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RACE REPORTS 2012

SPRINGHILL HOSPICE SANTA FUN RUN - 9th December 2012
Santa-stic! That's the only (made-up) word I can think of to describe the Royton Road Runners contribution to this year's Santa Fun Run around Hollingworth Lake. Some of us had turned up with the intention of helping last year's winner - Steve Senior from Middleton Harriers - defend his title, but when it became clear (about halfway round) that there was a faster runner in the field, it was every Santa for himself. I just about managed to keep my outfit in place to cross the line first in what was, I must admit, not the strongest line-up I've ever competed against - but it's still a great honour to follow in the footsteps (sleigh-tracks?) of 2008 winner Stuart Carroll. Meanwhile Debbie Fiddling was by some distance the first lady to finish & the Phillips clan were out in force - if you've seen the pictures in the Photo Gallery you'll know that the RRR President was clearly the best-dressed Santa on show & looks remarkably good in pigtails. All good festive fun which, judging by the number of people taking part, raised plenty of money for the hospice. [David Emanuel]      

FALLEN HEROES 5K - 2nd December 2012
Now this is impressive! When most people wake to a cold, icy Sunday morning, their first instinct is to dive straight back under the duvet. If it's the morning after a Saturday night party, even more so. Yet 17 Royton Road Runners lined up on the start line in Littleborough for the Fallen Heroes 5K (held in memory of Fiona Bone & Nicola Hughes) just a few short hours after most of them had been enjoying the celebrations at the RRR Presentation Night. This made RRR the best-represented club in a field of 168 & that's not counting Marilyn Guest & Mark Kelly on the registration desk, Brian Moore producing the results, Bryan Lawton riding the course on his bike, Richard & Debbie Fiddling cheering us in to the finish...

Probably the most impressive performance came from Jen Hanson, who had continued partying into the not-so-early hours of Sunday morning, yet still managed to complete the slippery course in 23:40, a time bettered by only six other RRR finishers. Martin Schofield also produced a noteworthy performance, 10th overall & first RRR finisher in 17:31 despite having run to collect his car from Royton Cricket Club beforehand.

Ian Dale & Dave Freer both reproduced their recent impressive track form in a hard-fought battle, with Ian just coming out on top in 19:34 (27th place), beating Dave (30th) by 13 seconds. Meanwhile Mary Freer celebrated winning a place in next year's London Marathon by completing this considerably shorter race in 30:43.

Other RRR finishers: Owen Flage (17:38), David Emanuel (19:48), Bruce Whittam (20:22), John Kane (23:47), Angie & Tony Hart (both 24:56), George Meynell (25:05), Andy Schofield (26:47), Dave Phillips (28:23), Liz Phillips (29:26), Tony Hunking (29:46) & Lou Gilchrist (37:07).  [David Emanuel]         

SOUTH EAST LANCS CROSS COUNTRY LEAGUE (CLAYTON VALE) - 17th November 2012
Thanks to a well-judged, expertly-paced race, I was delighted to be the first RRR finisher in the latest SELCC race at Clayton Vale. To be honest, I could have crawled around the course on all fours, or run the last two laps backwards (being no stranger to reverse running) & still achieved this memorable victory, given that there wasn't another Royton vest in sight. Even Brian Moore, clearly unhappy about the points system I introduced following the previous SELCC race in October, cried off due to a calf injury.

Clayton Vale is not far from the Etihad Stadium, close enough to hear the vague mumblings of frustration from the City home crowd (they didn't score the first of their five goals against Aston Villa until just before half-time, by which time I was already well on the way home). The course itself is challenging but not as tough as some - four undulating laps with one steep climb & one sharp descent - all adding up to 6.25 muddy miles. We were helped by the weather, with the heavy downpour that soaked Marilyn at the registration desk having moved on by the time I arrived.

Still struggling a little with persistent hamstring problems, I crossed the line in an extremely average time of 46mins 32secs, in 64th place overall (14th V45). This left me a mere 10 minutes behind Middleton's Mick Flatley (4th), nine adrift of Ian Grime (7th) & meant that I only suffered the embarrassment of being lapped by one runner (race winner Joe Bailey of Salford Harriers). All good fun, which I'm sure will be of great benefit when we get back to racing on the road next year!  [David Emanuel]       

DERWENTWATER 10 - 4th November 2012
This is a tricky one! Apparently there's some rule that "what happens on the coach stays on the coach", so I was forced to promise several people that I'd avoid describing post-race events in too much detail. What I can say is that there was definitely some alcohol drunk, some goulash eaten, various dog-related 'incidents' & some items of clothing being worn by people they clearly didn't belong to...

I'm on much safer ground writing about the race...which is certainly worth doing, as this was a wonderful way to end a long & enjoyable road race season. Keswick was at its spectacular best, with bright sunshine & a clear blue sky providing a perfect view of a snow-capped Blencathra overlooking the town. (Excuse that last sentence - something about the Lake District brings out the inner Wordsworth in me; normal service will now be resumed.) Ideal conditions for running, an opportunity not missed by 39 of Royton's finest in a field of just under 400 (enough to warrant an e-mail from the race director thanking us for our support).

Stuart Carroll defied his groin problems to once again break 60 minutes on this tough 10-mile circuit of Derwentwater, his excellent time of 59:32 giving him 9th place overall & 3rd V40 prize behind race winner Yared Hagos of Wallsend Harriers. Martin Schofield was next home in 61:51, timing his charge perfectly to clinch 3rd place in the RRR Premiership. It's quite appropriate (and a sign of the fairness of the club championship?), that the final top three of Ian McBride, Stuart & Martin are the top-ranked runners in the club, according to Brian Moore's mysterious (but very scientific) ranking system.

Stuart was one of only two Royton runners to pick up an age-category prize, with June Allingan earning a well-deserved 3rd V65 prize (1:47:39). This hopefully softened the blow for June of moving from 1st to 3rd in the club's V60 rankings, as Dave Phillips (1:30:49) & George Meynell (85:14) overtook her at this last race.

The biggest winner on the day was probably Dave Hall, continuing his fine late season form to finish in 66:40 & snatch 2nd place in the V50 table (behind Bernie Cassidy) & 3rd place in the Championship. At one stage it looked as though he may also affect the race for top prize in the Championship - if he'd finished ahead of Russell Ingham then the title would have gone to Bruce Whittam - but Russell spotted the danger & finished 42 seconds clear in 66:08. This put Russell equal on points with Bruce (a gutsy 71:19 just a week after the Preston Guild Marathon) & gave him the title based on 'head-to-head' performances.

For the other issues that remained outstanding, Rochelle Evans (86:03) moved into 3rd place in Group 2 behind Neil Farrell & Val Kilburn, whilst Diane Allingan (1:32:07) took 2nd place in Group 3 ahead of Anne Jones. Meanwhile John Sweeney (81:48) completed the remarkable feat of two successive seasons in which he has run every club championship race - in fact he's now on an unprecedented run of 35 races in a row & has already entered the Mad Dog 10K for next season!

Other RRR finishers: Chris Lowe (62:49), Bill Balmer (62:59), Dave Peart (65:35), Colin Green (67:02 as he joined the '50 Club'), David Emanuel (67:32), Shane Reading (68:02), Elliot Stone (68:06), Bernie Goodwin (68:33), Barry Greaves (70:24), Dave Freer (71:32), Neil Farrell (72:34), Rob Kellett (72:36), Greg Oates (74:05), Chris Eavers (75:12), Bryan Lawton (75:15), John Williamson (78:42), David Booth (78:46), Steve Shaw (79:01), David Ellis (79:23), Dave Smith (81:22), Jen Hanson (86:06), Jayne Roberts (86:30), Jayne McQuaid (86:37), Helen Knight (1:32:41), Mary Freer (1:42:53), Adrian Bowcock (1:46:55), Pete Stals (1:53:40) & Natalie Yates-Bolton (1:53:40).

Preparations now begin in earnest for the Presentation Night on Saturday 1st December. Tickets available from Bernie Goodwin at training nights!  [David Emanuel]      

MILLTOWN TO MOORS OLDHAM HALF MARATHON - 21st October 2012
It's great to have it back...I think! The hill-packed circuit that is the Oldham Half Marathon returned for the first time since April 2009 & such is the legendary status of this race that it was announced as full several days ahead of race day, with 276 runners completing the course.

RRR were well-represented as always, with our 37 finishers consisting of a combination of experienced Oldham Half-ers (most of whom had probably blocked out quite how tough this course was) & debutants (who possibly didn't believe all the stories they'd been told). Mark Kelly & the rest of the organising team did a great job, with the introduction of chip timing, excellent marshals, frequent drink stations & a splendid T-shirt which reminds you of the course profile...just in case you were ever tempted to do it again. Even the weather was perfect for distance running & the support around the course - not least from many in RRR colours - was fantastic. Race organisers Mark & Alan made a point of reporting that "two running clubs should be proud not only for entering big teams but for also volunteering to marshal...Saddleworth Runners & Royton Road Runners".

It was great to see a top-quality athlete like Andi Jones in the race & he certainly lived up to his repuitation, his time of 68:07 putting him more than five minutes clear of the rest of the field. Andi accurately describes the race as "well organised, well supported and well tough", although I'm not sure I agree with his assertion that in the latter stages "the race leaves the road and runs down a trail path...[which] makes it interesting and a little twisty but still possible to run quick...". 'Quick' is not a word anyone would have used to describe my pace at that stage of the race...

