops down to Skelwith Bridge before cutting through Elterwater & the Langdale valley. This is one of the most picturesque parts of Cumbria, although it loses some effect in the dark. There is also a checkpoint here that served the most wonderful stew It also has a comfy settee, but I wasn’t sitting down as I’d have probably stayed there all night! The route through the Langdales follows marked paths, although you wouldn’t have known as the paths were like rivers. Also through the valley there are some ladder stiles which, with 40 miles in your legs, just seem to get bigger & bigger.


The climb up to Blea Tarn seemed a lot steeper than the last time I was here. Upon reaching the top the heavens opened again - a lot earlier than the forecast of rain at 4am - as the torrential rain of the previous night returned, to stay with us for the rest of my race. After going past Blea Tarn the route goes across a section that is boggy at the best of times, so the plan was to keep as high as possible. I felt I had navigated this well until about half a mile from the end of this section, when I sank up to my knees in a bog. Great fun at 3am! The next section goes through Tilberthwaite & my heart did go a little faster when the cows, which last year had attacked a competitor, were at the side of the path. I turned on my headtorch & just hoped they were fast asleep. A couple of them were definitely snoring, but I did get ready to move quicker when one started to move!


Upon reaching the final checkpoint I just quickly refilled with flat Coke, as I just wanted to get to the finish & into some dry clothes. The final climb to Coniston is quite challenging, especially with about 47 miles in your legs, as it involves a bit of scrambling & there are sheer drops to both sides for parts of the path. This was made trickier by very wet paths. About halfway up the battery went on my headtorch, but a quick change of battery & it was sorted. The climb down to Coniston was quite tough  & the mist in the valley made vision quite tricky on the way down. I eventually reached Coniston just after 5am on Sunday morning.


Paul Craddock had dropped out of the race at Kentmere, which was a considerable achievement due to his lack of running miles & the atrocious conditions. Or maybe this is testament to triathlon training!


Despite all the difficulties with the weather & my feet, I did enjoy the race. Initially I was disappointed with my time of 17hrs 39mins, which is much slower than last year, but it was a totally different race with the conditions underfoot. Considering I had walked well over 50% of the race I have to be happy with the time. Hopefully I’ll be back again in 2018, as I feel I can do this route a lot quicker. However, that will depend upon my speed when the race opens in September, as it usually fills in about 5 minutes. Such a quick filling of a race shows its popularity & the whole weekend is an experience. The total distance is exactly 50 miles, with about 10,000 feet of climbing. I would thoroughly recommend the event & if anybody from RRR wants to enter I will support them with recces to make it easier on race day.


Many thanks to people who have sponsored me for this race, I certainly earned the sponsor money. I was running for SUDEP Action, as it would have been Aaron’s 30th birthday this year. If anybody would still like to sponsor me, the page will be left 'live' for a few weeks.  [Simon Howard]

TURNSLACK FELL RACE - 29th JULY 2017

Jason likes to arrive in good time, so at 1.20pm he, Barry & I are parked up in the cab chatting about all things running, watching some local youths razz around on a motorised pedal scooter, ready for a race that starts at 2.30pm in a part of previously unknown Littleborough off the Todmorden Road.  I had a support bandage on my right knee & I got my excuses in early - I had a medial ligament problem. Registration was in St James's Church, where we met up with Paul Wolstenhulme.


This 8-miler covers ever type of ground except road or pavement.  A lot of rain had made the going ‘soft’, but the weather was clear at the start. The route is a circuit of Shore Moor, out to Crook Hill, Rough Hill, Free House Top & Noon Hill. It is partially marked by flags & you needed them, as there were no obvious ways forward in parts & several runners came off the route. The steep climbs & descents totalled over 2,000 feet. The wind farm at the top of Crook Hill does spoil the wilderness aspect of the route but they do stand like massive, relatively silent sentinels for an otherwise unspoilt landscape.


To conserve mental & physical energy it helps, I think - unless you’re trying to catch someone - to run just behind & stay on the pace of another runner. That way you can go where they go, crossing ditches & marshes, trying to keep on firmer ground & not having to break your stride. Fortunately, the experienced & skilful female runner from Penistone in front was running quickly & efficiently for a good part of the way. Even so, my foot plunged into the boggy morass more than once & I needed to look down & check that the shoe was still on my foot.


At around 6 miles I did a double take when I saw Paul’s familiar powerful running form just ahead of me. Paul had said he was feeling tired at the outset & was therefore dropping back.


I would have finished ahead of the Penistone lady had there been someone at the finish directing runners up the church steps. Instead I barrelled on down the hill, past the church entrance, before luckily another runner coming up the hill sent me back. He had done the same himself.


The race organiser is a single individual, Kev Shand, relying on friends to help him & he’s been doing it for 40 years!  He is therefore a jolly good egg & his race prizes are known to be quirky. Someone claimed a prize of 16 rolls of toilet paper (quilted) & Barry (3rd fastest MV65) settled for the honey-dew melon.


RRR finishing times: Barry Greaves (1:26:11), Jason Keast (1:35:06), Gary Smith (1:41:53) & Paul Wolstenhulme (1:52:31).

 

This was a hard, long but really enjoyable fell run in good weather (it would have been much tougher with poor visibility) & I was really pleased that my knee held up. Supping his mug of tea & munching his home-made cake, served up by the church ladies, Jason mused that he didn’t have a good race, but both of us aim to be back next year.  [Gary Smith]

MILLBROOK MONSTER 10K - 26th JULY 2017
OK, this isn't a full race report, but Jon Crooks has been in touch to let me know that 5 RRRs completed the tough Millbrook Monster race this week, with the 4 men all finishing in the top 50 of a field of 217.

Those finishing times in full: Karen Stuttard (1:21:19), Jon Crooks (48:24), Robert Fairbanks (continuing his return to fitness in 47:36), Mick Wildbore (45:38) & Rob James (4th place in 38:29). Well done all!  [David Emanuel] 

MOSSLEY 10K - 16th JULY 2017

Interestingly, the Mossley 10K has more metres ascent than The Royton Trail but for some, namely me, it seems a less ferocious course. Maybe it’s the steep downhill start that whizzes you along at a fair old pace which makes it appear that way. Or rather, it just doesn’t have anything as gruesome as that stretch from Oozewood Road to Thornham Lane. Someone should come up with a name for that hellish section – my attempt would be unprintable, but for a pint I’d be willing to tell you in private.


The weather presented ideal running conditions, although it left the start from the football pitch a little slippery underfoot. 49 RRRs ran the event from the home of the Lilywhites football club. As usual, this meant you didn’t have to go far to find someone to talk to. However, if you were unlucky, Ronnie Quinn would have found you before you found him. The starter mumbled on far too long at the beginning but the start, like the whole race, was well-organised & enjoyable.


It was a rare day for RRR in that we didn’t claim nearly as many prizes as we usually do. Still, the one category we did win was well-deserved as Steve Shaw (46:35), one of the original RRRs, snapped up the MV60 award. It’s great to see the marathon man (not Dustin Hoffman, Steve) taking part in what would usually be a warm-up for him. For those of you not familiar with Steve, he has completed well over 50 marathons in his time. With another planned for Lisbon, Portugal, later on in the year, that figure doesn’t look like stopping soon.


Jen Bloor (40:00) also picked up a prize – a nice glass trophy - as second lady overall. Though, being a woman who knows what she wants, she gave the impression that she'd rather had got a voucher or - even better - cash.


With no team prizes to pick-up – yes, really – it gives me a chance to highlight some ‘in-house’ achievements. Rob James (34:52) has finished 1st RRR in 9 races this year & has therefore already retained his Club Champion trophy. I think someone should ring the Post Office to ask if they can make his rounds much, much longer. As I’m not in his league, the thought of puncturing one of the tyres on his bike has not yet crossed my mind at all...


Another notable mention goes to Jason Keast (45:22) who has now entered the hallowed ‘50 race' club, a place for the determined (and the strange!).

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All the other RRR finishers: Chris Lowe (37:11), Shane Reading (38:11), Michael Fleming (38:52), Michael Wildbore (41:15), David Emanuel (41:43), Carl O'Callaghan (41:44), David McBride (42:05), Neil Brock (42:40), Elliot Stone (43:05), Paul Wolstenhulme (43:31), David Crewe (43:41), Andrew Schofield (44:03), Matthew Kilburn (45:09), Janet Jobey (45:15), Adrian Marshall (45:34), Mark Heaney (47:34), Andrew Chadwick (47:53), Stewart Jones (47:55), Nick Mallon (48:02), Valerie Kilburn (48:07), Rochelle Evans (48:14), Gary Smith (48:44), Ian Dale (48:54), Vikki Smith (49:01), Paul Cooke (50:08), Phil Austin (50:26), Garry Bower (50:27), Clare Darraugh (50:32), Robert Nixon (50:41), Lee Higginbottom (50:42), John Higgins (50:48), Tony Kane (51:05), Damian Mercer (52:22), Jillian Hickson (54:35), Martin Jones (55:29), Gail Shaw (55:31), Jillian Heywood (55:34), Susan Heaney (57:36), Stephen Jones (57:59), Elaine Whitehead (62:38), Neil Bradley (63:00), Bernadette Ball (64:12), Judith Bradley (67:22), Niparun Nessa (69:12) & Karen Stuttard (70:37).


We now leave the shorter (5K,10K) part of the season & head into longer races, starting with the Riverside 10-miler in Lancaster. Personally I enjoy this one, as the hills are just speed-humps in the road compared to the Trail & Mossley. See you on the coach!  [Elliot Stone]

THE ROYTON TRAIL - 12th JULY 2017
A bit of luck with the weather - Tuesday's rain had long gone, leaving us with a pleasantly warm evening - contributed to a record-breaking 11th edition of our annual club race. We actually had fewer entries than last year, but with significantly fewer 'no shows' the number of finishers exceeded 300 for the 1st time - an impressive 322 in total. The 95 RRRs amongst that number was by far the most for a club race in 2017 & has only been bettered twice in the club's history (at The Royton Trail in 2015 & 2016).

After several years of disappointing performances at this event, coupled with ongoing achilles problems that make it difficult to run two races in a week, I decided to 'put all my eggs in the Mossley 10K basket' & tail run the trail. This was therefore my 1st ever last place race finish, but on the positive side I actually got to enjoy the course as well as the convivial company.

Unfortunately, being out on the course longer than anyone else means that I have very little idea what was happening up ahead, which probably doesn't make me the best person to write this report! As far as I can tell everything ran smoothly, the well-olied machine that this race has become after 11 years, with the majority of the feedback very positive. I believe everyone got some food this year, although there was some disappointment at the absence of the now-famous chip butties...

Amongst the RRR finishers were 3 making their debut in a club championship race - Samantha White (so close to breaking the hour in 1:00:09), Elaine Whitehead (58:03) & Jon Crooks ('fresh' from the Scafell Marathon he reports on below in 42:24). We also had a further 3 making their 1st appearance of the season in Dean Burgess (53:36), Ben Lawton (49:27) & Michael Harrison (38:05).

On to the prizes (I was back at the pub in time for these). Jen Bloor (36:36) was not quite able to make it 3 victories in successive years, knocked into the runners-up spot - by a mere 26 seconds - by the impressive Sharon Johnstone of Wilmslow RC. However there was some consolation as Jen led our ladies to yet another victory in the team event, ably supported by Sophie Wood (3rd lady, 37:15) & Janet Jobey (2nd FV40, 39:45). That makes it an amazing 7 wins in 8 years, with contributions from 10 different athletes. Wonderful stuff!

Our men's team have found it a bit tougher & were again beaten into 2nd place by an extremely strong Salford Harriers trio consisting of race winner Joe Bailey, former champion Ian Grime & Glyn Billington. No disgrace in coming in behind them, with excellent running from Rob James (2nd place in 31:13), Chris Lowe (2nd V45, 5th overall, 32:31) & Jarrod Gritt (10th, 33:20).

As usual we picked up a good share of the female vet prizes, courtesy of Diane Allingan (1st FV55, 47:58), Val Kilburn (1st FV45. 43:17) & Natalie Fitzpatrick (1st FV35, 43:35). Just a single award though for the men, thanks to Richard Cummins (1st V50, 35:21), with Rossendale Harriers dominating the older age categories.

The prize-giving was preceded by the hotly-anticipated charity raffle draw to win an RRR vest signed by Paula Radcliffe, organised by James 'Mr Bump' Wright. There were a few (outrageous) cries of 'fix' as Ian Grime drew out the name of the man standing next to him with the loudhailer, Race Director & RRR chairman Bryan Lawton. Personally I can't think of a more deserving winner! Said vest will take pride of place (prepare yourself for a shameless plug) in our brand new Up & Running store on Huddersfield Road in Oldham. You'll find us underneath the 24-hour Tesco. Selling shoes, clothing, accessories, nutrition & electronics. Please come along & say hello!

All the other RRR finishers (take a deep breath, it's a long list): Angela Rogowskyj (1:08:56), Emma Bower (1:03:47), Nefa Nessa (1:02:54), Karen Stuttard (1:02:43), Sharon Dracup (1:01:23), Brian Swindells (59:40), Amanda Richardson (59:28), Judith Bradley (58:19), Bernadette Ball (57:59), Neil Bradley (56:29), Carol Robinson (55:29), Claire Timms (55:07), Chloe Clegg (54:14), Martina Naismith (53:23), Tracey Hall (52:57), Gail Shaw (51:42), Ian Dale (50:53), Jillian Heywood (50:50), Sue Heaney (2nd FV55, 49:33), George Meynell (49:32), Simon Howard (49:25), Jillian Hickson (49:18), Teresa Hollins (3rd FV60, 48:49), Chris Nicholson (48:44), Gary Marshall (48:21), Selina McLean (47:47), Lisa Cummins (47:35), Tony Kane (47:24), Robert Nixon (46:52), Clare Darraugh (46:48), Lee Higginbottom (46:46), Damian Mercer (46:28), Phil Austin (45:56), Paul Cooke (45:04), Martin Jones (44:56), Rochelle Evans (44:33), Helen Radcliffe (44:30), Gary Smith (44:22), Ray Williams (44:21), Paul Leech (44:05), Chris Eavers (44:00), Vikki Smith (2nd FV45, 43:59), John Higgins (43:41), Nick Mallon (42:50), Ronnie Quinn (42:49), Garry Bower (42:39), Mark Heaney (42:28), Bernie Cassidy (42:10), Andrew Chadwick (41:57), Mark Rigby (41:42), Stewart Jones (41:41), Steven Shaw (3rd V60, 41:21), Adrian Marshall (40:47), Rob Marsden (40:41), Andrew Schofield (39:59), John Williamson (39:52), Robert Kellett (39:38), David Crewe (39:02), Paul Anderson (38:59), Neil Brock (38:55 on his 50th club championship appearance), Paul Wolstenhulme (38:50), David Freer (38:24), Eamonn Nolan (38:19), Elliot Stone (37:50), Carl O'Callaghan (37:00), Michael Pickering (36:25), Robert Fairbanks (great to see him back racing again after injury, 36:16), Bernie Goodwin (36:02), Michael Wildbore (35:52), Owen Flage (35:35), Paul Ashton (35:30), Nick Cuff (35:24), Shaun Armstrong (35:11 in his last club race before heading off for an exciting adventure teaching abroad), Paul Bannister (35:05), Rob Battye (34:59), Shane Reading (3rd V40, 34:19) & Michael Fleming (34:10).

Thanks to everyone who contributed to another highly successful race - not only those who took part but also the race marshals, lead/tail bikes & all those helping out behind the scenes. We couldn't have dome it without you!  [David Emanuel]        

SCAFELL MARATHON – 9th JULY 2017

This one hurt. It was hard, there’s no doubt about it. 3 days on & I’m still trying to decide whether or not I actually enjoyed it! It’s a stunning route, but the narrow single track nature with competitors behind & in front, along with the incredibly technical terrain, made it difficult (if not down right dangerous) to look up & take in the scenery. But I am glad I did it, it was an experience I won’t forget & I’ll be going back for more.


The day started at Crowe Park in Keswick, looking out over Derwentwater, where parking & registration were situated. We then had the choice of either taking the ferry or walking (or ‘jogging’) the 2-3 miles around the northern headland of the lake, through the town & down to the start at the beautiful Lingholm Estate. I chose the ferry.


From the off it’s a great route, heading south along the lake shore & down the Borrowdale valley. I tried to maintain a steady 9 min/mile so as not to overdo it & found a pair of Scottish gentlemen to run with. At around mile 3 we came across a lady who had fallen, hit her head & was bleeding quite a lot. I stopped & phoned the emergency contact for the race while someone else bandaged her up. I’ll never scorn at the first aid requirements in the mandatory kit list again! Two of us then waited with her until she could stand & we began to walk her towards a nearby road, at which point help arrived & I could get going again. It’s a bit demoralising to have to overtake all the people you passed in the first 3 miles all over again & I probably ran too fast at this stage to try to make up ground. The first of a number of mistakes which I paid for later.


Fast forward to mile 8 & I reached the first checkpoint at Seathwaite. This is where it started to get hard, but not unexpectedly. You don’t enter the Scafell Marathon & not expect to have to work your way up a very large hill. By around mile 11 it’s become a procession of hiking mountain runners. Here came my second mistake as I tried to fast hike, passing as many runners as possible. It’s a long climb, probably more than 2,000 feet in 2 miles, including the infamous Corridor Route – "a testing rocky trail that makes a spectacular rising traverse across some of the most rugged yet spectacular rock scenery in England".


By the time I neared the summit of Scafell Pike my legs were done for & my energy levels were poor. The weather was misty, with floating wisps of cloud hugging the crags, which made for some dramatic scenery. It was also quite cold & windy towards the top. Perhaps because of the inclement weather I hadn’t been drinking much & I’d been too busy to eat. I had no fuel/hydration strategy to speak of. This was mistake number 3.


Having ‘dibbed in’ at the top I began easily the toughest decent I’ve done, though the route isn’t straight down. From the summit it descends to Broad Crag col before continuing it's high-level traverse past Broad Crag & Ill Crag leading down towards Esk Hause, the highest pass in the Lake District. From here the descent continues & was at times very steep. I tripped a few times; if I’d gone down I hate to think what the outcome would have been. It’s not that you’re running on a cliff edge but the rocks are so huge that a fall would have been disastrous whilst running quickly downhill.

 

Almost from the moment I’d left Scafell Pike the sun came out & it got hotter as I descended back into the Borrowdale Valley. I guess it crept up on me but I began to realise that I was not only dehydrated, but also overheating. When I eventually got back to Seathwaite I took out my desert cap, doused it in water & drank lots of Coke & blackcurrant. This helped a lot & I felt revitalised for a little while. Sadly, this was to be short-lived. Having passed a number of people who seemed to be struggling, I then hit a steep hill where the wheels well & truly came off! I wasn’t expecting this hill, it was hot & I couldn’t get my heart rate & breathing down once I started climbing. I was running low on water, I couldn’t eat & was starting to feel sick. Before long I was going backwards, or so it seemed. It’s demoralising to have people overtaking you walking uphill. I managed to fill up one of my bottles in a stream, but when I eventually got to the top I was a mess. I started to run, tripped on a rock & went flying shoulder first into the gravel. Thank goodness it wasn’t too rocky, like most of the route. I got away with minor scrapes & cuts & didn’t hit my head.


At the start & at various points on the course I kept bumping into a guy from Sheffield called Oskar. Towards the end of the race when I’d really slowed down, was struggling with blisters & lacking energy, he caught me up again. He had a surge & when we peeled off a bit of unwelcome tarmac onto a single track trail he went for it! I was determined to stick with him & it became cat & mouse for a mile or so. This was the best bit of the whole race. I loved it, but neither of us could sustain it all the way to the end.


The final half mile to Crowe Park was tough. I was actually hungry & felt I could eat at last, so I scoffed a 9-bar I’d picked up at my first stop in Seathwaite, which gave me the energy to kick off & run to the finish. I was totally wrecked at the end. Whatever mistakes I made in the race, I can certainly say I gave my all. For this I’m grateful. I finished 83rd out of 187 competitors, 32nd out of 68 in my MV40 category. Click here if you want to see the full results  [Jon Crooks]

BULL HILL FELL RACE - 6th JULY 2017

This race is organised by Radcliffe Athletic Club (all yellow vest with the black trim). Ray Williams picked Jason & myself up before we crossed the state line into deepest, darkest Bury, whereupon the satnav took us on an over-complicated route to Hawshaw village & The Red Lion. Registration & payment was done with a minimum of fuss, which is the way the stalwarts like it; some of these guys started running the fells back in the days of cotton string vests, with paper bags of glucose sugar in their pockets.


Only Jason had done this one before. I asked him how he was doing in the championship for points & got a vagueish answer. I had only recently found out the scoring system for the Run the Moors Grand Prix myself & checked my own cumulative score on the website - I needn’t have bothered.


Ronnie Quinn said that he wasn’t taking Group 2 out on the Monday because it was the day before the Rochdale 10K. I had run with Ray & Simon Howard on the Monday, completed the 10K on the Tuesday, went to the gym on Wednesday & was now on the fell on the Thursday. There is an optimum amount of running/training for someone like myself before a race event & I mused on the fact that I had probably overdone it.


After a 1 mile walk to the start from the main road we were sent off in bright sunshine, again without any fuss. Soon I am traversing a part of the world up & away from the main road that can easily be described as unspoilt, with not even a wind turbine to distract the eye from the line where open moor meets blue sky. It’s a compact 5.5-mile circular route - a ‘proper’ fell course with slippery grassy descents, hard earth paths, streams, hillocks, mud, rocks & steep ascents (though no scrambles). The finishing mile is a hoof along a narrow path on the side of a hill with a fair drop down one side & then a blast back down to the bottom field, before several rises & falls to the finish. It was on top of the stile taking you into this field where a rival turned to look over his shoulder and eyeballed Jason, stealthily moving up on him. He took off like a startled hare, much to Jason’s exasperation. So Jason is taking an interest in his points tally after all!


All the RRR finishing times: Paul Wolstenhulme (46:44), Jason Keast (50:57), Gary Smith (57:16) & Ray Williams (59:39).


Back at the Red Lion & apart from some small consternation at £2.50 for the chip barm cake, it was another hard but enjoyable fell race over & done with – no fuss.  [Gary Smith]

ROCHDALE  10K – 4th JULY 2017

There was a frisson in the air for the 1st club race after Brian Moore had put together the running tables for 2017, with many of us finding out who we were competing against for race points. Clusters & individual RRR were observed to be doing their own pre-race warm-up routines knowing they had to perform well to beat known opponents.


I was slowed up at the start, having put myself too far back in the field & lost about 25 metres on my running peers. This could have been avoided if I had paid attention instead of fiddling with my MP3 player (nice & clean after Bernadette had put it through a 30 degree wash & spin cycle!). 25 metres may not seem a lot, but when the only running gears you’ve got are slow, medium & medium-slow it could make the difference. It was now down to Metallica & Rage Against the Machine to help me try to make the distance up.


The 10K route is the shape of an elongated circle & as someone noted the descending gradients are short & not as long as the ascending bits! Anyway I ran the course, grimacing at 4K as I watched the tattoo on Andy Chadwick’s (47:13) right calf red-shift away from me & at 7K knowing that I was going to be outside my 2014 time, as I lost any running fluency I had & started to stumble. At around the same time I came up behind John Higgins (49:00) whom I hadn’t seen in training for a while & I think was catching up with past form. The grim determination he showed & visible effort he was putting in kept me going through my own period of self-doubt.


In the last 50 metres Rochelle Evans (48:42) broke cover & came on my shoulder, putting in a final burst showing the same determination I had seen earlier with John. This galvanised me (48:38) into putting in a sprint finish which I should have been doing anyway.


Chatting to different people at the end, Nick Mallon (55:28) told me that he pulled up at 2K with a problem calf but he had resumed running to the finish, again the determination factor. A chap from Rossendale Tri who had overtaken me on the way into the park introduced himself & said he reckoned running had helped him beat cancer. He also said what a well-organised & well-supported club RRR was, stated as an unequivocal fact!


I left it late to encourage Bernadette (3rd FV60, 1:01:37) to run faster at the finish & ended up bellowing at her from the bottom of the hill, when I saw her appear on the skyline. She ran home in splendid style to a great time.


Bernadette & I were in the car on the road exiting the park when the cars in front stopped to let runners pass on the right. We watched June, our president, alongside & in step with Angela Rogowskyj (1:18:28) visibly encouraging her to keep going. Angela, once more a picture of determination, continued to run her hardest up the tarmac & over the speed bumps.


All the other RRR finishers: Sharon Dracup (1:07:02), Jenny O'Callaghan (1:04:13), Judith Bradley (1:04:05), Neil Bradley (1:02:31), Tracey Hall (1:01:21), Stephen Jones (59:16), Jill Hickson (56:30), Jillian Heywood (55:51), George Meynell (2nd V70, 55:01), Gail Shaw (2nd FV50, 54:57), Lisa Cummins (2nd FV45, 54:43), Clare Darraugh (54:25), Chris Nicholson (53:07), Sue Heaney (2nd V55, 52:52), Teresa Hollins (2nd FV60, 52:30), Gary Marshall (52:04), Simon Lake (51:55), Lee Higginbottom (51:49), Selina McLean (51:42), Phil Austin (51:25), Helen Radcliffe (50:45), Robert Nixon (50:10), Kevin Heenan (49:40), Paul Cooke (49:33), Ray Williams (49:25), Matt Kershaw (48:02), Rachael Shuttleworth (47:58), Val Kilburn (1st FV45, 47:19), Stewart Jones (47:10), Ronnie Quinn (46:57), Jason Keast (46:23), Mark Rigby (46:19), Steve Shaw (3rd V60, 45:52), Mark Heaney (45:33), Adrian Marshall (45:25), Bernie Cassidy (44:56), David Crewe (44:12), Robert Kellett (44:03), Matthew Kilburn (44:01), Janey Jobey (1st FV40, 43:57), Eamonn Nolan (43:53), Rob Marsden (43:48), Andy Schofield (43:41), Paul Anderson (43:35), John Williamson (43:11), Richard Fiddling (43:05), Dave Freer (42:57), Neil Brock (42:44), Paul Wolstenhulme (42:22), Carl O'Callaghan (41:28), Elliot Stone (3rd V45, 41:24), Michael Pickering (41:17), David Emanuel (3rd V50, 40:49), Paul Bannister (40:43), Bernie Goodwin (2nd V45, 40:30), David McBride (40:23), Michael Wildbore (40:19), Jen Bloor (2nd lady, 39:56), Owen Flage (39:44), Richard Cummins (1st V50, 39:32), Paul Ashton (39:31), Shaun Armstrong (39:02), Michael Fleming (3rd V35, 38:46), Rob Battye (38:22), Shane Reading (37:40), Jarrod Gritt (37:10) & Rob James (3rd overall, 33:44).


So, congratulations to all RRRs for a great effort - whether running to beat others, to beat personal goals, running through injury or against loss of form. Later in the evening we watched an inspirational documentary about Roger Bannister & I thought how great it is to be part of the running fraternity!  [Gary Smith]

EDDIE’S REVENGE - 28th JUNE 2017

"It’ll be a lungbuster," said Jason Keast as he nosed the flat bed, with Neil Brock & myself in the cab, along Buckstones Road. Hmm, ‘lungbuster’ & ‘revenge’ only have 1 connotation in running - you’re going up!