First home for RRR was Martin Schofield, 11th in a very impressive 84:10, while two other Royton runners also ran superbly to achieve top 20 finishes - Bill Balmer (17th & 3rd V40 in 88:05) very closely followed by Chris Lowe (given the same time in 18th place), continuing his remarkable recent recovery.

A special mention for Bernie Cassidy, who probably shouldn't have been running but "jogged round" (his words) in a time of 1:36:22 to finish as 3rd V50 & complete a century of races for RRR. Bernie thus become only the fourth member of the exclusive '100 Club'!

The 3rd places achieved by Bill & Bernie were just two of the many excellent RRR age-category performances, including Dave Hall (2nd V50 in 1:33:42), Debbie Fiddling (2nd FV45 in 1:45:35), Dave Peart (3rd V45 in 1:31:47), Kirsty White (3rd FV35 in 1:40:55), Chris Eavers (3rd V55 in 1:43:13), Gill Lowe (3rd FV45 in 1:48:23) & Dave Phillips (3rd V65 in 1:57:28), However pride of place goes to June Allingan, whose finishing time of 2:31:16 earned her the first FV65 prize.

Other RRR finishers: David Emanuel (1:32:34), Bruce Whittam (1:32:57), Bernie Goodwin (1:33:50), Mike Harrison (1:34:17), Russell Ingham (1:35:24), Ian Dale (1:37:11), Elliot Stone (1:37:26), Shane Reading (1:38:04), Richard Fiddling (1:43:09), Jimmy Beadman (1:43:40), Dave Freer (1:45:12), David Ellis (1:49:49), David Booth (1:51:18), Dean Burgess (1:52:07), John Sweeney (1:53:41), Rochelle Evans (2:00:03), Trevor Grundy (2:00:05), Julie Greenwood (2:00:05), Rose Rowson (2:01:07), Jayne Roberts (2:01:43), Tony Hart (2:04:20), Angie Hart (2:04:20), Diane Allingan (2:05:46), Kay Fitton (2:09:22) & Helen Knight (2:09:28),

All of which leaves just one race left in the season - apart from those who've still got a marathon to run at Preston or in Dublin. Although many of the trophies are already decided, there's still plenty to play for at Keswick on 4th November, not least in the Championship Group, where all three prizes remain up for grabs. Dave Hall could have paced his season to perfection, as a good performance in his 9th race will see him snatch 3rd place from Mike Harrison, whilst the long battle for the top prize between Bruce Whittam & Russell Ingham could yet see them finish level on 224 points - with the title thus being decided on their head-to-head record. You'll have to join us in Keswick to see how it all turns out!  [David Emanuel]       

SOUTH EAST LANCS CROSS COUNTRY LEAGUE (HEATON PARK) - 13th October 2012
Brian Moore made an impressive start to the 2012-13 South East Lancs Cross-Country series, using his vast experience of running around muddy parks in the rain to pace his run to perfection. Brian finished the challenging three-lap course in 79th place in a time of 45:34, nearly five minutes quicker than the 50:18 he ran over the same course in 2010.

This would have given Brian maximum points in the unofficial RRR Cross-Country Championships that I've just invented. Sadly for him, I've also decided to introduce a one-minute penalty for running in his (first-claim) Rochdale Harriers club colours, This means that, as the only other RRR runner in the field, my slightly disappointing time of 46:09 (generously described by Brian as "due to the effects of a long hard season" as he struggled to suppress a victorious smile) gives me the maximum 25pts instead. Yippee!

For a club with such a great reputation for turning out to support local races, I've never quite understood why RRR struggles to get people involved in these excellent cross-country events. Admittedly it can get pretty boggy at times, an afternoon start time maybe doesn't suit some people & it probably doesn't help that both this & the Red Rose League start at the same time as our Road Race Championship is reaching its exciting conclusion. But there's still time! The second of four races in the SELCC series isn't until 17th November, by which time the road race season will be well & truly behind us.

As Brian points out, "I bang on about track, but equally I would advocate cross country as first class winter training; you get speed, strength and stamina out of it, apart from that there aren't any benefits...". Details of all remaining fixtures can be found here, together with a link to full results from the Heaton Park race. Hope to see some of you at Clayton Vale next month!  [David Emanuel]

CONGLETON HALF MARATHON - 7th October 2012
Whilst several members took the easy option & went to Chester for the marathon (only kidding - many congratulations to Ian Dale 3:24:54, Richard Fiddling 3:44:38, Debbie Fiddling 3:44:39, Tony Hart 4:29:05, Angie Hart 4:29:07, Diane Allingan 4:41:48, Annabella Gloster & Eileen Ingham both 4:44:29), 24 brave RRRs took on the mountainous challenge that is the Congleton Half Marathon, Race 15 in this season's club championship. I vividly remembered from last year the 'sting in the tail' hill at 12 miles, but had no recollection of all the other hills - how is it possible for a race to start & finish in roughly the same place yet apparently be uphill for almost the whole route?

Still, none of this caused any problems for Stuart Carroll, who proved his fitness & form for the forthcoming Abingdon Marathon with a 7th place finish & 3rd V40 prize in an impressive time of 1:16:40. Nor did Martin Schofield seem to find any difficulty as the 2nd Royton runner home in 16th place (1:21:05), nor Dave Peart (26th in 1:24:17).

Aside from Stuart, it was once again the RRR ladies who claimed the age-related prizes. Kirsty White (1:35:37) earned a fantastic 1st FV35 award, whilst Debbie Shaw (1:37:38) claimed 3rd FV45.

Meanwhile Chris Lowe (1:27:13) produced a remarkably strong run on his return to longer-distance racing, Dave Hall (1:28:17) continued his excellent recent form & Elliot Stone (1:29:17) had a great run to break the 1:30 barrier for the first time. Bruce Whittam was sadly forced to pull out of the race after a couple of miles due to illness, leaving the indestructible John Sweeney (1:47:57) as the only RRR to have run in every club race this season.

Another notable achievement to mention - Dave Smith (1:45:10) became just the third member of the exclusive '100 Club' as he completed his 100th race in RRR colours. Fantastic!

Other finishers: David Emanuel (1:27:34), Michael Harrison (1:28:49), Bernie Goodwin (1:29:00), Andy Schofield (1:32:39), Rob Kellett (1:37:22), Dave Freer (1:38:30), John Lambe (1:40:00), Steve Shaw (1:43:02), Gill Lowe (1:44:16), Ronnie Quinn (1:46:56), Tony Kane (1:48:18), Stephen Jones (1:53:18), Helen Knight (2:01:04) & Adrian Bowcock (2:30:44).

Well done everyone - next up it's the return of the Oldham Half Marathon on 21st October.  [David Emanuel]        

RON HILL BIRTHDAY 5K - 20th September 2012
There were 46 RRRs, 24% of a field of 190 for this year's Ron Hill Birthday race - not bad given the popularity of this event. Even more noteworthy, though, was how great many looked in their stylish new club vests!

The race was won in a time of 16mins 10secs by Robin Whitely, who seems to have made the trip from Australia to take part in the race. Well he was running for an Australian club, which amounts to pretty much the same thing. Our own Martin Schofield didn't have to travel quite so far, but he did finish in an excellent fifth place in 17:36, while Bill Balmer also made the top 10 & was first V40 overall in 18:15, a performance that moved him up to third place in the Club Championship standings. The competition behind these two was fierce, to say the least - the next 12 RRR finishers crossed the line within a period of just 42 seconds, which included me viciously (but accidentally, honest!) elbowing Richard Fiddling (19:22) out of the way on the run to the finish.

As usual, Bill Balmer was just one of several age-category top-three finishers amongst the RRR contingent, including Debbie Shaw (1st FV45 in 21:14), Rose Rowson (1st FV50 in 24:33), Lou Gilchrist (1st FV75 in 28:40), June Allingan (1st FV65 in 31:15), Dave Hall (2nd V50 in 19:19), John Higgins (2nd V55 in 19:52), Kirsty White (2nd FV35 in 21:11), Dave Phillips (2nd V65 in 22:29), Diane Allingan (2nd FV50 in 25:30), Dave Peart (3rd V45 in 19:10) & Debbie Fiddling (3rd FV45 in 21:28).

The ever-present John Sweeney had a very strong run, finishing in 22:54 just a few days after competing in the Great North Run, whilst Bruce Whittam (19:18) - the only other RRR member who has run every club race this year - moved back level with the injured Russell Ingham at the summit of the Championship Group. Shane Reading (19:45) & Neil Farrell (20:49) cemented their places at the top of Group 1 & 2 respectively, with several races to spare, while there were impressive RRR debut performances from Tony Hart (16th club finisher in 20:16), Angie Hart (8th Royton lady in 25:19) & Jimmy Beadman (22:50). It was also great to see Chris Lowe (19:42) & Bernie Cassidy (an Olympian 20:12) back racing again after injury & illness.