Having transgressed the Fell Runners Association rules once concerning carrying a mandatory survival kit, there’s always a debate beforehand as to whether one is needed. This time a ‘waterproof’ was the sole requirement. It had stopped raining but the air temperature was still fairly cool.


We were set off by the bark of Mark Nield’s 9-year old (soon to be retired from active service) Border collie. Mark himself has just stepped down as leader of Oldham Mountain Rescue after 25 years. A quick check on OMR’s Facebook page confirms how vital this service is & I feel that all fell runners owe a debt of gratitude to these guys, not to mention their dogs.


The race has an uphill start & then you decide whether to run, power walk or half walk-skip for the rest of the uphill bits. I did more walking than running on this relatively short, compact track than I have in any other fell race. The downhill sections, however, were very fast & recent rain had made 1 particular short but steep section feel like you were going down a coal chute, with posts to be avoided at the bottom! The wide spread of finishing times show that even over a short distance the field became strung out. I passed, was caught by & then passed the same runners several times.


Afterwards there was tea & cake in St Saviours, followed by a longish wait for the raffle & prizes. But hey, I got 1st go at the raffle - I passed on the camping stool in favour of the swish Tassimo coffee maker! Race prizes went all the way down the vet categories, with Rob James (1st place, 24:34) & Barry Greaves (1st V60, 32:22) picking up awards. These two really do provide a master class in running, especially as Rob is now cycling to his races whenever he can.


All the other RRR finishers: Paul Wolstenhulme (32:32), Neil Brock (34:02), Jason Keast (34:36), Gary Smith (38:52) & Ray Williams (40:42).


I was surprised that so few RRRs showed up for this race, as it is so local & part of the Run the Moors Grand Prix. At Thursday’s training session the venerable Dave Philips told me he has never run it, even though he can see the runners from his bedroom window! It’s just £5 to enter as well.  [Gary Smith]

OFFERTON 10K - 21st JUNE 2017

On a hot & humid tropical night at Woobank Park running track in Stockport (home of Stockport Harriers), Sophie Wood provided much of the entertainment for the small band of RRRs that made the short trip, attracted by a £10.95 entrance fee that promised a chip-timed race, medal & goody bag.


Sophie started the evening by getting in to a very entertaining conversation with the physios that were in attendance. For the competition to win a free session with them we had to answer the question “How many muscles are connected to the knee?”. A straightforward question you would think, but not to our Sophie. “That’s not specific enough, what do you mean by the connected to the knee?” it started & on it went, with me laughing my head off & telling Sophie that she can’t win all the time. I don’t know the correct answer, ask Sophie if she does.


The conversation was brought to an end by a tropical shower that had us all heading for the shelter of the clubhouse. Here Sophie provided the 2nd laugh of the night, struggling to hold her water bottle & open an energy gel at the same time. Jill Hickson & I watched as she managed to open the gel, at the same time giving it a good squeeze. A big dollop of gel arced through the air & over Rob Fairbanks' head, with part of it landing on him & the rest on the lady behind him. Jill & I fell about laughing while Sophie apologised profusely.


The remaining gel that Sophie did manage to consume must have been enough, as she then proceeded to win the ladies race in a time of 42:43. In the conditions that was an amazing time, good enough for 16th place overall.


My own race also had some entertainment. The water station was manned mainly by children & at the start of my 3rd & final lap I needed 2 cups of water. I grabbed the 1st at the start of the water station, swapped it to my other hand & then went for another, but the child holding this cup noticed I already had a drink & pulled his away from me at the last second. Luckily an adult at the end of the queue saw what happened & gave me another cup.


If you’ve run Woodbank parkrun then you will know the course, which also takes in Vernon Park. Woodbank is nice & flat but Vernon Park is a whole new ball game, with a steep downhill & a very steep up hill, which we had to run 3 times on a very warm & humid evening.


Andrew Chadwick & I reignited our friendly rivalry & I came out on top at last, finishing 73rd in 51:05 to Andy’s 74th in 51:12. I am glad that I have someone who is pushing me at races now & it was nice to be in front for a change. I really had to work on the last lap to catch him.


For the price you cannot go wrong. We received a medal, a goody bag with various bits & pieces & a Stockport 10 T-Shirt (I now have 2 of these having run it last year). The small sizes were a couple of years old but you really can’t complain about that.


The remaining RRR finishers were Jill Hickson (58:25, 137th), Rob Nixon (53:37, 98th), Kevin Heenan (53:24, 97th) & Rob Marsden (48:29, 53rd). We should get this one on the club championship next year, it's top value racing.  [Garry Bower]

TRAILBLASTER - 18th JUNE 2017

If you’re not a fan of laps, you may not want to go any further than this first sentence. Sunday was Trailblaster 12, which involves running round Townley Park in Burnley for 12 hours or until you’ve had enough! This is a tough event at any time, but with lunchtime temperatures above 30° it was made considerably tougher.


Each lap is an approximate 5K loop with quite a variety of terrain. The start is on a hard packed path with a nerve-jangling ramp up a wall, which seemed looser on every lap. Then you run through a picturesque wood before a circuit of a grassy field. After this the route continues with a short climb (although it doesn’t seem short after 6 or 7 laps) up through a wooded section, before dropping down to a river crossing. The final part of the loop takes you on a multitude of small loops through grassy fields that had been freshly cut for the event - so hayfever sufferers like myself had another challenge.


Possibly due to a clash with Oldham 10K, or nobody else being mad or daft enough, I was the only solo runner from RRR although Sue Heaney entered as a pair with Julia Moore. The great thing about this event is that if you don’t feel you could cope with running solo for 12 hours, there are 6-hour, pairs & team options. It can become confusing when wondering why a runner is flying past you, before realising they are in a team of 5, so will probably have a 3 or 4 hour rest before their next lap.


As anyone who attempted any form of running on Sunday will testify it was a ridiculously hot day. I can honestly never recall running in such conditions. It was so warm that you were feeling dehydrated after about 2-3K of each lap, when usually I can run 10-15K before feeling the need for fluid. It was a perfect test for my nutrition, especially as I was struggling to eat anything due to the heat. I survived the event on a combination of Mountain Fuel, water & flat coke.


I managed to complete 12 laps - which was less than last year but conditions were slightly different - thus running 63K to achieve 4th place in the 12-hour Solo Male category. Just 1 more lap would have given me 3rd place, but I could have only completed the final lap by walking the whole circuit. Huge congratulations to Sue & Julia who finished 1st in the Female Pairs category by running 79K. A massive thanks to Jarrod Gritt, who after running Oldham 10K in the morning came over to Burnley to run the last few laps with me. By doing this he not only tested a variety of trail shoes & gave himself a new goal for next year, but he was taught by myself how to run 40-minute 5K loops! An extremely tough race - at the moment, 48 hours afterwards, I have a fair few aches & pains as well as feet that still feel like they are on fire!


Reflecting on the event, it would be great to get some RRR teams or even some solo runners over for next year. Hopefully this could happen if there isn't another clash with Father's Day or Oldham 10K. Oh & just to whet your appetite, it is extremely likely that next year there will be a 24-hour event!  [Simon Howard]

MILLTOWN OLDHAM 10K - 18th JUNE 2017

There are times when it would be wonderful to have Meditteranean weather in Oldham; for those of us sweltering on the start line at 9.30am, Sunday morning wasn't one of them. Race preparations had been very different to normal, with runners sensibly taking on lots of water & scrabbling around for sunglasses rather than base layers & gloves. Hopefully that's the hottest race day we'll have to endure this year.

RRR numbers were lower than for the last few years - mostly I suspect due to the price of entry if you hadn't entered the full Milltown series & taken advantage of 'early bird' offers - but our 62 finishers still made up more than 20% of the field & we dominated the prize-giving ceremony. With most of our winners having fled in search of some shade, Shane Reading & Sophie Wood almost covered an extra 10K in going up to collect awards on their behalf.

Leading the way for RRR in fine style was Rob James with another fine race victory. Rob once again pushed Oldham & Royton's Michael Mannings into 2nd place, this time by almost a full minute as he crossed the line in a chip time of 34:12. Rob had 'warmed up' with a little 13.5 mile bike ride from home & he was straight back in the saddle for the return journey after the presentation. If that's the secret of his success, I guess we should all be cycling to races from now on...

One of our most remarkable prize-winning performances came from new Ladies Captain Val Kilburn. Val suffered more than most in the heat, but still battled on to finish in 54:07, well below her best but still good enough to claim FV45 victory. Under normal circumstances Val would have been expected to feature in the RRR ladies team, but our leading trio on this occasion - Sophie Wood (a great run for 2nd female, 41:51), Janet Jobey (2nd FV40, 3rd overall, 45:29) & Helen Radcliffe (6th overall, 50:43) - still claimed an impressive win without her. The men duly made it a clean sweep of the team prizes, with Rob joined by Chris Lowe (1st V45, 4th overall, 37:26) & Shane Reading (1st V40, 6th overall, 38:06).

Other RRR age category winners included Sheila Phillips (1st FV65, 1:20:39), Bernadette Ball (1st FV60, 1:04:50), Dave Phillips (1st V70, 55:44), Ronnie Quinn (1st V60, 48:44), Richard Cummins (1st V50, 39:57 - although they apparently felt sorry for me & announced it as my victory) & Michael Fleming (1st V35, 39:45). Mr & Mrs Phillips have now finished 1st in their respective age categories in every Oldham 10K since the race was introduced in 2013, a remarkable achievement. Gail Shaw (55:52) was declared the FV50 winner - published results suggest that she did in fact finish in 2nd place, but that's still a fine performance & she has her winnings now!

It was quite literally a warm welcome for Sharon Leach (59:45) & John Fay (54:28), both making their competitive RRR debuts, while John Higgins (1:07:37) made his 1st appearance of the season. I didn't see John on the day, but judging from the results he ran the course with 2 members of his family; if not, it's an amazing coincidence that there were 3 finishers in a row with the same surname...        

All the other RRR finishers: Karen Stuttard (1:23:51), Angela Rogowskyj (1:19:28), Amanda Richardson (1:09:01), Neil Bradley (1:06:10), Judith Bradley (1:05:04), Carol Robinson (1:04:08), Brian Swindells (3rd V65, 1:03:37), Chris Whiteman (1:03:26), Tracey Hall (1:02:49), Jillian Heywood (1:00:45), Martina Naismith (1:00:16), Jill Hickson (56:15), Martin Jones (56:01), Clare Darraugh (55:55), Lisa Cummins (2nd FV45, 55:25), Lee Higginbottom (54:24), Selina McLean (54:03), Simon Lake (51:35), Rochelle Evans (51:46), Ray Williams (51:18), Paul Cooke (51:00), Gary Smith (3rd V55, 50:09), Nick Mallon (49:33), Robert Nixon (3rd V60, 48:56), Mark Heaney (2nd V55, 47:56), Ian Dale (an injury-affected 48:02), Matt Kilburn (47:26), Adrian Marshall (47:03), Dave Peart (46:15), Jason Keast (45:46), Brad Howard (45:24), Paul Anderson (45:01), Rob Kellett (44:09), Carl O'Callaghan (43:39), Elliot Stone (43:11), David McBride (42:14), Neil Brock (3rd V50, 42:12), me (2nd V50, 41:38), Michael Pickering (41:26), Bernie Goodwin (3rd V45, 41:24), Paul Ashton (41:21), Michael Wildbore (41:19 after an impressively strong finish, especially for a new dad with little sleep), Jarrod Gritt (39:17), Rob Battye (39:14) & Paul Bannister (9th overall, 39:00).

This was the 1st of 4 club races in quick succession at 10K or a similar distance. Next up is the Rochdale 10K on 4th July, quickly followed by our own The Royton Trail & the Mossley 10K. No doubt we'll see some much quicker times in more bearable running conditions! [David Emanuel]                    

ROCHDALE 3 DAY EVENT – 9th JUNE TO 11th JUNE 2017

NORDEN 6 MILE ROAD RACE (9/6/17)

I didn’t have any running in mind this Friday evening, when Jason texted see if I was up for the road race, but I’m in a more positive running frame of mind these days. So yes, let’s do this.


Following an RRR kerbside discussion on the latest Oldham pub refurbs & where you could still get Sam Smith’s ‘Taddy’ lager, we strung ourselves across Edenfield Road to be set off on the whistle. This road climbs steeply - very steeply for the first 100 metres or so - for around 1.5 miles, as you try to maintain a comfortable rhythm. Once you reach Ashworth Moor reservoir it's time to run as fast as you can along an undulating road with some big descents. It's great to go fast downhill, but your legs have to turn over rapidly to keep you from tumbling! After just over 3.5 miles you come to a sharp climb where the farmland meets the town. Described on Rochdale’s webpage as the ‘hardest part of the course’, if you’re out of running form then this short stretch really can stop you in your tracks. Literally! Once this is done you’re on your way home, turning back up Edenfield Road & making quick decisions as to whether to run on the pavement or in the road, stepping on & off the kerb to avoid people, dogs & street furniture, with any deviation from the straight taking valuable seconds. Then it’s round the corner & a final pelt to the finish. The RRR finishers were Neil Brock (42:20), David McBride (42:35 for 1st V40), Andrew Schofield (43:54), Steve Shaw (46:54, 1st V60), Jason Keast (48:51), Gary Smith (49:28) & Jill Heywood (57:11).


NADEN VALLEY 6 MILE MULTI-TERRAIN RACE (10/6/17)

Neil Brock (52:19) was the only RRR to take part in the 2nd race - going immediately to the 11am start after getting soaked completing Oldham parkrun!