Other finishers: David Emanuel (19:21), Bernie Goodwin (19:24), Ian Dale (19:32), Michael Harrison (19:37), Elliot Stone (19:47), Bryan Lawton (20:22), Dave Freer (21:08), Chris Eavers (21:22), John Lambe (21:40), Steve Shaw (22:09), Val Kilburn (22:19), Dean Burgess (23:03), Ronnie Quinn (23:10), Dave Smith (23:24), Gill Lowe (23:39), Mark Kelly (23:57), Rochelle Evans (24:35), Stephen Jones (24:39), George Meynell (24:49), Helen Knight (26:21), Neil Barker (26:39), Brian Hurst (49:34) & Roy Miller (once again acting as chaperone to Brian, 49:35).

Well done to everyone who took part. Next up, for those not otherwise busy in final preparations for (or running) their autumn marathon, is the Congleton Half Marathon on Sunday 7th October.  [David Emanuel].

SADDLEWORTH 6 - 8th August 2012
It was pretty hot for this year's race in Saddleworth - both in temperature & the competition at the head of the field. Not only were Salford Harriers out in force - with Andi Jones taking victory in 30:11 - but Hallamshire's ex-GB international runner Carl Thackeray was also taking part, claiming second place in 31:54. Amongst this calibre of athlete, Ian McBride's 5th place (32:54) looks even more impressive, not least as he finished ahead of all the rest of the Salford contingent.

Unable to run after hurting my back bending down to pick up a pair of socks a couple of hours before the race (it's my age, I think!), John Sweeney (45:40) & Bruce Whittam (39:11) are now the only two ever-presents in this season's club championship. It also means that this report will be quite brief, as I'm simply reporting what the race results show...although I gather that the course, with a return to something like the original route, was a considerable improvement on the carnage of the 2011 race.

So here goes...43 of the 241 finishers were from Royton Road Runners, meaning we had more runners in the race than there were in the whole of the Algerian Olympic team.(one medal, a gold for Taoufik Makhloufi in the 1500m, if you were wondering). Age-related prizes were hard to come by in such a strong field, so much credit to our winning ladies Debbie Fiddling (1st FV45 in 42:29), Debbie Shaw (2nd FV45 in 43:20) & June Allingan (2nd FV65 in 60:59).

Other finishers: Martin Schofield (35:41), Dave Peart (37:45), Bill Balmer (37:50), Russell Ingham (38:05), Shane Reading (39:19), Bernie Goodwin (39:23), Dave Hall (39:24), Richard Fiddling (39:41), Elliott Stone (39:45), John Higgins (40:56), Neil Farrell (41:13), Bryan Lawton (41:18), Andy Schofield (41:50), Chris Eavers (42:14), Dave Freer (42:18), Kirsty White (42:51), Steve Shaw (44:12), Dave Phillips (44:32), John Lambe (45:02), Dave Ellis (45:07), Val Kilburn (45:21), Dave Smith (46:07), Tony Kane (46:18), David Booth (46:18), Gill Lowe (47:47), Ronnie Quinn (47:47), George Meynell (48:38), Teresa Hollins (49:19), Rochelle Evans (49:26), Diane Allingan (50:05), Trevor Grundy (50:11), Helen Knight (a welcome return to racing in 52:35), Anne Jones (53:00), Stephen Jones (54:21), Rachael Kilburn (54:41), Liz Phillips (58:00) & Annabella Gloster (58:00).

We now have the longest break in the club championship season, with the next race the Ron Hill Birthday 5K on 20th September. Look after yourselves, keep training hard & we'll see you all back raring to go in Littleborough for that race. Entering in advance is highly recommended, it has been known to fill up quickly!  [David Emanuel] 

GREAT WARFORD 10 - 29th July 2012
Martin Schofield was the leading Royton Road Runner for the first time in the Great Warford 10, as he completed his first ever 10 mile race just outside the hour, finishing in 60mins 53secs for 21st place overall. In a quality field & in the absence of some of the club's top runners, Martin was not quite able to lead RRR to a third successive men's team victory (following the Royton Trail & Moonraker 10K), but together with Dave Peart (63:25) & David Emanuel (74:27) we achieved a creditable 5th place behind South Cheshire Harriers. In the ladies team event, Debbie Shaw (74:28), Debbie Fiddling (75:52) & Val Kilburn (78:18) achieved a similarly impressive 6th place behind Wilmslow Running Club.

A grand total of 29 RRRs completed this race, a great turnout considering it was a late replacement for the Sale 10 in the club championship & there's been a lot of Olympic stuff to distract us! This turned out to be an enjoyable & well-organised event, which has attracted many positive comments & could be a long-term addition to our race calendar. It's a shame that news of Paula Radcliffe's withdrawal from the Olympic Marathon took the gloss off the day.

Age category prizes were hard to come by, racing against so many good runners, so the achievements of Val Kilburn (2nd FV40), Debbie Shaw (3rd FV45) & Dave Phillips (3rd V65 in 76:07) deserve a special mention.

Credit is also due to our magnificent band of travelling supporters, organised with military precision by Eileen Ingham!

Other finishers: Russell Ingham (65:23), Dave Hall (66:47), Bruce Whittam (68:05), Richard Fiddling (68:17), Elliot Stone (68:38), Shane Reading (68:59), Neil Farrell (69:46), Andy Schofield (71:25), Chris Eavers (72:08), Dave Freer (73:02), John Lambe (74:16), Rob Kellett (75:57), John Sweeney (an amazing 30th consecutive club race in 77:28), Steve Shaw (77:39), Ronnie Quinn (78:29), George Meynell (81:14), Tony Kane (82:02), Steve Jones (83:00), Teresa Hollins (84:00), Adrian Bowcock (93:21), Anne Jones (93:32) & Tony Hunking (95:12).  [David Emanuel]

MOONRAKER 10K - 22nd July 2012
It was suprisingly hot & sunny for this year's Moonraker, given the summer we've had so far...but regardless of the weather you're guaranteed a magnificent RRR turnout & this race was no exception. Our club contributed 39 of the 111 finishers, an incredible 35% of the total field. The absence of club champion Ian McBride didn't prevent an impressive victory in the men's team race, as 3rd & 5th places respectively for Stuart Carroll (1st V40 in 35:58) & Martin Schofield (36:21), along with Russell Ingham's excellent 12th place (39:40), resulted in a fairly comfortable six-point margin ahead of Salford Harriers. Meanwhile Debbie Shaw (2nd FV45 in 45:25), Gill Lowe (3rd FV45 in 47:51) & Val Kilburn (2nd FV40 in 48:12) won the ladies prize. But that's not all - can you believe that we had EIGHT of the first 10 men's teams & the second ladies team too!

A special mention to John Sweeney (48:33), who set a new RRR record by completing his 29th consecutive club championship race, dating back to the 2010 season. Many congratulations to John - I'm sure we can all appreciate the sacrifices he's had to make to achieve this remarkable feat. For some reason he didn't seem impressed when I suggested that the next 29 will be easier...

An exceptional number of age-related prizes were won by RRR members in this race - in addition to Stuart, Debbie, Gill & Val (as mentioned above) we had Dave Phillips (1st V65 in 47:20), Rose Rowson (1st FV50 in 51:58), Teresa Hollins (1st FV55 in 51:26), June Allingan (1st FV65 in 64:03), John Higgins (2nd V55 in 43:38), Brian Hurst (2nd V70 in 1:47:29), Diane Allingan (2nd FV50 in 52:26), Colin Green (3rd V40 in 40:54), Dave Peart (3rd V45 in 39:51), Dave Hall (3rd V50 in 41:35), Barry Greaves (3rd V55 in 44:08), Trevor Grundy (3rd V65 in 51:59) & Anne Jones (3rd FV50 in 55:59).

Stuart Carroll's performance confirmed that he will be RRR V40 champion this year & all but guaranteed overall second place in the club championship. In all other groups & age categories there's still plenty to play (run) for!

Other RRR finishers: David Emanuel (39:54), Shane Reading (40:22), Bruce Whittam (40:40), Ian Dale (41:54), Bernie Goodwin (42:11), Greg Oates (42:42), Neil Farrell (43:13), Andy Schofield (43:53), Dave Freer (44:18), Ged Navesey (44:22), John Lambe (45:02), Matt Kilburn (45:57), Ronnie Quinn (47:39), Dean Burgess (48:43), Steve Shaw (49:23), Tony Kane (50:38), Stephen Jones (51:45), Kay Fitton (58:00) & Rachael Kilburn (60:00). Well done all!  [David Emanuel]
 

IAN TERRY MEMORIAL 5K - 17th July 2012
Not a full race report, as I wasn't actually there & we didn't have many people running...but this race deserves a mention for one very special achievement! Martin Schofield's fantastic 17:50 finishing time saw him cross the line first, meaning that we had a second outright race win within a week for the first time ever, following Ian McBride's victory in the Royton Trail. Looking back through results from Littleborough 5Ks in recent years, the only faster times I can find are by Ian & Stuart Carroll - I'm sure Martin is going to be pushing them hard in future races!

Four other RRR members turned out for this race, with Bruce Whittam (1st V45 & 7th overall in 19:01), Ian Dale (3rd V45 with a nicely Olympic-themed time of 20:12) & Tony Campbell (20:25) all running well despite a tough nine mile 'away night' run around Watergrove Reservoir the evening before. Meanwhile Dave Phillips (1st V65 in 22:36) had a useful fitness test ahead of Sunday's Moonraker 10K, collecting a bottle of wine as a prize in the process!  [David Emanuel]
 

ROYTON TRAIL RACE - 11th July 2012
A brief glimpse of summer sunshine greeted competitors in this year's Royton Trail Multi-Terrain Race - coupled with the hard work of a team of volunteers during the day, this made for a surprisingly dry course despite the rain of recent weeks.

The number of runners taking part declined slightly for the first time since the race was introduced in 2007 - but only very slightly, with 182 finishers compared to the record 189 in 2011. However RRR athletes were out in force as usual, with 50 taking part despite the absence of several regulars through injury. Only in the previous two Royton Trail races have more RRR members taken part in a race.

Ian McBride was strongly fancied to become a first 'home' winner of the race, given his excellent form this year, and he duly delivered in fine style, finishing in 30:05, more than a minute ahead of second-placed Mick Flatley (Middleton Harriers). This was a fine way to ensure that Ian retains his Club Championship title, with his ninth win giving him an unassailable lead. Even if four-time winner Ian Grime (Newham & Essex Beagles) had been present, he would have been hard-pressed to defend his Royton Trail title!

Ian also led RRR to a first-ever victory in the men's team race, beating Middleton Harriers after two successive second-place finishes. It was particularly impressive that this was achieved without two of the club's usual leading runners, Stuart Carroll & Chris Lowe (10th & 15th respectively in the 2011 Trail). Stepping up instead as part of the winning trio were new member Martin Schofield (6th in 33:14) & ever-improving Russell Ingham (13th in 34:59).

The RRR ladies were determined not to be outdone & although the top three (Kirsty White, Debbie Shaw & Val Kilburn) were just pipped for the team prize by Saddleworth Runners, there were individual awards for Kirsty (2nd lady & 1st FV35 in 38:19) & Debbie (2nd FV45 in 41:39) as well as excellent performances by Teresa Hollins (2nd FV55 in 46:16), Rose Rowson (2nd FV50 in 47:10) & Diane Allingan (3rd FV50 in 48:31). Val Kilburn's finishing time of 44:20 was more than four minutes quicker than when she last ran the race in 2010.

Other impressive age-related performances came from George Meynell (1st V65 in 46:23), Martin Kay (3rd V40 in 34:32), the in-form Bruce Whittam (3rd V45 in 35:49) & Bernie Cassidy (3rd V50 in 36:45). Meanwhile Shane Reading proved that his great run at the Rochdale 10K was no one-off as he came home in 23rd place (8th RRR finisher) in 36:22 (two & a half minutes quicker than in 2011).

Other club finishers: Bill Balmer (35:16), Alan Bodell (36:05), Colin Green (36:33), David Emanuel (36:38), Bernie Goodwin (36:44), Dave Peart (36:49), Elliott Stone (37:17), Mike Harrison (37:35), Dave Hall (37:51), Greg Oates (38:33), Tony Campbell (38:37), John Higgins (38:44), Bryan Lawton (38:46), Ged Navesey (38:49), Ian Dale (39:02), Chris Eavers (39:25), Neil Farrell (39:50), John Lambe (40:03), Dave Freer (40:48), Roy Miller (41:07), Jamie Holdaway (42:08), John Sweeney (42:44), David Booth (42:49), Dean Burgess (43:31), Ronnie Quinn (43:59), Dave Smith (45:45), Steve Jones (47:44), Julie Greenwood (49:19), Adrian Bowcock (49:42), Anne Jones (50:22), Neil Barker (51:36), Annabella Gloster (51:55), Tony Hunking (51:56), Kay Fitton (52:54), Rachael Kilburn (53:07) & June Allingan (56:59).  [David Emanuel]
       

ROCHDALE 10K - 3rd July 2012
Now, before I start this race report...I know it's my fault for not running faster, and Shane Reading deserves great credit for an excellent run (officially 40:22) that enabled him to catch me on the line...but he did literally beat me on the line, so how can the results possibly show a six second gap, let alone two people finishing between us? If it made any difference to club championship points, I'd be making a real fuss! As it is, I'm just going to sulk until we get back to the long-distance races again.

Anyway, rant over...this was another fantastic race for Royton Road Runners, with 48 club members taking part - by my reckoning, the highest number we've ever had for a race other than the Royton Trail & last year's Derwentwater 10 - representing almost a fifth of the 253 finishers. Even Richard Fiddling's attempt to run in secret by entering as 'unattached' couldn't affect this excellent turnout.

Amongst many great performances, a victory in the men's team race was possibly the highlight of the evening. As usual this relied on the contributions of star performers Ian McBride (2nd overall in 33:12, beaten only by Gareth Lowe of Clowne RR) & Stuart Carroll (8th in 35:55), but the third member of our winning team was a new face - Martin Schofield, running for RRR for the first time. I believe that this was Martin's first ever 10K race, so his 11th place in a finishing time of 37:16 suggests that he's going to be challenging hard for prizes this year.

Not to be outdone, our leading ladies Kirsty White (43:00), Debbie Fiddling (44:14) & Debbie Shaw (45:18) came an impressive second in their team race, just edged out by a strong trio from Salford Harriers. There was also an impressive RRR debut for Gill Lowe, running a time of 49:07.

Competition in the age categories was very fierce in this race, with several runners just missing out on top three finishes. Those who did make the podium were Val Kilburn (2nd FV40 in 48:40), Debbie Fiddling (2nd FV45), Rose Rowson (2nd FV50 in 52:01), Barry Greaves (2nd V55 in 40:52), June Allingan (2nd FV65 in 64:51), Debbie Shaw (3rd FV45), Alan Bodell (3rd V45 in 39:14 - although he appears in the results as 'Alan Bobell' - so we can presumably expect him to talk in Cockney rhyming slang from now on), Bernie Cassidy (3rd V45 in 39:35) & Kirsty White (3rd FV35).

Other finishers: Bill Balmer (38:59), Bruce Whittam (39:50), Colin Green (39:54), David Emanuel (40:28 - officially, anyway!), Elliot Stone (40:38), Bernie Goodwin (40:44), Mike Harrison (40:46), Richard Fiddling (41:37), Bryan Lawton (42:15), Dave Hall (42:25), Ian Dale (42:51), Greg Oates (42:52), Neil Farrell (43:25), John Higgins (43:31), Chris Eavers (43:32), Ged Navesey (43:36), Tony Campbell (43:47), John Lambe (44:01), Matt Kilburn (44:13), Dave Freer (46:54), John Sweeney (47:28), Dean Burgess (48:45), Dave Smith (48:47), Ronnie Quinn (49:32), Roy Miller (49:33), Steve Jones (51:39), George Meynell (52:26), Diane Allingan (53:23), Teresa Hollins (53:47), Trevor Grundy (53:58), Anne Jones (56:14), Neil Barker (57:06), Adrian Bowcock (58:21) & Kay Fitton (59:41).

With this race representing the halfway mark in the RRR Championship season, the destination of some of the end-of-season trophies is already starting to become clear. Ian McBride is just one race victory away from retaining his overall Club Champion title, while Bruce Whittam & Kirsty White look well-placed to win their respective divisions. Stuart Carroll & Bernie Cassidy are both very close to securing the V40 & V50 trophies respectively.

Next up is our own club race, the Royton Trail, on Wednesday 11th July!  [David Emanuel]
     

FRECKLETON HALF MARATHON - 17th JUNE 2012
A warm sunny day, the usual annoying 2pm start & Father's Day to boot...but still a record 26 RRR members took part in the 48th Freckleton Half, "the oldest half in the UK", beating the 22 who ran in 2009. It was great to see plenty of supporters on show too, especially Chris Lowe, on the road to recovery from a serious illness.

The race was won by Ben Fish of Blackburn Harriers, for the 6th year in a row, with his fastest run yet (1:07:38) putting him nearly five minutes ahead of the rest. In a good quality field RRR had two excellent top-10 finishers in Ian McBride (5th in 1:14:38) & Stuart Carroll (8th in 1:18:51), which helped us into an impressive position as 3rd-placed team behind Preston Harriers & Wesham Road Runners.

The calibre of runners on show is demonstrated by the fact that RRR achieved only two top positions in the various age categories - Debbie Fiddling 3rd FV45 (1:43:09) & Rose Rowson 3rd FV50 (1:55:50). It was a great day for Debbie, who was not only part of a successful 3rd-placed ladies team (alongside Debbie Shaw in 1:46:38 & Val Kilburn in 1:50:01), but also finished just in front of husband Richard (1:43:19) for the first time.

Other RRR finishers: David Emanuel (1:25:45), Bill Balmer (1:26:32), Colin Green (1:27:27), Bruce Whittam (1:29:01), Mike Harrison (1:29:39), Chris Eavers (1:34:52), Matt Kilburn (1:35:45), Ged Navesey (1:38:03), John Lambe (1:38:06), Rob Kellett (1:45:14), John Sweeney (1:48:18), Dave Smith (1:53:43), Steve Shaw (1:55:05), Teresa Hollins (1:55:08), Stephen Jones (1:58:16), Anne Jones (2:08:42), Kay Fitton (2:09:19), Neil Barker (2:20:08) & Adrian Bowcock (2:34:15).  [David Emanuel]


FROM WIGAN PIER TO MERSEY TUNNEL - 8th-10th JUNE 2012

I don't often spend Friday afternoons meeting strange men at railway stations (not since that injunction, anyway) but 8th June saw me at Wigan Wallgate awaiting the arrival of a bloke from Warrington. He passed me a comedy-sized baton & I set off for Bolton, my leg of the Endurancelife Real Relay, an "exciting attempt to follow the entire route of the official Olympic Torch around Britain in one continuous non-stop journey, running every step of the way, 10 days behind the official Olympic Torch".