 

KNOWL HILL FELL RACE (11/6/17)

This 6 mile fell race has a total of 1300ft of climb & starts heading uphill from the off, with the runners having to ascend to roughly 500ft above the start within the first 1.5 miles. There follows a 350-400ft descent to the first wall stile, where the main pack forms an orderly queue, but you can lose minutes of time here before crossing Greenbooth Reservoir. You walk up a sharp incline before crossing a stream & start doing a bear crawl up Knowl Hill. If you find some rhythm you can progress as quickly as the others, or else just follow the legs & bum of the person in front. Incidentally the sheep up there don’t use the flush!


Just short of the halfway point you hit 1357ft, the highest point of the race. At the top you turn 90 degrees around the cairn, past the wind turbine & then you’re running down the gradient on a track crossing wide open moorland. Back over the reservoir, up the steps & diagonally across the first hill you came down, the going remaining boggy! The final section is a level woodland walk, then a steep bank of the sort that you rolled down as a kid & a final gate to negotiate before the sprint to the finish.


There were 8 RRR finishers this time in a race which is also part of the 2017 Run The Moors Grand Prix: Rob James (4th overall, 46:09), Alan Bodell (3rd V50, 55:08), Paul Wolstenhulme (58:19), Barry Greaves (2nd V60, 58:28), Neil Brock (1:01:44), Jason Keast (1:03:42), Gary Smith (1: 11:49) & Ray Williams (1:13:18).


If you completed all 3 events you received a technical tee & there were prizes covering all the age categories presented in the Brown Cow afterwards. There you could extend your enjoyment of the morning’s run with a pint, a chip barm cake & some good craic. Recommended!  [Gary Smith]

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K – 7th JUNE 2017

That’ll teach me! In the report on the previous Littleborough 5K race in May, I highlighted the fact that “we've won both team prizes at every race in this series dating back to April 2015”. Guess what happened this time?


No blame attached to our leading men, who delivered yet another team victory despite the presence of a stronger-than-usual field including Salford’s Ian Grime & Joe Bailey – the latter setting a stunning new course record of 15:30 as the 1st past the post (it was General Election eve, after all; I’m tempted to suggest that he didn’t have to Labour for vic-Tory, but that’s probably a party political pun too far). It was a close run thing, though, as our leading trio of Chris Lowe (17:25), Rob Battye (17:52) & Jarrod Gritt (18:01) finished with a combined time just 4 seconds quicker than the quickest 3 from Middleton Harriers. Unfortunately, in the absence of many of our regular female racers (Jen Bloor, Janet Jobey, Debbie Shaw, Val Kilburn, Rochelle Evans, Natalie Fitzpatrick & Debbie Fiddling to name just a few), we could only manage 2nd place behind Oldham & Royton in the women’s team race. Under the circumstances it was a fine effort by Sophie Wood (19:31), Helen Radcliffe (24:09) & Lisa Cummins (26:18) to get within 2 minutes of the victorious O&R runners.


That runners-up spot was the only disappointment on a remarkably successful evening for Sophie. A fine victory in the women’s race also gave her an overall win for the series, more than 3 minutes clear of the field & the only woman (one of only 12 athletes in total) with an aggregate time of less than an hour across the 3 races. Perhaps even more satisfying was the fact that Sophie’s official winning time was 4 seconds faster than Jen Bloor’s in Race 2.


On an evening when the nasty weather of the previous few days had thankfully abated – it was pleasantly cool & dry, while the wind had dropped significantly - Lisa Cummins (1st FV45) was one of only 2 RRRs to pick up an age-category prize. It turned out to be a family affair as the other award went to Lisa's husband Richard (1st V50, 19:00), as both made their 1st & only appearance in this race series.


We were considerably more successful in the overall series results, with our club providing 16 of the 49 runners to complete all 3 races & receiving a special thanks from Chief Cannonball John Lloyd at the post-race presentation. No age category prizes are awarded for the series but it’s still worth recognising the performances of Gail Shaw (6th lady overall, 1st FV50), Jillian Heywood (9th, 1st FV45), Shane Reading (5th, 2nd V40), Jarrod Gritt (6th, 3rd SM), Brian Swindells (1st V65) & even me (1st V50 despite getting progressively slower in each race). A special mention too for Mick Wildbore - whose outstanding final run of 19:11 lifted him to 8th place for the series - & for Andrew Chadwick, who crossed the line in a remarkable 22:41 to be recognised as ‘best improver’. Beginning with time of 25:15 in the 1st race back in April, Andrew was the only athlete to record an improvement greater than 10% across the 3 races.


All the other RRR finishing times on the night: Angela Rogowskyj (35:12), Brian Swindells (3rd V65, 31:40), Judith Bradley & Amanda Richardson (both 29:22), Stephen Jones (29:05), Neil Bradley (28:43), Jillian Heywood (2nd FV45, 27:14), Ronnie Quinn (27:09), Gail Shaw (2nd FV50, 27:00), Jill Hickson (26:20), Gary Marshall (24:47), Paul Cooke (24:28), Robert Nixon (23:36), Ray Williams (23:28), Kevin Heenan (23:24), Chris Nicholson (23:16), Paul Leech (22:40), Steven Shaw (22:18), Adrian Marshall (21:55), Jason Keast (21:50), Paul Wolstenhulme (21:45), Mark Heaney (2nd V55, 21:37), David Crewe (21:18), Barry Greaves (3rd V60, 21:09), Robert Kellett (21:09), me (3rd V50, 19:53), Neil Brock (2nd V50, 19:38), Bernie Goodwin (3rd V45, 19:16), Michael Fleming (18:46) & Shane Reading (18:03).


If you’ve enjoyed the challenge of these races, you may want to have a look at another imminent Cannonball 5K series. This one consists of 4 races on alternate Thursday evenings between 22nd June & 3rd August in the delightful surroundings of Centre Vale Park in Todmorden. It’s a 5-lap race, but if you can get your head around that it’s considerably flatter & faster than Littleborough!  [David Emanuel]

LIVERPOOL ROCK’N’ROLL HALF MARATHON – 28th MAY 2017

When Bernadette read out Liz Philips’ post that she & husband Scott couldn’t do the Liverpool Rock‘n’Roll Half due to both being injured, I thought this was a chance to run in my city of birth & go to see my mum after the race. Two (Liver) birds with one stone!


Getting out of the car we were hailed by a friendly Scouse runner who offered for us to join him on the walk in. I still get surprised that few people can tell from the slight twang in my voice that I’m a Liverpudlian myself. The race was sold out & so we were looking forward to being enveloped in a crowd of 20,000 fellow runners, but with half an hour to go until the official start time of 9:00am the 1-20 numbered corrals were still empty. They gradually filled quietly with runners but they didn’t start shuffling forward until after 9:20. Like the Leeds Half 2 weeks earlier, which set off 30 mins later than the publicised time, slick publicity & organisation don’t ensure you start on time!


The weather was pretty much perfect for running, cool with not much breeze, unusual for the Liverpool waterfront! For a music-themed race the start was a quiet affair with just the MC getting us to wave for the official cameraman before setting us off. I enjoyed the route, mainly because I am running for the first time in ages without niggling injuries or viruses. I didn’t have much of a nostalgia trip, but running down Mathew Street past a naff bronze statue of John Lennon I did remember going to Eric’s in the late ‘70s to see The Clash a couple of times. Bernadette was in a posse of runners that laughed with & applauded a one-legged spectator who egged them on with “best foot forward” & “one step at a time”! Liverpool is 10th in the list of UK cities with most green spaces - running through Princess & Sefton Parks in their full greenery was very pleasant. The last 3 miles along Otterspool Promenade was a flat wide dash for the finish with only a moderate breeze against us.


Despite most of the RRRs finishing within 30 minutes of each other (I think) we didn’t manage to meet up after the race, either in the Arena or on the concourse outside, which was a pity because there was a nice buzzy vibe around the music stage & the armed police cheerfully tolerated being continuously asked to pose for photos.

The ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Half’ brand is used in various cities around the world. The bling is impressive, with all sorts of medal incentives for you to run in more than one event or sign up for the next one. It wasn’t uncommon to see runners with 3 or 4 of these guitar & LP-shaped heavy medallions around their necks. Bernadette collected Liz’s ‘encore’ medal & to the sound of it chinking against her own finisher’s award we set off for the car & the obligatory visit to my mum.


RRR finishing times: Neil Bradley (2:24:16), Judith Bradley (2:13:46), Selina McLean & Paul Anderson (both 1:54:05), Jill Heywood & Ian Dale (both 2:03:31), Rob Nixon (1:53:42), Bernadette Ball (2:20:16), myself (1:49:03) & Garry Bower (1:52:29). Garry also ran the RnR 5K on the Saturday in 21:04, faster than any of his parkrun times. Great running Garry & congratulations to everyone else.  [Gary Smith]


A quick mention too for the RRRs who completed the full marathon in Liverpool - Andy Chadwick (4:40:57), Sarah Butler & Stephen Davies (both 5:20:36) & Steve Shaw, 3:54:23 for a remarkable 50th marathon since RRR became affiliated in 2003.

[David Emanuel]

AARON ASHFORTH MEMORIAL RACE - 23rd MAY 2017

30th October 2008 will always go down as the worst day in my entire life, when I had to endure a nightmare no parent should have to endure. Early one morning, while in the Lake District with my daughter Beth (aged just 10 at the time), I received a phone call from the police that my stepson Aaron had passed away from SUDEP during the night.


There are more than half a million people with epilepsy in the UK. Around 600 people die each year due to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (or SUDEP). Although the percentage of the population who are affected by SUDEP is relatively low, every death due to SUDEP is thought to be potentially avoidable.


SUDEP is a research priority & researchers have made an important breakthrough in discovering that an individual’s genetic makeup may contribute to the risk of SUDEP. However, in 2008 we were unaware that Aaron could be affected by SUDEP & just knew he had grand mal seizures, which were very severe, although he had only suffered from epilepsy for about 4-5 years prior to his death.


I then had to make the awful journey home & opted not to tell Beth the tragic news until we got home. The tragedy made me reassess my own life & contemplate that if a young man of 21 can die when they have their whole life set out in front of them then I have to seize every day, as you never know what is round the corner. So my motto became Carpe Diem (sieze the day).


At the time, Aaron was studying forensic computing at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston & was looking forward to moving to Canada once he had completed his degree. This started my running journey, as a group of his university friends decided to run the Silverstone Half Marathon in March 2009 & crazily I decided to join them, as at the time I was almost 18 stone! I struggled round this race in just under 2 hours 45 mins, but this journey eventually culminated in me joining Royton Road Runners in August 2013, which I can honestly say was the best thing I have ever done. Aaron would have been 30 on 26th May, so I was extremely honoured when Andy O’Sullivan, in conjunction with the RRR committee, allowed one of our club races to be dedicated to him.


Tuesday’s race was an extremely emotional occasion from a personal level, as anybody who saw me just after I’d finished will know, but I was honoured that so many runners turned out, including 64 from RRR. It was a hot, sticky night but Cowm Reservoir was a beautiful setting for the race, with many runners returning there after another club race held there earlier in the month. The run consists of a short lung-busting climb before 2 laps of the reservoir & a quick run down to the finish.


Due to the large number of RRRs there was a multitude of PBs & prizes for the club. Rob James continued his fine form since returning from injury, claiming 3rd place with a time of 16:36. He was closely followed by Chris Lowe (5th, 1st V45) in 17:40, with Shane Reading just behind in 17:50 (6th, 3rd V40). Jen Bloor continued her fine form, finishing in 18:59, which gave her 2nd place in the ladies race, with Sophie Wood following shortly behind in 19:24 to give her 3rd place.


Other RRR prize winners were Jenny O’Callaghan (2nd FV35, 28:59), Liz Phillips (3rd FV35, 29:14), Janet Jobey (1st FV40, 20:54), Helen Radcliffe (2nd FV40, 23:48), Selina McLean (3rd FV40, 23:52 - credit must be given to Helen & Selina for encouraging each other during the race), Val Kilburn (2nd FV45, 24:01), Jill Heywood (3rd FV45, 26:55),  Gail Shaw (2nd FV50, 26:50), Sue Heaney (1st FV55, 25:39), Bernadette Ball (2nd FV60, 29:14) & Sheila Phillips (3rd FV65, 34:37 in her 25th race for RRR). Our newly appointed press officer, Elliot Stone claimed an excellent 18th place overall (2nd V45, 19:04) & Bernie Goodwin wasn’t far behind (3rd V45, 19:15). Eamonn Nolan earned 1st V50 in 19:58, although his prize of a mug rather than a bottle of wine seemed strange & is still sat in my car boot! Rob Kellett claimed 2nd V50 (20:45) & there was a clean sweep of podium places in the V55 category with Mark Heaney, who continues to get faster & faster earning 1st V55 in 20:57, followed by Bernie Cassidy (21:16) & Gary Smith (22:47). Continuing the men’s prizes, Ronnie Quinn finished in an excellent time of 21:30 (2nd V60) & Rob Nixon shaved yet more time off his earlier run at Cowm in May to claim 3rd V60 (23:14). Completing the men’s prizes were Dave Phillips (1st V70, 23:53) to make a clean sweep of prizes for the Phillips household & George Meynell, starting his first race of 2017 (3rd V70, 31:32).


Funds from the race will go to SUDEP Action, which provides research into epilepsy deaths from SUDEP. My original plan after this race was to run Liverpool RNR Marathon for SUDEP, but unfortunately my rib injury meant this couldn’t happen. However, when I run the Lakeland 50 in July, I will be doing this to raise funds for SUDEP Action. I can’t thank the number of you that turned up to run on Tuesday night, it really meant so much to me. My tears on the 2nd lap were when I suddenly realised how many runners were taking part but also how many wonderful friends I have at RRR. Thanks again.