The event is raising money for a charity called Chicks, which provides free, week-long respite breaks for disadvantaged children from across the UK & it was a nice boost when a curious female runner approached me & gave me all the cash she had on her.

My cousin had recommended this event to me. He's a major in the Royal Marines & recently completed the Marathon des Sables, navigating his own way across the Sahara by the stars. I haven't had the guts to tell him of the shame I brought on the Balmer name when I couldn't get out of Wigan without police assistance. In my defence, I have to say that there were so few street names that you'd think we'd just been invaded, but to be honest that made no difference as my directions & hand-drawn map of Wigan (or should that be 'pie chart'?' rapidly disintegrated in the rain before my very eyes. Without my iPhone & a couple of local constables I think I'd still be there.

This added at least a mile, making my leg about 13 in total & adding a lot of time. My already stiff legs didn't help & the baton also slowed me down. Although it resembles a baseball bat it actually weighs next to nothing. Strapped to it, though, was a GPS tracker supplied by a company called 'yellowbrick' which I assumed was inspired by Dorothy's journey to Oz. But I was wrong. If you've seen the photos you'll realise that the firm's name is based entirely on the colour, size, shape & above all weight of its merchandise.

Once out of Wigan navigation became much easier & after receiving many strange glances in the wind & rain en route, I passed the baton to an Evertonian at Bolton, last seen a couple of seconds ahead of me winning the annual Reds v Blues Merseyside grudge race, the Big Heart 5K. As he was expecting me he'd decided to wear his Everton shirt as a helpful reminder of relative league positions. Cheers.

I made my way back to the car, my fingers made their way back to life & I contemplated the wisdom of my involvement, given that two days later I wanted to do well in the Mersey Tunnel 10K. I'd recommend it though, as it was great to play a part in a slightly crazy national event, in equal parts about the community spirit of running & its splendid isolation.

After Scotland the relay will come back this way & if you want a chance to put your name down, go to the endurancelife website where times & dates of local stages will become available in due course.

Despite the stiffness left in my legs & the contrasting weather (quite a lot of people were sick in the heat & there were ambulances everywhere) the Mersey Tunnel 10K saw me finish almost six minutes faster than when this was my first ever race in 2007 & at 38:00 I amazed myself with a new PB. Chuffed as I am with this, my goal of a sub-38 time feels as elusive as ever. The race was won by James Riley of Liverpool Harriers, some time ahead of me in 31:28. As usual it was a well-organised RunLiverpool event. The customary 'goody bag of plenty' was sadly absent, but for the first time everyone got a nice technical shirt instead.Top running weekend!  [Bill Balmer]


UK BACKWARD RUN - 27th MAY 2012

Taking place a few months earlier this year - presumably moved from August to avoid overshadowing the London Olympics - the third annual UK Backward Running Championships in Heaton Park again attracted the same huge contingent of TWO Royton Road Runners (although the support & encouragement from Stuart Carroll & family was very welcome).

Chris Eavers had put in several practice sessions on the track this year in an attempt to beat his fiercest rival (me), even managing a practice run around the official one-mile course the day before. This may have been his big mistake, as it can take a surprisingly long time to recover from a backward mile & Chris was still feeling the previous day's effort in his legs as he warmed up for the big race. 

My only new tactic was to try to get a quicker start & therefore ensure a relatively clear path behind (in front?) of me, which proved particularly effective. For the first time I managed to get ahead of Chris early on, extending that lead as we climbed the long hill (one of the great things about reverse running is that you can see the people chasing you!). Not that I was anywhere near the front (back?) of the field - reigning champion Garret Doherty & three others had quickly disappeared into the distance.

Chris put in a strong push on the downhill section in an attempt to close the gap, which unfortunately led to a nasty tumble as, in his words, "my top half was going faster than my legs". Undeterred, he heroically leapt back to his feet to resume his backward charge to the finish, eventually crossing the line battered & bruised in 11th place overall (of 27 finishers) in an impressive time of 11mins 41secs, only marginally slower than last year. There wasn't a V50 prize but, if there had been, Chris would have won it. He's therefore regained his (unofficial) crown as the fastest V50 backward runner in the UK!

I managed to stay on my feet, gaining absolutely no ground whatsoever on the leading four as I finished in 5th place in 10:13, pretty pleased to have improved on last year's performance. Sadly Nigel Holmes of Prestwich has turned 40 since last year, so his 8:38 deprived me of the Vets title.

And Garret Doherty? This Irish backward running phenomenon set a new course record with 6:57, breaking the seven-minute barrier for the first time. As reported in last week's Sun, this followed him last month completing the Wexford Half Marathon backwards in an incredible time of 1hr 40.

After two years of failing to convince anyone else in the club to join Chris & I in this race, I'm sure I'm not going to do so now...but if you do fancy having a try at backward running, just come along to a track session one Monday night & I'll introduce you to a fantastic new sport!  [David Emanuel]


BRATHAY WINDERMERE MARATHON - 20th MAY 2012

As usual, my attempts to sing the praises of 'the beautiful marathon' fell on deaf ears, as I was the only Royton Road Runner taking part in this year's Windermere extravaganza. Maybe I can encourage some of our better runners to take part next year by revealing that there are prizes to be won here! Whilst I was very pleased with my new 'course PB' of 3:07:08, especially in warm weather (again) & coming soon after the London Marathon & Chester Half Marathon, I was staggered to find that it gave me 16th place overall (of 773 finishers) & 3rd V45. In 2011, that time would barely have got me into the top 30! The winner (Mike Jeffries of Swaledale Road Runners) finished well clear of the field in 2:45:30, one of just six runners to break the three-hour barrier - compared to 16 last year.

Now for the plug - after a sixth successive year, this remains my favourite marathon by far. Not a PB course, as there are a few hills to deal with, but superbly organised & in a fantastic picturesque setting. And if you are tempted to come along next year & do pick up one of the prizes, they are presented by Joss Naylor, patron of the event & true legend of fell-running. I can't tell you how gutted I was that they only gave prizes this year to the first finisher in each age category!  [David Emanuel]


IAN CASEY MEMORIAL 5K - 17th MAY 2012

Where have all the runners gone? Admittedly it's a busy time at the moment, with Andy O'Sullivan seeming to stage about four races a week...but this year's two-lap race around Cowm Reservoir in memory of Ian Casey attracted only 74 runners, compared to 105 in 2011.

No sign of our club numbers diminishing though! The 42 RRR finishers represented an incredible 57% of the field, which surely must be a new record. And that dominance was even more evident at the head of the field - 7 of the first 10 finishers, 12 of the top 20, with overall race winner Ian McBride (90 seconds clear in 16:12) followed home by SEVEN age category winners: Stuart Carroll (1st V40 & 2nd overall in 17:32), Alan Bodell (1st V45, 18:37), George Meynell (1st V65, 24:28), Kirsty White (1st FV35, 20:53), Val Kilburn (1st FV40, 22:21), Debbie Shaw (1st FV45, 21:29) & Anne Jones (1st FV50, 28:11). Amongst the quickest runners, special mention to two who claimed some notable scalps - Russell Ingham, 4th overall in a new PB of 18:24 ahead of the likes of Bill Balmer (18:30), Alan Bodell & Bruce Whittam (18:49) as well as Shane Reading, his 10th place in 19:07 beating both the Bernies Goodwin (19:10) & Cassidy (19:12). 

It was great to see Ian Casey's son Jason present, both to start the race & take part, finishing 39th in an impressive 21:45. 

Amongst many battles around the course, surely one of the most exciting was that between two V45 runners Brian Moore - making a rare club championship performance - and RRR Chairman Bryan Lawton. It was Moore (20:28) who ended victorious, by just four seconds, although it apparently could have been much closer had it not been for a canine intervention which disrupted Bryan Lawton's sprint for the line.

Other Royton finishers: Mike Harrison (19:14), Elliot Stone (19:23), David Emanuel (19:37), John Higgins (20:07), Tony Campbell (20:11), Greg Oates (20:20), Matt Kilburn (20:27), Dave Freer (20:37), Dave Peart (20:43), Barry Greaves (20:48), Chris Eavers (20:59), John Lambe (21:13), David Booth (21:37), Dean Burgess (22:07), John Williamson (22:34), John Sweeney (22:46), Rochelle Evans (23:38), Steve Jones (24:25), Neil Barker (26:33), Adrian Bowcock (26:37), Rachael Kilburn (26:42), Tony Hunking (27:01), Liz Phillips (27:18), Kay Fitton (27:21), Mary Freer (29:46) & Brian Hurst (46:09).  [David Emanuel]


CHESTER HALF MARATHON - 13th MAY 2012

A tough new course in Chester - not helped by surprisingly warm weather - so congratulations to everyone who ran & recorded some fine performances. Early news - Ian McBride an excellent 7th place in 1:11:46, Stuart Carroll 2nd V40 (21st overall) in 1:19:10, Dave Peart 3rd club finisher (1:25:16) in his first club championship race & a new PB for Russell Ingham (1:29:24). Well done everyone - now the full report...

It was hot, there were apparently some big football matches in the afternoon to prepare for & I?m sure that the new course around Chester had more hills than the old one ? who thought that finishing in front of the Town Hall was special enough to justify that last climb? - but that didn?t stop 25 intrepid Royton Road Runners completing the sixth race in this year?s club championship.

This proved to be a tough event for some of those still recovering from the London & Greater Manchester marathons just a few weeks earlier, while injury problems during the race affected both Kirsty White & Colin Green, who helped each other through to the finish just inside 1hr 40mins.

Reigning club champion Ian McBride showed no ill-effects from his marvellous London Marathon run, however, as he finished in an excellent 6th place overall in 1:11:46 (not 7th as I reported earlier - I was confused by 7 being his race number). This left Ian just two minutes behind the eventual winner, Robert Baker of Hallamshire Harriers. Stuart Carroll demonstrated similar powers of recovery, as his time of 1:19:10 earned him the 2nd V40 prize & 21st place overall.

Debbie Shaw produced a fine run in 1:39:03 & finish as the leading Royton lady for the first time this season. Dave Peart, running his first club championship race, paced his run to perfection to finish as 5th V45 in 1:25:16. Both Dave & Bruce Whittam (1:29:00) ran superbly in the second half of the race, with Dave moving up from 84th place at 6 miles to 65th at the finish & Bruce progressing from 168th to 119th.

There were also impressive performances from Dave Phillips (2nd V65 in 1:42:01), John Higgins (1:30:57 for 7th V55) & the slightly younger Russell Ingham (a new half marathon PB of 1:29:24).

Other Royton finishers: David Emanuel (1:25:51), Bruce Whittam (1:29:00), Richard Fiddling (1:31:56), Chris Eavers (1:34:13), Rob Kellett (1:34:49), Tony McAndrew (1:35:29), Dean Burgess (1:40:03), John Lambe (1:41:30), Val Kilburn (1:45:27), John Sweeney (1:45:48), Dave Smith (1:48:04), Tony Kane (1:54:54), Rose Rowson (2:07:11), Kay Fitton (2:09:22), Adrian Bowcock (2:11:55) & Neil Barker (2:12:42).   [David Emanuel]


THE FELLSMAN - 28th/29th APRIL 2012

If anyone fancies doing the Fellsman or some other Ultra race, this was my experience of it! The Fellsman is a 24hr challenge event in the Yorkshire Dales, over 62 miles from Ingleton to Threshfield. About 440 took part this year alongside an army of volunteers.

I drove to Threshfield for 7am on Saturday morning for a kit inspection & then got bussed to the start for 9am. You must carry a rucksack with waterproof jacket, trousers, first aid kit, headtorch, survival bag, emergency rations, two maps, compass, whistle, cup, fork, hat, gloves & at least two long sleeved tops. There are 26 checkpoints which I marked on my maps, with free food & drink (pasta, pasties, soup, etc) at lots of these. It is possible to put weight on! You carry a circular tally which gets clipped at each checkpoint in sequence & your number is recorded. The route you take between checkpoints is up to you. I was fortunate as I met a lad who had done it before & didn't need to consult my maps once. I think the word is passenger!

I wore Inov8 Rocklite fell shoes, long-sleeved top & running jacket. I also wore walking trousers but looked a bit like MC Hammer when the wind caught them! Running tights are best. I walked up the hills & tried to run everywhere else - but the terrain is rough & very boggy, so you just go with it. The scenery does lift you though. It was nice not suffering from race nerves, as my challenge was just to see if I could go the distance, both physically & mentally.

On this event you get grouped at a checkpoint at approx 6pm for safety reasons. Minimum groups of four go throughout the night section & you must stay together - you are mostly walking now. I was in a group of six initially - however eight miles of peat bog over Fleet Moss & Dodd Fell put paid to three of them, so I was regrouped at the next checkpoint.
If you have to drop out there are minibuses which take you back to Threshfield. It's incredibly well organised & this was the 50th year it has been running.

Unfortunately for me, with just 10 miles & one hill to go, the event was cancelled at 1.40am due to the weather, to ensure the safety of competitors & marshalls. All I was thinking prior to that was showing off my T-shirt, never having to do it again & going back to my five-mile fell races. Bugger!  [Alan Bodell]


GREATER MANCHESTER MARATHON - 29th APRIL 2012

After arriving at the car park in gale force wind & freezing rain, we were tempted to turn around and go home...I wish we had. The first few miles were wet but bearable, as we did seem to have a little shelter from the wind, but after about 13 miles (thinking my feet couldn?t get any wetter) we entered Dunham Massey Country Park. I was not sure if it was a lane or a river we were running on, but then things got worse. It became my worst nightmare, a muddy bog to negotiate; unable to avoid the flood our feet were subjected to an icy bath which must have been much worse for the later runners.On returning to the road we then had to battle into a headwind for the last seven miles, which seemed to get stronger the nearer we got to the finish. At this point my main focus was to get this horror story over. I had hoped to be looking good at the 38K water station, but I obviously wasn?t! I didn?t get the promised support from Dave Emanuel of "You?re looking good, it?s not far now" [in my defence, I was busy clearing up discarded water pouches around the corner at the time - ed]. Seriously, thanks to all who were on the water station. It was a great boost to us all to know there would be some friendly support near the end & you didn?t let us down. I apologise for dropping the goodies that you tried to give me, but I could no longer feel my fingers by then. We finally finished, having to wade through more mud to join the scrum for our bags - enough said! I have never been so cold throughout a race - for those who weren?t there & think I?m exaggerating, Bruce did not remove his top for the whole race! This is not a race I would recommend! Thanks again to all on the water station, the support was appreciated & I?m sure it was just as cold for you.  [Debbie Fiddling]

Debbie is far too modest to report the fact that, despite the appalling conditions - the official results show only 4,500 finishers, with more than 2,000 withdrawing before the race & 163 failing to finish - she came incredibly close to beating her previous best marathon time as she finished 59th lady & 19th FV40 in an excellent 3:38:37. This was just one of many great club performances, including two more sub-three hour performances (to add to the three at London) from Chris Lowe (11th V40 in a PB of 2:57:05) & new member Dave Peart (a remarkable debut marathon in 2:58:59; Dave has sent a message "to say how grateful I am for the support from RRR on Sunday...now I'm really looking forward to running & racing with such a friendly club"). Bruce Whittam - even with his extra clothing - produced a PB & London 'good for age' qualifying time of 3:14:43, Eileen Ingham & June Allingan were joint 5th FV60 in 5:13:19 (even though Eileen had a fight with a traffic cone in the early stages of the race), Dave Phillips was a superb 8th V60 in 3:46:35 & the indestructible Barry Greaves 17th V50 in 3:22:15. Rather worringly, Dave Smith appears in the official results as "started & running", having apparently reached the 20-mile mark in 2:54:32 - I'll update this report once I find out more.

Other impressive finishers: Tony McAndrew (3:20:01), Richard Fiddling (3:26:35), Mike Harrison (3:27:07), James Trollope (3:28:17), Andy Schofield (3:32:10), Chris Eavers (3:32:46), Rob Kellett (3:34:37), Steve Shaw (3:57:41), Rochelle Evans (4:00:46), Neil Farrell (4:05:15), Steve Jones (4:30:03), Vicky Bramley (4:38:28 - Vicky raised an excellent £420 for skin cancer research) & Neil Barker (5:10:09).

Congratulations to all those finishers & many thanks to all the volunteers who manned the RRR Aid Station at 38K. Reports suggest that many of the other stations were undermanned, as people failed to turn up given the nasty weather - yet with the likes of Des Thorpe, Bill Balmer, Laura Walters & Dave Kershaw making an appearance, not to mention the contribution of our great medical team, we actually had more people than the original 24 volunteers! We've had loads of great feedback & not only from our club members - I've had an email from a couple of Saddleworth Runners ("probably the best organised station, and it was a really good idea to have people handing out drinks from both sides - almost like a guard of honour") & there have been some comments on the Runner's World forum ("the guys in general giving out the Shotbloks around 24m were great"). Well done all!  [David Emanuel]


VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON - 22nd APRIL 2012

Probably a new record high of 13 Royton Road Runners completed this year's London Marathon - but there's definitely no doubt that the club marathon record was broken yet again. Ian McBride bettered his own previous best with a fantastic 2:31:44, good enough for an incredible 68th place overall. Ian's was just one of many fine performances & new personal bests - including Stuart Carroll's 2:43:26 (which earned him 51st V40), Dave Kershaw's 2:58:29, Colin Green's 3:04:15 & Anne Jones's excellent debut marathon time of 4:58:46, achieved despite her injury-disrupted preparations.

As always, the race itself was merely the centrepiece of a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, led with military precision by Sergeant Major Lawton - who apparently added several seconds to Stuart's time by scaring him witless with his very vocal support out on the course.