Other RRR finishers : Angela Rogowskyj (35:08), Emma Bower (completing her first race of 2017 in 32:06), Mary Freer (31:32), Sharon Dracup (in her 10th race for RRR, 30:07), Nefa Nessa (29:51), Amanda Richardson (29:31), Carol Robinson (who had a very good race, as she said so on Facebook, 29:02), Judith Bradley (running her first race for RRR in 28:47), Neil Bradley (also running his first RRR race, 28:28), Dave Watt (running his 25th race for RRR, 28:00), Martina Naismith (27:39), Steve Jones (27:18), Clare Darraugh (running her 25th race for RRR, 26:30), Jill Hickson (25:09), Phil Austin (24:59), myself (24:28), Rachel Shuttleworth (another who seems to be running faster and faster, 24:01), Paul Cooke (23:11), Chris Nicholson (22:58), Ray Williams (22:45), Lee Higginbottom (22:42), Garry Bower (22:25), Nick Mallon (22:01), Adrian Marshall (21:27), Jason Keast (21:12), Mark Rigby (21:00), Paul Wolstenhulme (20:39), Dave Freer (20:31), Rob Marsden (20:31), Matt Kilburn (20:18), Dave McBride (19:49), Carl O’Callaghan (19:49), Mick Wildbore (19:06), Michael Fleming (18:26), Paul Bannister (17:59), Jarrod Gritt (17:55) & Rob Battye (17:52).  [Simon Howard]

FOE EDGE FELL RACE - 24th MAY 2017
Jason Keast, Barry Greaves, newish RRR member Paul Wolstenhulme & I went out to Foe Edge for the 4th in the Run the Moors Grand Prix 2017 series of races.

Foe Edge starts in a field up from the back of a church hall in the pleasant-looking Cowpe village, found off the Rossendale to Bacup road. It's a church call that looked unchanged from the time of the Balfour Declaration.


About 150 of us were counted into a makeshift, taped ‘sheep-pen’ & after a minute's silence for Monday’s atrocity we were set off up the daunting, facing hill. This was almost thankfully so steep we had to scrabble & walk most of it before cresting the ridge. Looking up at the snaking cord of human figures ahead of me, making progress up the slope, provided a strong visual image of the essence of fell running (this was my first for two years). You’re away from the roads & parks, heading out onto the open moor, up close & personal with the sheep & those proliferating wind turbines. We ran in bright evening sunshine with most of the track dry, but some muddy & boggy parts. The real pleasure of fell running is when you’re trying to move at speed over randomly placed sharp rocks, boulders & hillocks, & through deep ruts on a downhill trajectory.


The hill is that steep down to the finish that you feel as if you’re about to run over a precipice. I thought that if I lost my balance then I’d still hit the finish by rolling the last bit downhill, like that daft cheese-rolling tradition they have. Instead I stayed in low gear & made it down safely.


Race over, we took the team RRR photo (above) with Barry looking as those he’s photo-bombed it. Don’t forget your RRR vest next time Barry! It’s great to be back fell-running.  [Gary Smith]

MILLTOWN OLDHAM 7K - 14th MAY 2017
2 club races in less than 72 hours? Not a problem for your typical Royton Road Runner. Of our 67 finishers on this challenging 7K route (25% of the total field), 46 had completed the Ian Casey 5K just a couple of evenings earlier. That included Rob James, producing another superb victory as he outsprinted Oldham & Royton’s Michael Mannings for a very satisfying win in 24:48.


Mannings, with the help of team-mates Tony Muir & Dave Carroll, did gain some form of revenge by claiming the men’s team prize, despite the fact that RRR had 6 of the 1st 10 to finish – Shane Reading (1st V40, 26:27) beating Jarrod Gritt on chip timing by just 3 tenths of a second, followed by Paul Joyce (8th, 26:31), Chris Lowe (9th, 1st V45, 26:39) & Robert Fairbanks (10th, 26:42). There was some confusion at the prize-giving beside the finish in Alexandra Park when no women’s team prize was awarded, but this was later corrected (with a little prompting from Janet Jobey) by Oldham Community Leisure. So congratulations to our winning trio of Jen Bloor (1st female in 29:03 despite being ill, or hungover, or possibly both), Sophie Wood (1st FU23, 29:42) & Janet herself (1st FV40, 31:42).


No age category prizes were awarded, but that’s not going to stop me recognising the other RRR ‘winners’ – Sheila Phillips (1st FV65, 52:18), Val Kilburn (1st FV45, 33:23), David Phillips (1st V70, 36:29) & Robert Nixon (1st V60, 35:31).


In contrast to those running a 2nd race in quick succession, Paul Joyce’s impressive 8th position was achieved in his 1st club championship appearance of the year. Others making their 2017 debut were Sharon Dracup (47:03), Rachel Wood (39:21), Chris Whiteman (38:53), Nick Mallon (34:29) & Dan Yarwood (28:53).


All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (55:28), Stephen Jones (53:35), Karen Stuttard (46:55), Amanda Richardson (44:17), Carol Robinson (43:53, just a day after her excellent RRR Cup victory at the same venue), Martina Naismith (40:35), Jillian Heywood (40:17), Gail Shaw (39:44), Jill Hickson (38:54), Lisa Cummins (38:47), Simon Lake (37:35), Martin Jones (36:42), Rachael Shuttleworth (36:31), Clare Darraugh (36:17), Phil Austin (36:10), Tony Kane (36:00), Helen Radcliffe (35:39), Paul Anderson & Selina McLean (both 35:30), Ray Williams (35:09), Garry Bower (34:51), Paul Cooke (34:24), Lee Higginbottom (34:14), Mark Heaney (32:26), Stewart Jones (31:56), Adrian Marshall (31:55), Jason Keast (31:49), David Crewe (31:48), Matt Kershaw (31:32), Rob Kellett (31:15), Bernie Cassidy (31:09), Rob Marsden (31:01), Matt Kilburn (30:53), David McBride (30:17), Dave Peart (30:11), Elliot Stone (29:49), Carl O’Callaghan (29:34), Bernie Goodwin (29:16), Michael Wildbore (28:58), Owen Flage (28:56), Shaun Armstrong (28:54), Neil Brock (28:41), me (28:26), Alan Bodell & Michael Pickering (both 28:13, with Michael pipping Alan after an impressive sprint finish which I was able to watch from an increasing distance), Michael Fleming (27:50), Richard Cummins (27:45), Rob Battye (27:02) & Paul Bannister (returning from a foot injury in a fine 26:47).


There’s a longer break now before the next club race, the Aaron Ashforth Memorial Race at Cowm on Tuesday 23rd May. I’m sure that you’ll do what RRR does best & turn up in large numbers!  [David Emanuel]

IAN CASEY MEMORIAL COWM RESERVOIR RACE - 11th MAY 2017
Incredible to think that it’s now 8 years since Ian Casey, one of our most enthusiastic & popular members, collapsed & died whilst taking part in the Gloucester Marathon. Andy O'Sullivan kindly puts on this race in his memory each year & it will be always be an integral part of the club championship. The 65 RRRs taking part was a little down on previous years but still made up more than half of the field & there were plenty more of our members marshaling or supporting. Andy has confirmed that the event raised £400 for various good causes, including the Children’s Heart Association.


Leading the way around the two laps of Cowm Reservoir in impressive style was Rob James. Rob may still be working his way back from injury but his 16:42 was only 6 seconds slower than last year’s winning time & almost a minute clear of Rochdale’s Chris Merchant in 2nd place.


Rob led a procession of RRRs across the line – 8 of the first 10 finishers, 17 of the leading 25. A remarkable 23 RRRs broke the 21-minute barrier. Amongst those was Jen Bloor, 17th overall in a fine 19:20 to claim victory in the women’s race ahead of Sophie Wood (23rd, 19:53). Janet Jobey followed a couple of speedy junior females to finish 1st FV40 in 21:28.


Making impressive debuts in RRR colours on a warm but breezy evening were Phil Austin (73rd, 24:30) & Mark Rigby (44th, 21:15). Good to have you on board! There were also a number making their 1st club championship appearance of 2017 – Sheila Phillips (1st FV65, 34:36), Sally Wood (96th, 27:32), Chloe Clegg & Lisa Howarth (fresh from their London Marathon exploits in joint 54th, 26:52), Teresa Hollins (2nd FV60, 25:47), David Phillips (1st V70, 24:43), John Williamson (41st, 21:09), Eamonn Nolan (36th, 20:44), David McBride (31st, 20:26) & Alan Bodell (1st V50, 19:07).


As RRR dominated the prize-giving, 2 others claimed age-category awards – Chris Lowe (1st V40, 4th overall in 17:49) & for the 1st time Jenny O’Callaghan (1st FV35, 28:59).


All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (2nd FV50, 36:44), Amanda Richardson (30:54), Nefa Nessa (30:19), Bernadette Ball (3rd FV60, 29:37), Dave Watt (29:01), Martina Naismith (27:32), Jillian Heywood (27:04), Stephen Jones (26:44), Jill Hickson (25:51), Sue Heaney (2nd FV55, 24:52), Rachael Shuttleworth (3rd SF, 24:45), Helen Radcliffe (3rd FV40, 24:40), Clare Darraugh (2nd FV40, 24:23), Martin Jones (24:06), Chris Nicholson (23:44), Rob Nixon (3rd V60, 23:39), Gary Smith (23:24), Paul Cooke (23:07), Garry Bower (22:58), Vikki Smith (3rd FV45, 22:42), Andy Chadwick (22:23), Val Kilburn (2nd FV45, 22:18), Lee Higginbottom (22:14 in his 1st race as a married man) Bernie Cassidy (3rd V55, 22:13), Stewart Jones (21:50), Adrian Marshall (21:45), Jason Keast (21:40), Paul Wolstenhulme (21:28), David Crewe (21:22), Mark Heaney (2nd V55, 21:13), Rob Kellett (21:12), Rob Marsden (20:53), Matt Kilburn (20:33), Bryan Lawton (20:28), Elliot Stone (20:09), Carl O’Callaghan (3rd V45, 19:49), Neil Brock (19:46), Michael Wildbore (19:31), me (3rd V50, 19:29), Bernie Goodwin (2nd V45, 19:26), Ian Dale (2nd V50, 19:16), Shaun Armstrong (10th, 18:42), Michael Fleming (9th, 18:34), Rob Battye (3rd V40, 18:30), Jarrod Gritt (7th, 18:25), Robert Fairbanks (6th, 18:03) & Shane Reading (5th, 17:51).


Another great tribute to Ian – many thanks to everyone who came along.  [David Emanuel]

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K – 3rd MAY 2017

Having struggled up the hill from Smithy Bridge & crossed the line around 20 seconds slower than in the 1st race of this series (19:45 for 2nd V50 - beaten, incidentally, by Paul Brannigan of Todmorden Harriers, who turned up for the race without his shorts & obtained a pair from the prize table; I still maintain that he should have been made to run in his pants), I decided that the main theme of this report would be how tough it is to run a 5K so soon after a marathon. Then I remembered how many RRRs managed to run that 1st race just 3 days after completing the Greater Manchester Marathon, while I'd had a full 10 days to recover from London. Not only that but several of those who finished hot on my heels here - Neil Brock (19:49, 3rd V50), Mick Wildbore (19:52), Carl O'Callaghan (19:53) & Sophie Wood (20:04, 1st FU23) - had also run at London & were considerably closer than they had been in April. Then there was Shane Reading (18:09, 2nd V40), another VLM finisher, way ahead of me here & only 3 seconds slower than at Race 1 despite the stiff headwind on the finishing descent from Hollingworth Lake. So maybe it's just that I'm getting old...

Shane's excellent performance meant that he was 2nd RRR finisher, preventing a repeat of the '3 Robs' team victory last year as he joined Rob James (2nd overall in a superb 16:45) & Rob Fairbanks (2nd V35, 18:13) to claim the men's prize, with the other Rob (Battye - 3rd V40, 18:20) only just behind. Our women also picked up their team prize, with Sophie combining with Jen Bloor (1st Female, 24th overall in a fine 19:33) & Janet Jobey (1st FV40, 21:49) to win by a distance from Todmorden Harriers. Remarkably, that means we've won both team prizes at every race in this series dating back to April 2015.

Not far behind our winning men's team there was a very impressive RRR debut from Paul Ashton (18th overall, 18:53), while Jill Hickson (6th FV40, 27:22) also ran well in her 1st club championship race. Age category prizes were tough to come by on this occasion, with a strong showing from Todmorden Harriers in particular, which means great credit should go to  Gail Shaw (1st FV50, 26:46), Diane Allingan (1st FV55, 25:10) & the in-form Mark Heaney (1st V55, 21:24).

All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (36:22), Amanda Richardson (30:28), Bernadette Ball (2nd FV60, 29:33), Brian Swindells (2nd V65, 29:29), Jenny O'Callaghan (very close to breaking 29 minutes in 29:03), Dave Watt (28:23), Martina Naismith (28:20), Stephen Jones (28:02), Jillian Heywood (27:27), Sue Heaney (2nd FV55, 25:32), Gary Marshall (25:16), Selina McLean (3rd FV40, 24:37), Helen Radcliffe (2nd FV40, 24:36), Robert Nixon (24:32), Martin Jones (24:20), Chris Nicholson (24:06), Simon Lake (3rd V55, 24:03), Gary Smith (2nd V55, 23:23), Kevin Heenan (23:12), Paul Cooke (23:08), Garry Bower (22:51), Andy Chadwick (22:48), Adam Stirling (22:18), Jason Keast (22:12), Adrian Marshall (22:01), David Crewe (21:41), Ronnie Quinn (3rd V60, 21:29), Rob Kellett (21:20), David Freer (21:11), Paul Wolstenhulme (20:59), Rob Marsden (20:53), David Ellis (20:06), Michael Pickering (19:58), Michael Fleming (20th, 19:02) & Jarrod Gritt (14th, 18:32).