Although an incredibly popular race, the London Marathon is still a tough challenge, particularly when it is as warm as it was (again) this year. If you don't believe me, just look at this picture of Bernie Cassidy 'lying in state' after his exertions (finishing time 3:50:04 - and it took him almost as long to climb the stairs in the pub later in the evening). Thanks to Colin Green for taking advantage of Bernie's exhaustion to catch him on camera.

Other finishing times: Dean Burgess & Ged Navesey 3:58:26, David Emanuel 3:02:36, YouTube sensation Bernie Goodwin 3:38:25, Julie Greenwood 4:35:19 & Jamie Holdaway 4:21:14 & John Kane 3:55:30. Congratulations to you all!  [David Emanuel]


WARDLE SKYLINE FELL RACE - 14th APRIL 2012

Of all the stupid things I've ever done - and there have been a few - running a fell race the week before the London Marathon is probably one of the stupidest. As I surveyed the descent of Brown Wardle Hill - the first of many potential ankle-spraining downhills in this tough seven-miler - I realised that a single mistake could make all those weeks of marathon training a waste of time. My cowardly downhill running became even more cowardly & on every subsequent descent, a cavalry charge of much braver athletes came charging past me & disappeared into the distance.

No such fears for Bruce Whittam or Barry Greaves, however, despite the fact that they are both running the Greater Manchester Marathon at the end of the month. Bruce continued his magnificent recent form, making light of the windy conditions to finish in a fantastic 20th place (4th V45) with a time of 54:20, while Barry - vastly experienced on this sort of terrain - finished an impressive 64th of 203 runners (3rd V55) in 60:18. Ian Dale, enjoying a race that passed right by his pub at Shore, finished just behind Barry in 66th place (60:29).

Kirsty White - another club member in excellent form - had a great run to finish as 5th lady in 62:27, while new member Roy Miller ran impressively to record a time of 67:40 in 118th place.

As for me...well I got to the finish, didn't do any damage & am now permanently wrapped in cotton wool until I get to the marathon start line on Sunday. No difficult downhills there!  [David Emanuel]


STEVE ROTHWELL MEMORIAL 4 MILE - 11th APRIL 2012

Looking at the latest Group Tables produced by Brian Moore, I'd be perfectly happy if the season finished now...but this race was only number five in the RRR 2012 Club Championship, so (unfortunately) there's still a very long way to go!

With big marathons coming up in the next few weeks in London & Manchester, a few of our more sensible runners chose to sit out this particular race. However this didn't stop the green, yellow & white vests dominating once again - the 41 club members taking part represented more than a quarter of the total field. Remarkably, this included 18 who didn't take part in last year's race.

As at the Vera Hirst 5K, we again saw a selfless contribution from a Royton Road Runner. This time it was Anne Jones (57:56) who accompanied Brian Hurst (57:53) around the course, which I'm sure was much appreciated by Brian, the 1st & only V70 finisher.

However, pride of place on this occasion must go to Debbie Shaw. Debbie celebrated her 100th RRR championship race - joining Bernie Goodwin in the very exclusive club '100 Club' - by winning the FV45 race in a time of 27:38, nearly a minute faster than last year.

In the absence of Ian McBride, Stuart Carroll rose to the occasion as the leading Royton runner in the field. Stuart's time of 22:09 was comfortably his best for this course (beating the 22:38 which earned him 2nd place in 2010) as he came home 3rd V40, 7th place overall behind race winner Ian Grime (20:50).

Brian, Debbie & Stuart provided just three of another excellent set of age category performances, which also included Teresa Hollins (1st FV55 in 32:15), June Allingan (1st FV65, 39:55), Kirsty White (2nd FV35 - that's FV35 - in 26:40), Debbie Fiddling (2nd FV45, 27:59), Rose Rowson (2nd FV50, 33:16), Rachael Kilburn (2nd senior lady, 34:49), Bernie Cassidy (3rd V50, 24.33), John Higgins (3rd V55, 25:59), Shiela Waite (3rd FV45, 28:56) & Val Kilburn (3rd FV40, 29:14).

Bruce Whittam proved that his performance at the Vera Hirst 5K was no flash in the pan, his very impressive time of 23:54 making him the first club V45 finisher, only just beaten to the line by an in-form Bill Balmer (23:51). Bruce ran an amazing 2mins 39secs quicker than last year, making him one of 17 Royton members who improved on their 2011 time - including Shane Reading (2mins 40secs quicker in 25:21), Russell Ingham (5th club finisher in 24:16) & Adrian Bowcock (2mins 28secs better in 37:55).

Other club finishers: David Emanuel (24:14), Bernie Goodwin (24:42), Ian Dale (24:48), Elliot Stone (24:49), Michael Harrison (25:19), Dave Freer (26:31), Greg Oates (27:28), Dean Burgess (27:42), David Booth (27:53), John Lambe (28:21), Steve Shaw (28:28), John Sweeney (28:41), David Ellis (29:12), Ronnie Quinn (29:47), Mark Kelly (making a welcome retun in 30:19), Stephen Jones (31:22), Tony Kane (31:45), George Meynell (32:55), Tony Hunking (35:15), Neil Barker (36:20), Phillip Jump (36:27) & Mary Freer (38:53). 
[David Emanuel]


VERA HIRST 5K - 29th MARCH 2012

How many Royton Road Runners does it take to change a light bulb? Just the one - but at least 40 will turn up if you tell them that it's part of the RRR Light Bulb Changing Championships! I really didn't believe that we could top the 45 who ran the Vera Hirst 5K in 2011...but there were 49 of us this year, an incredible 30% of the total field.

I'll come on to all the impressive performances shortly...but first a special mention for Roy Miller, who gave up any race targets of his own to run round in 47:54 with Brian Hurst. It's actions like this, as much as all the PBs, that make you feel proud to be Royton Road Runner!

Anyway, let's start with the stats: of the 30 Royton competitors who also took part in 2011, an amazing 19 improved their times - Bruce Whittam (18:38), Dave Freer (20:35) & Shane Reading (19:44) each by around two seconds. Of the others, several are working their way back from injury, while Steve Shaw (22:28) was racing again just a few days after competing in the Barcelona Marathon. We had 15 runners finishing inside 20 minutes, which put them all in the first 45 home, while a further 12 crossed the line in under 22 minutes.

One of those who improved on their time was our star performer Ian McBride, whose stunning 15:50 earned him second place - just behind last year's winner Dan Bradford of Sale Harriers, but ahead of four-time Royton Trail winner Ian Grime. Ian improved by almost 30 seconds on his 2011 time - in fact his time would have beaten Bradford last year. With such consistent performances - two race wins & two second places under his belt so far this season - dare we start to believe that Ian could provide us with a first 'home' winner for the Royton Trail this year?

In the absence of the three 'big hitters' in the V40 category at this race - Stuart Carroll, Chris Lowe & Dave Kershaw - it was time for runners in the other age categories to take centre stage. Alan Bodell, in his first club road race of the year, was second club finisher & V45 race winner in an impressive 18:31, while Bruce Whittam's stunning performance gave him second V45. Kirsty White (21:22) was first FV35 [corrected following terrible error in earlier version - whose stupid idea was it to put 3 & 4 next to each other on the keyboard?] & fourth lady overall, with Rochelle Evans (23:30)  second in the same age category. There was a clean sweep of prizes in the FV45 category for Debbie Fiddling (21:52), Debbie Shaw (21.56) & Shiela Waite (22:34). Debbie Shaw has now completed 99 club races, so will soon be joining Bernie Goodwin in the exclusive '100 Club'. Other impressive age category performances came from Val Kilburn (1st FV40 in 23:00), Dave Phillips (1st V65, 22:10), John Higgins (2nd V55, 20:13), Brian Hurst (2nd V70, 47:54), June Allingan (2nd FV65, 29:42), Rose Rowson (3rd FV50, 26:07) & Bernie Cassidy (3rd V50, 18:58).

After his impressive showing at the Southport Mad Dog in February, Russell Ingham stepped up another level, crossing the line as third Royton finisher in a time of 18:32. No surprise to those who have seen his performances at the track on Monday nights!

Other Royton finishers: Bill Balmer (back to top form with 18:33), Martin Kay (18:34), Colin Green (18:40), David Emanuel (18:57), Bernie Goodwin (19:06), Richard Fiddling (19:16), Tony McAndrew (19:17), Ian Dale (19:26), Elliot Stone (19:27), Michael Harrison (20:07), Rob Kellett (20:34), Matt Kilburn (20:45), Neil Farrell (20:50), Dean Burgess (21:31), David Booth (21:33), John Lambe (21:47), Dave Ellis (21:56), Greg Oates (22:00 on his club debut), John Sweeney (22:19), Ronnie Quinn (22:59), Stephen Jones (24:06), Laura Walters (25:57), George Meynell (26:47), Dave Smith (26:48), Rachel Kilburn (27:10), Phillip Jump (28:10), Adrian Bowcock (28:27), Mary Freer & Holly Innes (30:51 & 31:52 respectively, both in  their first club race).  [David Emanuel]


EAST HULL 20 - 18th MARCH 2012

When reporting on this race last year, I strongly recommended it ?as part of the preparation for anyone's spring marathon?. Clearly people take my advice very seriously, as a whole TWO Royton Road Runners joined me on the trip to the east coast for this year?s race.