A busy month coming up now! There are 3 more club races over 5K & 7K before we return to Littleborough to complete this series on 7th June. A good time for the speed merchants...  [David Emanuel]               

LONDON MARATHON - 23rd APRIL 2017

In a city of more than 9 million people, it’s amazing how often you bump into a fellow RRR on London Marathon weekend. It started for me on Friday, as I was minding my own business at Bank underground station on the way to pick up my number at the Expo, when Mick Wildbore appeared on the platform. After meeting several more in RRR green at ExCeL I spent Saturday with family outside of London, but on entering 'Green Start' on Sunday morning (after a long & unexpected climb from Maze Hill station) the first person I saw – in the toilet queue – was Bernie Goodwin. Waiting not far behind Bernie, rather fittingly, was a woman dressed as a toilet roll. Turns out this was Susan Ridgeon, who went on to set a new Guinness World Record. I’m sure she’s now feeling flushed with success (I think that's what they call 'toilet humour'; feel free to add your own loo-based joke here).


There were plenty of similarly fine achievements, mostly in more conventional running attire, from the 21 RRRs who completed this year’s race. Nefa Nessa broke the women’s marathon record on her debut for the distance (that was just in case any of her class find this report via a Google search; her time was in fact 5:28:46, achieved despite "a lack of running this last month") while there were also excellent 1st attempts from Lisa Howarth (5:48:15), Chloe Clegg (5:26:58) & Mick Wildbore (a remarkable 3:14:46). Lisa’s official time is pretty misleading, as she waited for some time to meet up with Chloe after they set off from different starts.


Leading RRR across the line – as he did last year - was Shane Reading, a superb new PB of 2:52:37 knocking more than 3 minutes off his 2016 time & placing him just inside the top 1.000 male finishers. Also breaking the 3-hour barrier for the 2nd year in a row were Dave Peart (82nd V50, 2:58:33) & Chris Lowe (114th V45, 2:55:25). Sophie Wood (3:26:11) added to the growing collection of sub-3:30 RRR women’s marathons with the 5th best time in the club’s history, despite an injury-plagued build-up. Only Jen Bloor (twice), Janet Jobey & Becki Robinson have run quicker in RRR colours. There's definitely more to come from Sophie!

Julie Greenwood & Eileen Ingham (right), accompanied by Gill Lowe, took their fairy outfits to a new level this year. Frequent selfie stops didn't prevent them getting round in 5:11:04, which gave Eileen an excellent 41st FV65 finish. June Allingan, despite nursing a heavy cold, went even better with 35th FV70 position in 6:10:50. That was almost as great an achievement as getting Steve Cram to don an RRR bobble hat at the Expo...

All the other RRR finishers: Tansy Wilson (6:54:33), Claire Timms (10 minutes quicker that last year in 4:50:16), Vikki Smith & Jimmy Beadman (both 3:47:04), Rob Marsden (3:38:10), Rochelle Evans (3:37:33, nearly 15 minutes quicker than 2016), Carl O'Callaghan (3:32:05), Bernie Goodwin (3:20:53, just 3 weeks after running 3:16:50 at Manchester), Neil Brock (3:18:47) & me (3:05:58). The disappointment I initially felt at once again failing to break 3 hours was soon offset by the realisation that this was the 1st time in my last 3 attempts that I'd managed to stay on my feet for the full 26.2 miles. No speed bump disasters this time!

If you fancy joining the RRR invasion of the capital in 2018, the public ballot opens on Monday 1st May. Trust me, it's worth it!  [David Emanuel]             

MIKE McGEE MEMORIAL COWM RESERVOIR 5K - 12th APRIL 2017

Another week, another great race put on by Andy O’Sullivan MBE. This was the 630th race Andy has put on & he has raised 10s of thousands of pounds for worthy causes. Tonight was no different, with the proceeds of this race going to Bowel Cancer UK.


Of the 87 runners that made the start line on a very cool & blowy evening there were 6 from RRR. The best story of the night came from Howard Dracup, who was out for a training run around the reservoir, saw the ‘Caution Runners’ signs & decided to call in to the Cock & Magpie pub on the off-chance it was race HQ.


At registration we were given a pack of Midget Gems (always a welcome treat) along with a Wilmslow Half medal - which I politely declined as I already have one, but all the children that entered seemed chuffed with it.


On to the race...if you’ve not run Cowm then you really should (the Ian Casey Memorial 5K on 11th May is an RRR club race) because after the short brutal hill at the start you are rewarded with a fairly flat 2 laps of the reservoir, followed by a fast run back down the hill to the finish. The course measures 3.05 miles so is a bit short of 5K but nonetheless it always provides a good race & a chance to really open your lungs.


Howard Dracup was the first of us home in 20th position in 20:40, then Mark Heaney (24th, 21:20) who I am really struggling to catch at the moment. The rest of our finishers were Rob Nixon (51st, 24:37), Andy Chadwick (41st, 23:32 for a course PB), Garry Bower (34th, 22:43) & Steve Shaw (30th, 22:06).


Have a look at this website to find other Andy O’Sullivan races plus many others! 

[Garry Bower]

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K – 5th APRIL 2017

The RRR Club Championship has reached its 4th race of the season, the 1st of the Littleborough 5K series. This time last year I was unable to take part in the race due to an injury which ultimately wiped out my entire season. So to be walking into race HQ to collect my race number, pin it to my RRR vest & step onto the start line was an incredibly proud moment for me. There were plenty of other RRRs taking part, including Paul Anderson, Garry Bower, Andy Chadwick, Paul Cooke, Stephen Davies, Jillian Heywood & Matthew Kilburn, all fresh (or crazy) following their recent marathon exploits.


In no time at all it was "three, two, one" (or was it "on your marks, get set, go"?) & we were off! The start of the race is fast & flat as you head towards the train station, then loop right & back on yourself to join the footpath that takes you to Smithy Bridge Road. Now I don't know about you, but whenever I'm getting ready for a race I have certain words or phrases I tell myself. These are usually things like "don't go out too hard", "concentrate on your breathing", etc & they are generally the same for most races. Except for this one, where "don't run into the bollard" is always at the forefront of my mind. The bollard in question is situated right at the start of the footpath, on its own & ready to take out any unsuspecting runner. Thankfully all of us passed by unscathed. 


Once the bollard has been avoided it's a 1K run along the path before you reach Smithy Bridge Road & turn left. At this point I was running with Garry Bower, who was laughing & smiling & looked for all the world like he hadn't ran 26.2 miles a few days earlier.


Once on Smithy Bridge Road the route begins to climb up towards Hollingworth Lake.  This stretch of the route is always a little fraught with danger, with motorists pulling out of side streets seemingly oblivious to the stream of runners coming towards them.  It reminded me of a phrase used by the organiser of the Dewsbury 10k earlier in the year: "Non-running motorists are ****s".  How very true.


At the top of the hill you turn left & the route begins to flatten out as you head towards the Wine Press, with the lake to your right hand side.  From the Wine Press you follow the road as it bends left. By this stage I could see the nearest RRR in front of me was Simon Lake. With a long downhill all the way to the finish I tried my best to catch Simon, but he was too quick for me and I couldn't close the gap.


At the awards presentation after the race there were plenty of individual prizes won by RRRs: Sophie Wood (1st female, 20:06), Diane Allingan (1st FV55, 24:56), Val Kilburn (1st FV45, 22:05), Rochelle Evans (1st FV40, 22:27), Natalie Fitzpatrick (1st FV35, 22:44), Brian Swindells (1st V65, 29:47), Mark Heaney (1st V55, 20:55) & Ian Dale (1st V50, 19:17). RRR also won the team prizes in both male & female categories. Sophie Wood, Val Kilburn & Vikki Smith (22:24) won in a combined time of 1:04:42, with Paul Bannister (17:44), Jarrod Gritt (18:03) & Shane Reading (18:06) doing the same in 53.58. Unfortunately, despite rehearsing their acceptance speeches in the toilets & having a smart change of clothing in their cars, neither Martin Jones (22:56) nor Andy Chadwick (25:09) finished in medal positions. Thankfully I was able to console them by reminding them that there are still 2 more races in this series to go, the next of which is on the 3rd May.


All other RRR finishers: Mary Freer (33:35), June Allingan (33:38), Bernadette Ball (29:57), Jillian Heywood (27:57), Stephen Davies (27:43), Gail Shaw (26:37), Garry Bower (24:53), me (24:15), Simon Lake (24:02), Paul Anderson (23:58), Selina McLean (23:57), Gary Smith (23:46), Kevin Heenan (23:24), Paul Cooke (23:19), Adam Stirling (22:48), Adrian Marshall (21:53), Dave Freer (21:51), Dave Crewe (21:19), Lee Higginbottom (21:12), Rob Kellett (20:57), Paul Wolstenhulme (20:45 on his 1st appearance in RRR colours), Matthew Kilburn (20:43), Bryan Lawton (20:30), Rob Marsden (20:27), Elliot Stone (20:21), Michael Wildbore (19:35) & David Emanuel (19:27).  [Chris Nicholson]

GREATER MANCHESTER MARATHON – 2nd APRIL 2017

The Greater Manchester Marathon is a tough challenge. After all the build-up & preparation, everyone is under pressure to make sure things go right on the day. We make sure to arrive early, probably earlier than strictly necessary, keen to get started. Initially all is calm & relaxed, as those involved make their final preparations, but once things get going there’s barely time to think during several hours of non-stop activity.


That is how it was on the RRR drinks station anyway. I assume that those taking part in the race experienced something similar…


Led superbly once again by Mary Freer, all the volunteers on the drinks station did a great job - a combination of handing out refreshments, clearing the road of discarded detritus, shouting encouragement to as many competitors as possible & (in a few cases) accompanying a weary runner for the remaining 2 miles to the finish. As if that wasn't enough, this generous bunch donated lunch monies totalling £100 to the RRR charity of the year. In the early stages it looked as though June Allingan had lost her magic touch – despite her prominent position at the front of the line, to which she is entitled as RRR Lady Presidentess, the leading runners completely ignored her & it was Rob Marsden who claimed the coveted title of ‘1st RRR to give out a drinks bottle’. June soon hit her stride, however, & before long we were all very busy as the massed ranks of athletes started to arrive, thirsts urgently in need of quenching on an increasingly warm & sunny day. This year we had the added bonus of giving out gels as well as water & this was incorporated seamlessly into our slick routine. Some of us suspected that there wouldn’t be much demand for this extra energy boost just 2 miles from the finish, but how wrong we were (although the benefits at such a late stage are more likely to be psychological than physical). Feedback from many of the (admittedly slightly biased) RRR race participants was that ours was again the best station on the course. Whether members of other clubs felt the same, particularly those whose names Ronnie Quinn repeatedly & probably deliberately got wrong (‘Garlic’ instead of ‘Barlick’ Fell Runners was my particular favourite), I guess we’ll never know.


I suppose I ought to give a mention to the multitude of RRRs who actually took part in the race (although obviously they had a much easier day). Despite the conditions there were some stunning performances, particularly from the numerous marathon debutants. Amongst these was Janet Jobey, completing her 1st 26.2 mile event in a remarkable 3:25:13. A measure of this achievement is that only 4 times before in the history of the club have any of our female runners broken the 3:30 barrier. Amazingly, that feat was achieved on this occasion not just by Janet but also Debbie Fiddling (3:28:31 for a wonderful 8th FV50) & Jen Bloor (a new club record 3:13:08 & a seriously impressive 7th senior female). In fact only twice before have any of these times been bettered, both at Manchester – Becky Robinson’s 3:14:26 in 2015 & Jen’s previous marathon best of 3:17:30 last year.


Others completing impressive first marathons alongside Janet included Rob Battye (3:12:48), Michael Fleming (3:26:04), Shaun Armstrong (3:31:07), Michael Pickering (3:43:15), Helen Radcliffe (4:21:16), Garry Bower (4:34:24) & Stephen Davies (4:53:06). At the other extreme David Phillips (4:20:48) finished in a fantastic 8th V70 position in his 20th (& possibly last?) marathon.


There was also a noteworthy achievement by the 1st club member to cross the line - Rob Fairbanks joined the elite (but growing) group of RRRs to have run a marathon in less than 3 hours with an expertly-paced 2:59:21. That certainly gives Paul Bannister a target to chase when he runs at Boston in less than 2 weeks’ time.


Just as impressive were the RRRs who sacrificed their own marathon ambitions to help a fellow club member achieve their goal. These included Paul Anderson pacing Paul Cooke (3:59:52) to his 1st sub-4 hour finish, David Ellis helping Nick Mallon to a debut 4:13:30 & Matt Kilburn guiding Rachael Shuttleworth around her own 1st marathon in 4:13:56.


All the other RRR finishers: Nick Cuff (3:14:03), Bernie Goodwin (3:16:50), Gill Lowe (3:43:32), Richard Fiddling (3:44:57), Stewart Jones (3:45:47), Jason Keast (4:05:11), Colin Green (4:16:34), James Wright (4:18:27), Sue Heaney (4:27:06), Jillian Heywood (4:28:14), Robert Nixon (4:32:50), Rachel Wood (4:40:27), Sally Wood (4:44:09), Andrew Chadwick (4:44:55), Stacey Andrew (5:47:53) & Karen Stuttard (5:52:14). Well done all!  [David Emanuel]

WILMSLOW HALF MARATHON - 19th MARCH 2017

12 RRRs ran in what was, 3 years ago, a championship race; after running it for the 1st time I wouldn’t mind seeing it back on the list. The route takes in some lovely views of Cheshire & gives us a glimpse into how the other half live - I wouldn’t like to guess the prices of some of the houses we ran past.


Martin Jones commented that he had never seen so many marshals on a race route & I must agree. They were everywhere around the course, in at least pairs but mostly many more than this, all giving brilliant encouragement to the runners. There were also lots of children seeking high-fives & it all added to a brilliant on-course atmosphere. Pacers were also provided at various finish times, which I am sure those seeking a PB would have found very useful. So all-in-all a very well-organised race; since it has been run since 1984 you would expect the well-oiled machine which it is.


Anyway I bet you are wondering how the 12 of us performed. 1st home was Nick Cuff as the 167th male (SM103) in 1:25:03, followed by Jen Bloor with an impressive 13th female (9th SF). In a very strong field, attracted by a total prize fund of £10,000, Jen really did our club proud.


Special mention to Adam Stirling who achieved a PB of 1:46:48 (912th male, 448th SM). Adam is getting stronger all the time, I'm sure there are plenty more PBs to come (as well as finishing ahead of me).


The rest of the RRR finishers were Peter Boulton (2:23:30, M 1934th, MV65 25th), Tansy Wilson (2:22:22, F 912th, FV40 190th), Charlotte Chadwick (F 895, FV40 186th), Martin Jones (1:58:14, M 1444th, SM 667th), Garry Bower (1:54:23, M 1444th, MV45 203rd), Kirsty White (AKA Amanda Lane, 1:42:52, F 109th, FV40 24th), Neil Farrell (1:40:02, M 650th, MV50 68th), Mark Wilde (1:32:26, M 367th, SM 198th) & Bernard Goodwin (1:31:06, M 333rd, MV45 46).  [Garry Bower]

TRIMPELL 20 - 19th MARCH 2017
A breezy day in Lancaster for this popular marathon warm-up race, but it stayed mostly dry & the 10 RRRs who took part will be relieved that they didn't face the conditions 'enjoyed' by those simultaneously running the Oldham Way Ultra.

The new Trimpell course, introduced for the 1st time last year, starts & finishes at the historic Lancaster Castle, currently undergoing extensive renovation works. It's probably the only race in the country where numbers are collected & bags stored in a row of prison cells. Unfortunately castles tend to be built on the top of hills & this one is no exception, meaning that the 20 miles ends with a steep climb from the River Lune, with a particularly painful few yards on (slippery) cobblestones to the finish line. The sole wheelchair athlete told me that he'd never have made it home if 2 race marshals hadn't given him a helping hand.

Apart from that daunting finish the route is mostly fast & flat, involving two out-and-back stretches, the 2nd alongside the river. Paul Bannister & Rob Fairbanks led the way for RRR, finishing in 26th & 28th position respectively in very impressive times of 2:11:34 & 2:12:23 which sets them up very nicely for their April marathons (Paul in Boston, Rob at Manchester). Carl O'Callaghan (12th V45) & Michael Wildbore (17th V40) are both heading for London & ran together in an expertly-paced 2:28:14 - a full 12 minutes quicker than Carl ran in 2016 in much easier conditions - while Val Kilburn & Vikki Smith did the same, finishing in an excellent 2:50:20 for joint 7th FV45. Sophie Wood (26th female finisher) ran 2:37:33, an almost identical time to last year despite her recent injury problems, closely followed by Rob Marsden (2:39:34). Stacey Andrew crossed the line in 4:26:49 while I managed 5th V50 in 2:23:14. Another excellent day out!  [David Emanuel]    
DENTDALE RUN - 11th MARCH 2017
With accounts of the Dewsbury 10K & Oulton Park Half Marathon written by 'guest reporters' Elliot Stone & Gary Smith respectively, the bar has certainly been raised! I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about maintaining that standard.

Fortunately I get to write about the excellent Dentdale Run. There have been countless memorable moments in the many years that we've been taking a trip to this lovely valley in the Dales. There was the time Chris Eavers managed to demolish an enormous 'Cumberland sausage & double egg' meal in the Sun Inn. In a later year, who could forget Mr Eavers wobbling down the aisle of the coach in a pair of high heels? Then there was the crazy decision to consume a full English breakfast at the service station on the way to the race. Actually, that was Chris too. Seems most of my memories of previous trips involve him & food...

Chris was there again this year, on his best behaviour & sufficiently recovered from the calf strain which spoiled his Oulton Park race to finish 11th V60 in a time of 1:59:14. He was one of a record-breaking 56 RRRs to complete the traditional 14-and-a-bit mile circuit, making a grand total of 60 when you add the four who took part in the new 7.9-miler - Rob Kellett (21st in 57:33), Mark Heaney (84th, 1:09:18), Chloe Clegg (134th, 1:20:52) & Lisa Howarth (135th, 1:20:58). The coach was so full that Bernie Goodwin feared at one point that he'd overbooked & would have to sit on the driver's lap for the journey north.

The introduction of the new, shorter race seemed to have a big impact on entry numbers, with a combined field more than double that in 2016. The longer race alone attracted 35% more runners & there seemed to be more club groups present than in previous years (including a strong team from Quakers Running Club who just pipped us for the men's team prize). This may explain why we were prevented from taking our usual parking spot, instead being directed onto hardstanding on the outskirts of the village. It was only a slightly longer walk to registration & the start, but it felt much further on the way to & from the showers afterwards.

Both races set off together in perfect running conditions. The 14.2-miler followed the traditional undulating circuit, with all the familiar features including spectacular scenery, endless dry stone walls, two curious llamas & those painful cobbles on the run in to the finish (although I'm pleased to say that I missed the dead pheasant that some others spotted).

The highlight of the race was a superb defence of the women's team prize that RRR won in 2016. For the 2nd year in a row this was achieved without the likes of Kirsty White, Jen Bloor & Sophie Wood. Last year it was Debbie Shaw, Val Kilburn & Julie Greenwood who claimed the title; amazingly this time is was a completely different trio - Janet Jobey (3rd FV35, 7th female overall, 1:47:09), Debbie Fiddling (5th FV45, 11th overall, 1:49:39) & Rochelle Evans (5th FV35, 1:50:28).                 

After another great battle between our faster male runners, the leading 4 crossed the line within a few minutes of each other in exactly the same order as at Oulton Park. Club captain Shane Reading (1:30:14) was again 1st RRR to finish, closely followed by Paul Bannister (19th, 1:30:59), Jarrod Gritt (20th, 1:31:19) & Rob Fairbanks (25th, 1:33:00). Shane was unfortunate to find himself in an incredibly competitive age category - his 18th position overall was only good enough for 12th V40.

A number of club members chose this challenging distance for their 1st club appearance of the year, including Robert Nixon (2:15:01), Ray Williams (2:06:18), David Crewe (2:00:13), Steve Shaw (1:55:55), Andy Schofield (1:48:57), Bernie Cassidy (almost certainly running against doctor's orders in 1:47:14) & Richard Cummins (3rd V50, 1:36:51).

It's only fair to report that not everyone enjoyed the running bit of this year's Dentdale experience. Selina McLean (2:09:04) completed the course alongside Paul Anderson & subsequently posted that "I definitely won't be doing it again". Carol Robinson (3:02:05) described it as "pure hell". By contrast Jenny O'Callaghan (2:41:30) ran round happily with Claire Timms (2:41:31) & Tracey Hall (2:41:32), with no evidence of the 'Runner's Tourettes' which husband Carl (1:39:20) had predicted.

All the other RRR finishers: Mary Freer (2:39:09), Nefa Nessa (2:38:13), Bernadette Ball (2:35:45), Jillian Heywood (2:29:40), Sue Heaney (2:19:21, 10th FV55), Clare Darraugh (2:17:33), Lisa Cummins (2:13:17), Martin Jones (2:10:46), Jason Keast (2:07:54), David Smith (2:07:16), Helen Radcliffe (2:07:01), Tony Kane (2:03:53), Gary Smith (2:03:17), Garry Bower (2:02:54), Lee Higginbottom (2:02:50), Paul Cooke (2:00:53), Elliot Stone (1:57:47), Vikki Smith (1:57:09), Simon Howard (1:56:58), David Freer (1:55:14), Val Kilburn (1:54:59), Neil Farrell (1:54:47), Stewart Jones (1:54:14), Bernie Goodwin (1:50:28), Rob Marsden (1:47:14), Matt Kilburn (1:46:49), Richard Fiddling (1:43:58), Michael Wildbore (1:39:40), Neil Brock (1:38:59), Ian Dale (1:37:45), Dave Peart (1:37:11, 4th V50 on his debut in the category), Shaun Armstrong (1:36:36), Owen Flage (1:35:11) & me (1:34:23, 1st V50).

Sadly (for me at least!) that's the last of the longer club races for a while - there's nothing further than 10K until August, so it's time for the speed merchants to take over. Next up is the 1st of the Littleborough 5K series on 5th April - if you intend to run it's worth pre-entering!  [David Emanuel]

OULTON PARK HALF MARATHON - 26th FEBRUARY 2017

Oulton Park is in a part of the world that doesn’t seem to attract too much attention, but you know when you’re in the land of posh when you pass the Cheshire Polo Club on the way in. On arrival we joined a slow-moving registration queue & I had time to wonder out loud that this could put a crimp in our pre-race nervous excitement if it started raining heavily from a threatening sky for the part of the queue outside the entrance.


Registration done, everyone wandered onto the starting grid & then with a fanfare of nothing we set off. In the absence of some guy in ear defenders holding taut a green flag before whisking it away, the revving of engines to screaming point & then the screech of tyres, my visualisation strategy of being in an F1 cockpit alongside Hamilton was ditched.

 

In anticipation of needed motivation to do the same course 6 times without flagging, I had as usual left it too late to resurrect an old ipod mini sans charger, so Bernadette had kindly lent me hers. However her running playlists were - as I discovered too late - not ‘power trax’ by AC/DC & the like, but James Taylor & other easy listening songs! Must have a word...


Thankfully the rain held off & most of the circuit didn’t feel the wind - which did, however, blow strongly in the runners’ faces in some sections. The race progressed. It was good to get the 1st & then the 2nd laps out of the way. The closed circuit wasn’t too long, but I was surprised how quickly our own RRR shocktroops came round to lap me. Shane first, followed by the usual suspects in quick succession. I had seen RRRs out on their own on weekdays first thing, running in addition to the club training runs, attending Brian’s track training, racking up the mileage & it was clearly paying off for them. Yet there is another aspect to our club, noted by a post to our Facebook page, which is worth recording in this report: "Whilst going around the track I noticed one of your female runners giving encouragement to other runners that were struggling & spurring on a number of the other competitors. We had a brief chat but unfortunately i didn’t catch her name or number. Just to say sometimes there’s more to competing than times & PBs. A couple of words of encouragement could be the difference between giving up or keep pushing on & I’m sure she got a fair few people pushing on. It didn’t go unnoticed. Thank you." Rob Battye (1:26:12) also posted that a runner on his shoulder couldn't believe how many RRRs were on the course & the support we all gave each other going round. "Must be great to run for a great club," he said.


Selina McLean (1:54:17) encouraged me to ‘go for it’ when I pushed on to cross the line in 1:49:30 & most if not all the RRRs who went past me at full throttle took the trouble to give me words of encouragement. These gave me more of a boost than my reserve visualisation technique of coming off the bank ahead of Bryan Lawton in the keirin.  Many RRRs do not obsess about PBs but run & participate for their own reasons. These observations are testament to the friendly, supportive club we are all part of. Sharon Dracup was not running today, Lisa Howarth & Chloe Clegg had earlier completed the 10K, but all were there to give their support.


The race over, Rochelle Evans (3rd FV40, 1:41:28) flummoxed me when she told me that she had won a ‘golden ticket’. Is there really a Willy Wonka chocolate factory? I regress so easily! She went onto explain that it allowed her to pick a free race in the Xtra Mile series.  And Jenny O’Callaghan (2:18:55) made me laugh when she didn’t finish the ‘take as many as you want’ brazil, goji & chia (sic) protein snacks that were "like rabbit food". Yes they were! And they even looked like those pellets that you give to wabbits!


Big commiserations to Chris Eavers who after complaining in club training  that he wasn’t completely race ready to a sceptical me, had to pull up, but managed to finish the race in 1:53:37.


The presentation of the prizes was hardly ceremonious, with no women's team prize (which we would have won) & our leading men's trio pipped by Sale Harriers. Yet we did get age category prizes for Shane Reading (1st V40, 11th overall, 1:21:54), Kirsty White (1st FV40, 4th overall, 1:36:15), Debbie Fiddling (1st FV50, 1:39:11 as she joined the 50 Club), Susan Heaney (1st FV55, 2:02:34) & Ronnie Quinn (1st V60, 1:43:52).  Ronnie might entrust Everton with his trophy so they at least have something in their trophy cabinet. Some seriously gutsy running here!


All the other RRR finishers: Karen Stuttard (2:28:13), Nefa Nessa (2:27:55), Carol Robinson (2:24:31), Bernadette Ball (3rd FV60, 2:18:36), Clare Darraugh (2:06:47), Dave Watt (1:57:25), Scott Hampson (1:52:58 on his club debut), Garry Bower (1:50:03), Paul Cooke (1:47:29), Lee Higginbottom (1:47:11), Simon Howard (1:43:49), Neil Farrell (1:43:42), Jason Keast (1:42:38), Janet Jobey (2nd FV40, 1:37:25), Rob Marsden (1:37:15), Dave Hall (3rd V55, 1:36:25), Shaun Armstrong (1:36:14), Paul Anderson (1:34:53), Elliot Stone (1:34:03), Richard Fiddling (1:33:42), Michael Wildbore (1:33:38), Bernie Goodwin (1:32:21), Carl O'Callaghan (1:31:31), Neil Brock (1:30:38), Ian Dale (3rd V50, 1:28:53), David Emanuel (2nd V50, 1:27:29), Dave Peart (1:27:15), Owen Flage (3rd V40, 1:25:47), Robert Fairbanks (2nd V35, 1:24:57), Jarrod Gritt (1:24:14) & Paul Bannister (another RRR debutant in 1:23:45).  


Although quite a few shot back home to watch United, the large number of RRRs participating, of all abilities, gave the whole afternoon the feel of club family day out & was all the more enjoyable for that.  [Gary Smith)
WREXHAM VILLAGE BAKERY HALF MARATHON - 19th FEBRUARY 2017

Royton Road Runners go abroad! Well just over the border, into Wales for the Wrexham Village Bakery Half Marathon. The price of this race was just too tempting for me not to enter - the £18 included a medal & the promise of some baked goods from the bakery, so I twisted the arms of Jillian Heywood & Simon Howard to join me for this one. On arrival, walking in to Race HQ, we bumped in to Eileen Ingham & Julie Greenwood giving us 5 RRRs in a field of 1422 runners.


The race starts in the middle of Wrexham Industrial Estate & on driving in it looked like the scenery was going to be a bit grim, but we needn’t have worried. Once we got out of the estate we were running through lovely country lanes, with open fields either side. It was my kind of running environment & the weather gods had been very kind, light wind & 10 degrees with sunny spells, perfect conditions.


The course consists of 1 small loop & 1 larger loop with a total elevation of 170 feet, which when compared to the Oldham Half (1200 feet) makes this route pancake flat, although to me we seemed to be gently climbing all the time & I didn’t notice the downhills at all. 


Simon Howard led us home - considering he had done his RRR Cup race at Oldham parkrun the day before (getting a new PB) & then run cross-country afterwards, his time of 1:47:22 was very impressive. This put him 642nd overall & 89th V45. Next in was myself in 1:53:39 (742nd, 99th V45)  - I had a good run considering I was coming back from a very rough cold.


Now for our ladies. Jillian Heywood came home in 2:04:10 (1026th, 41st FV45). Jillian had also run the cross-country race at Chorley the day before, despite failing in her appeal for other ladies to help make up an RRR team. Next was Eileen Ingham in 2:14:40, 1190th but brilliantly the 1st VF65. Well done Eileen - plenty more wins this season for you I think. The sad news is that Julie Greenwood pulled up injured & failed to finish. Hopefully it’s nothing serious & we'll see her at another race very soon.


So all in all a very good race for a very good price, as generally seems to be the case for Cute Fruit Events (check them out - the Colshaw Hall 10K in June is another top race). The medal was very good & the baked products? A pack of 6 crumpets. Jill’s only contained 5 - I swapped with her, so she was happy. Next up Oulton Park on 26th February, see you all there!  [Garry Bower]

SOUTH-EAST LANCS CROSS-COUNTRY (CHORLEY) - 18th FEBRUARY 2017
So close & yet so far! We went into this final cross-country race of the winter in 2nd place in both the senior men's & senior women's competitions, but sadly couldn't hang on to podium positions in either. With the SEL series finishing in the picturesque surroundings of Astley Park, rather than the usual much tougher season-ending race at Boggart Hole, our inability to field a complete women's team proved vital. As did the fact that the RRR men's team was so depleted that 4th counter was an old bloke suffering from a bad back...

Just 11 RRRs made the trip to Chorley - our smallest turnout of the 8 races this winter - as marathon training took priority for many. Only Jillian Heywood (59th, 10th FV45) & Sophie Wood (a welcome return from injury) made it to the senior women's start line, but both ran strongly. Sophie was "taking it easy" but still finished in 10th place, putting her in an excellent 6th for the series overall. The team thus dropped to 5th place in the standings, just a single point behind Burnden in 3rd.

The men's team also finished an agonising 1 point outside the medals, despite the best efforts of Jarrod Gritt (a fine 13th), Rob Fairbanks (15th) & Michael Fleming (38th despite having run his RRR Cup match at Oldham parkrun in the morning). I managed to be next to cross the line (55th, 8th V50), closely followed by Mike Bundy (69th, 9th V40). There followed a great battle between Lee Higginbottom (92nd) & Simon Howard (93rd, 14th V45), with their sprint for the line taking both of them past Oldham & Royton's Darren Mannings. The team was completed by Martin Jones (110th) & Ray Williams (112th, 19th V50). Ray was one of 5 (along with Rob, Michael, Mike & I) to complete all 4 of the SEL races.

There was some consolation in the series results, as performances in the 3 previous races were enough to keep us in the silver medal position in the men's V40 series. Shane Reading & Carl O'Callaghan also held onto their individual 2nd positions in the V40 & V45 categories respectively.  A fine effort!  [David Emanuel]                         

DEWSBURY 10K - 5th FEBRUARY 2017

It was that time again - the 1st race of the year. For some, this would be where ambitions met the reality of hard graft. For others, it’d be the chance to see how well the marathon training was coming on. For a few it would be their first race in an RRR vest & that is an achievement always worth noting.


After a ridiculously early start, Ronnie Quinn & I set off over the Pennines. The excitement built as we passed the ‘highest motorway in Britain’ sign on the M62. Through the fog, we wound our way down into Dewsbury. This old mill town is the birthplace of the Brownlee brothers & as we arrived a smile of delight appeared on my face as I envisaged Ronnie 'doing a Jonny’ somewhere close to the finishing line.


We arrived at race HQ, not surprisingly, in plenty of time. The standard hoard of green RRR sweatshirts was there to meet us. It was the first time since 2011 that Dewsbury had been a club race & the 62 who took part easily beat the previous record of 40. After a short chat with some of the others we proceeded to make our way to the start, passing the bemused market stall holders as we went. The starting line was directly under a large bed factory & I think a few of us wouldn’t have minded sampling its wares. However, after a quick warm-up through a maze of steep back-streets, most of us were ready to go (though some found themselves halfway to Leeds).


The course was an ‘out & back’ (or should that be owt n’ back?) up the ring road heading towards Batley. The uphill section, ironically passing through an area called Mount Pleasant, was the ‘out’ section, with the return downhill, which suggested most people would be getting negative splits & fast finishes.


So, how did we all do? Given that the race organisers have subsequently confirmed that the course was 200 metres too long there were some pretty impressive performances. First past the tape for RRR was Rob James with a 34:48 chip time (all times shown here are 'chip' rather than 'gun' times), seemingly determined to defend his 'club champion' title. Rob was closely followed home by Shane Reading (36:31 for 4th V40, making his one millionth consecutive appearance) & Jarrod Gritt (36:38), who threatens to make a dent in the Premiership top 3 this year. In the women’s race Jen Bloor (38:54) started off where she finished last year by coming out on top. She was followed by the ever-reliable Kirsty White (42:26. 9th FV40) & the ever-improving Janet ‘Tigger’ Jobey (43:14). Interestingly, Stewart Jones (47:21) had stealthily tried to break into the women’s top 3 by racing as Yvonne Phoenix, but was sadly unsuccessful.


Honourable mentions for top 10 age-category finishes in a very strong field must go to Chris Lowe (37:14, 3rd V45), Debbie Shaw (44:50, 5th FV50), Ronnie Quinn (44:32, 6th V60), Val Kilburn (45:09, 8th FV45 despite a heavy mid-race fall), Mark Heaney (47:11, 9th V60) & Sue Heaney (55:28, 9th FV55). Although I’m sure there were many more, PBs were gained by Shane Reading & Ronnie Quinn. In fact Ronnie’s was the best time by anyone aged over 100...


A special mention & well-done to the RRR first-timers Martina Naismith (56:49), Andrew Chadwick (49:00) & Paul Anderson (42:40).


All the other RRR finishers: Amanda Lane (1:10:09, definitely not amongst the 'stragglers' mentioned in the pre-race communications), Mary Freer (1:06:21), Amanda Richardson (1:05:32), Adrian Bowcock (1:02:43), Tracey Hall & Jenny O'Callaghan (both 1:02:32), Bernadette Ball (1:01:46), Becky Mercer (1:01:19), Liz Phillips (56:51), Jillian Heywood (56:40), Lisa Cummins (53:54), Gail Shaw (53:32), Chris Nicholson (53:26), Rachael Shuttleworth (52:07), Helen Radcliffe (51:32), Martin Jones (51:26), Selina McLean (51:24), Lee Higginbottom (51:05), Tony Kane (50:44), David Smith (50:32), Dave Watt (49:21), Damian Mercer (49:14), Gary Smith (48:00), Vikki Smith (47:18), Dave Freer (46:38), Paul Cooke (46:03), Rochelle Evans (45:19), Neil Farrell (45:13), Simon Howard (44:58), Jason Keast (44:44), Matt Kilburn (43:39), Elliot Stone (42:57), Bryan Lawton (42:49), Matt Kershaw (42:35), Dave Peart (41:53), Mick Wildbore (41:18), Carl O'Callaghan (40:56), Neil Brock (40:09), Bernie Goodwin (39:45), David Emanuel (39:35), Brad Howard (39:27), Ian Dale (39:07), Michael Fleming (38:39), Owen Flage & Nick Cuff (both 38:16) & Shaun Armstrong (38:04).    


Finally, a well-done to all who competed & supported this event & made it another great RRR day out. Next (pit) stop is Oulton Park Half Marathon on Sunday 26th February.  [Elliot Stone]

 

(SHAMELESS PLUG: I am currently training to be a freelance writer/journalist & need to build up a portfolio of work, so that I can generate some business. The ’writing’ covers articles or features for any publications such as magazines, newspapers, club or association magazines, ‘in-house’ publications & so on. If you, or anyone you know, might be interested, please contact me by email. Many thanks – Elliot.)       

SOUTHPORT MAD DOG 10K - 5th FEBRUARY 2017

In a field of 2,525 runners, 14 RRRs turned up for what was for the last few years the first of our Club Championship races, but this year had been removed in favour of the Dewsbury 10K.


This race has a reputation for tough weather conditions but this year we were rewarded with no wind & sun, making the old motto of 'dress for the second half of the race' even more important, as some of us had to discard gloves etc part way round & regretted putting long sleeves on.


It was strange not having lots other RRRs to look out for on the course & use them to drag you around, but I personally made up for this by chasing down an Oldham & Royton runner & then someone dressed as Scooby Doo. I wasn’t going to be beaten by someone in fancy dress if I could help it!


The course is almost pancake flat & is a great place (weather permitting) to get a PB - which Rob Fairbanks, our 1st runner home in 14th place, did with a fantastic time of 36:42 (8th SM). Rob was followed home by Paul Bannister in 20th position (37:14, 12th SM) & then our first lady Sophie Wood. Sophie told me in the starting pen that she was going to take it easy...I then waved her goodbye as she disappeared into the distance on the 1st straight to finish in 77th place & 9th SF (41:16). Take it easy Sophie, we have an RRR Cup match to race very soon...


We should also give a glowing reference to David Phillips for his M70 category win with a time of 49:22 (488th overall). I am sure he is going to be collecting quite a few more prizes this year based on this evidence.


The other RRR finishers were Rob Marsden (42:32, 113th, 48th SM), Dan Yarwood (45:13, 224th, 90th SM), Garry Bower (48:25, 409th, 113th M40), Adam Stirling (48:31, 415th, 139th SM), Simon Lake (50:36, 578th, 77th M50), Lisa Howarth (57:56, 1255th, 129th SF), Chloe Clegg (57:56, 1258th, 130th SF), Eloise Bartlett (1:01:17, 1589th, 163rd SF), Ann Leyland (1:09:51, 2136th, 343rd F45) & Sheila Phillips (1:10:06, 2143rd, 12th F65).


Hopefully I'll see you all at the next club race, the Oulton Park Half Marathon on the 26th February (or at the Village Bakery Half on 19th February if you managed to get in before it was full).  [Garry Bower]

SOUTH-EAST LANCS CROSS-COUNTRY (LEIGH) - 21st JANUARY 2017
A cold, wintry & surprisingly boggy return to Leigh Sports Village for the first cross-country event of 2017. I wonder whether, given that Boggart Hole is missing from this year's SEL series, they decided to import some of that special Boggart mud to the middle section of the course...

An impressive 23 RRRs started their races, sadly reduced to 21 finishers as Kirsty White & Lee Higginbottom were waylaid by illness & injury respectively. They joined the injured Sophie Wood on the sidelines to cheer us on to some fine performances.

Leading the way for RRR in the women's race, on her 1st appearance of the winter, was Janet Jobey, crossing the line in a superb 11th place (2nd FV40). Backed by Rochelle Evans (a fine 25th, 4th FV40) & Jillian Heywood (62nd, 10th FV45) that performance secured 9th place in the overall team rankings, 4th in the FV35s & 4th in the FV40s - not bad going without Sophie, Kirsty & Jen Bloor. Meanwhile Bernadette Ball (82nd, 8th FV60) & Anne Jones (89th, 10th FV55) joined Jillian for a 5th place finish in the FV45s. Nefa Nessa (former World & Olympic champion, for any of her class who might have found this in a Google search) came home a place ahead of Anne in her 2nd race of the cross-country season.

With 1 race to go, RRR sit comfortably in 2nd place in the overall ladies league table & 4th in both the FV35 & FV40 standings. A strong turn-out at Chorley in February (fitness permitting) would give our team a great chance of picking up another significant medal haul. 

A very strong men's competition meant that our leading foursome - Rob Fairbanks (an excellent 17th place), Jarrod Gritt (24th), Shane Reading (32nd, 4th V40) & Michael Fleming (43rd) were pushed down to 7th place in the standings. They were followed home by me (62nd, 4th V50), Carl O'Callaghan (65th, 7th V45), Bryan Lawton (74th, 8th V50), Mike Bundy (83rd, 10th V40) & Rob Marsden (93rd). A thrilling sprint finish saw Simon Howard cross the line in 112th place (15th V45), with Ray Williams (140th, 21st V50) & Gary Smith (148th, 14th V55)) next home. Our 15-strong men's team was completed by Martin Jones (160th), Adam Stirling (162nd) & Stephen Jones (164th, 12th V60).

In the overall men's standings we have 2 athletes currently sitting in medal positions - Carl O'Callaghan (2nd V45) & Shane Reading (3rd V40) - while the team positions show us top of the V40s & 2nd overall. It promises to be an exciting finale at Chorley!  [David Emanuel]                     

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