Fortunately for me, one of those runners was Colin Green, the man with possibly the most perfect pace judgment you'll ever know. Ahead of the race we decided on our strategy ? to try to run an even 6min 52sec per mile pace, completing the 20 miles in the 2hrs 16mins, which would be the perfect springboard in a month?s time for our attempt to break the magic three-hour barrier at the London Marathon. As ever, Colin delivered to perfection ? his Garmin records show that we averaged exactly 6min52secs, with all bar the final (slightly quicker) mile run between 6:43 & 6:55. In fact, so good was Colin?s pace-making that several other runners latched onto us from early on in the race ? one of whom, a certain lady from Doncaster AC, sticking so closely behind that she came close to sending Colin crashing to the ground on several occasions until he told her, in no uncertain terms, to try running a little further back. 

On yet another near-perfect day for running ? cool & dry, with a bit of a headwind on the outward half of the course ? Colin & I crossed the line together (although not holding hands, that would have been going a bit too far) in joint 48th place in 2:16:34. Rob Kellett, the third member of the RRR triumvirate, finished 125th in an excellent 2:31:56. We celebrated by tucking into the generous (free!) buffet in the East Hull Harriers clubhouse & then taking pictures of Colin in his Greenfield Greyhounds hoodie in front of the Humber Bridge. An excellent day ? now bring on London!  [David Emanuel]


DENTDALE RUN - 10th MARCH 2012

Four things I learnt from this year's trip to the delightful village of Dent:
   1. Delightful a place as it is, 2 1/2 hours is a long time to spend in Dentdale before a race
   2. Thanks to Kirsty's demonstration, I realise that high heels & cobbled streets don't mix
   3. Chris Eavers, however, is surprisingly comfortable in those same heels
   4. Shiny new tarmac & filled potholes don't make this 14+ mile course any easier!

This race also confirmed - although it was something we already knew - that RRR is far from a one-man team. As Ian McBride celebrated our 150th club race with yet another fantastic victory (his second of the season on the road, his time of 79:09 more than three minutes clear of the field), he teamed up with Stuart Carroll (4th overall, 2nd V40 in a huge new PB for the course of 84:47) & Chris Lowe (22nd in 92:47) to claim victory in the men's team race - with lovely new head torches as their reward! Just as impressive were the performances of Kirsty White (1:52:52), Debbie Shaw (1:54:08) & Rochelle Evans (1:57:44) to claim second place in the ladies' race. Shiela Waite also had a great run, claiming third prize in the FV45 category with a time of 1:51:56 (not counted for the team prize as she runs first claim for Saddleworth Runners).

As has been the case in every race this year, greatly improved performances were to be found amongst many of the 30 Royton finishers (sadly depleted by the calf injury which forced Club President Dave Phillips out of the race after just one mile). Particularly worthy of note were the runs of Bruce Whittam (40th in 98:17, 10 minutes better than last year & ruining most of the pre-race predictions), Diane Allingan (2:19:00 - improving by an amazing 15 minutes on 2011), Stephen Jones (2:05:04, a 14-minute improvement), Val Kilburn (12 minutes better in 1:59:54), Eamonn Nolan (10 minutes quicker in 1:50:02) & Anne Jones (2:21:21, improving by eight minutes). Ian Dale, experiencing a first club coach trip & making his debut on the tough Dentdale course, delivered an impressive performance in 1:40:56 & just outsprinted Bernie Goodwin (1:40:59) at the finish.     

Other finishers: David Emanuel (95:20), Bernie Cassidy (97:03), John Higgins (1:41:02), Barry Greaves (1:41:27), Andy Schofield (1:44:50), Chris Eavers (1:45:12), James Trollope (1:45:58), Neil Farrell (1:49:14), Rob Kellett (1:52:17), Steve Shaw (1:55:33), John Sweeney (1:58:00), Dave Smith (2:09:02), Trevor Grundy (2:09:30), Neil Barker (2:27:02) & June Allingan (2:35:11).  [David Emanuel]


GREAT NORTH WEST HALF MARATHON - 26th FEBRUARY 2012

For the second race of the Club Championship it was back to the seaside for Royton Road Runners. Kiss-me-quick hats & candy floss were not on the agenda as 30 RRR athletes competed in the Great North West Half Marathon. Conditions for running were ideal, with none of the punishing gale-force winds normally encountered at this venue.

After a mightily impressive performance to win at Southport, Ian McBride again was in sparkling form, finishing in 2nd place with an incredible 69:01. Stuart Carroll joined him on the podium in 3rd place & 1st V40 - yet another PB for Stuart in 75:06. Chris Lowe is coming good now, finishing in the top 20, with his time of 80:19 good enough for 17th place. In all Royton had 10 runners dipping under 90 minutes. Dave Kershaw was one of these, his comeback continues as he was 4th Royton runner home in 81:00.

As usual we had some good age positions, with the ever-improving Kirsty White 3rd in the FV35 category with a PB of 95:16. Dave Phillips knocked five minutes off last year's time for 2nd V65, Trevor Grundy had a good run to finish 3rd V65 & June Allingan came in as 2nd FV65. Also worthy of a mention were the PB runs of John Sweeney (99:45), Rochelle Evans (101:54) David Ellis (104:14) & Stephen Jones (108:45) - all are improving with every race. Colin Green (83:21), Bruce Whittam (87.40) & Tony McAndrew (89:11) also come into that category with impressive performances.  [Dave Phillips]


STUDMARKS FROM THE SUMMIT FELL RACE - 19th FEBRUARY 2012

I've never really been very good at fell running - as anyone who has had my company on Pennine Bridleway Relay recces will attest (or indeed Colin on our run of the Cleveland Way last year). There's something about an uneven downhill slope that brings out the pathetic coward in me. But given that it was my idea to get RRR involved in the 'Run The Moors' fell race series & with the first race practically on my doorstep, I felt obliged to give this a go.

Meeting up before the race with the rest of Team Royton (proper fell runners Alan Bodell, Barry Greaves & Shiela Waite, running for Saddleworth), I took the opportunity to get my excuses in early - just taking it easy, treating it as a training run, preparing for the half marathon next weekend, etc. However, having started too far back, my competitive instincts kicked in as I passed plenty of runners on the way up towards Blackstone Edge, although Alan quickly disappeared into the distance. With encouragement from our loyal supporters (Richard & Debbie Fiddling plus dog) at the top of the hill, I managed to gain a few more places as we trudged across a combination of mud & ice to the two reservoirs & then briefly onto the Pennine Way. But unfortunately there was still the downhill to come. As the runners I'd battled to get ahead of now came charging past me on the long descent, I decided just to concentrate on staying on my feet & enjoying the views.

When we eventually reached more level running as we neared the finish, I saw my chance to gain a few places back & focused on chasing the runners in front. Big mistake! Somehow they took a wrong turn - with me dutifully following - & half a dozen of us arrived at the finish area from the wrong direction. Back we went up the hill to rejoin the course, adding a couple of minutes to our times...made even worse as I saw Barry (going the right way) coming down the hill & now in front of me.

Finishing positions/times: Alan Bodell 26th (40:10), Barry Greaves 71st (46:24), David Emanuel 74th (46:36), Shiela Waite 94th (48:53). At least we weren't amongst the poor runners who finished 101st & later, for whom the results say "Sorry The Timer Packed In".

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable run on a lovely bright, crisp day - I'd thoroughtly recommend taking part in some of the other races in this series if you have the time.  [David Emanuel]


SOUTHPORT 'MAD DOG' 10K - 12th FEBRUARY 2012

Ian McBride started the RRR road race season in magnificent style with victory in the Southport Mad Dog 10K. In perfect race conditions on an excellent fast & flat course, Ian destroyed the rest of the field of more than 1,000 runners, finishing nearly two minutes clear of second-placed Harry Doran (Liverpool Pembroke) in a remarkable winning time of 31mins 57secs. It was a great day for many of the 44 Royton runners taking part, as the seaside course proved a great new addition to the club?s race calendar. Many achieved personal best times for the 10K distance, with a club record 15 crossing the finishing line inside 40 minutes. With 10 of those runners finishing within 45 seconds of each other, it?s already promising to be an exciting & competitive season!

There were also some fine performances from the Greenfield Greyhounds, Colin Green running group affiliated to RRR, in the first race of their own newly-formed road race championship.

In the age category competitions, Debbie Fiddling (43:26) raced to victory in the FV45s, whilst Stuart Carroll?s impressive time of 34:42 was good enough for 2nd V40 (7th place overall), Trevor Grundy (49:39) was 3rd V60 & Shiela Waite (45:05) 3rd FV45. The performances of Chris Lowe (4th V40 in 36:42) & Dave Kershaw (6th V40 in 36:53) suggest that - with Stuart ? they?ll be hard to beat in the battle for club?s V40 championship prizes this year!

Some of the most noteworthy performances came from runners who have shown great recent form in training ? Kirsty White (42:40) was the first Royton lady home while Russell Ingham (38:38) was the 6th club finisher, with Bruce Whittam (38:48) & Tony McAndrew (38:56) not far behind.

Other Royton finishers: David Emanuel (38:26), Colin Green (38:49), Bernie Cassidy (38:52), Bernie Goodwin (38:58), Bill Balmer (39:02), Richard Fiddling (39:08), Des Thorpe (39:09), Ian Dale (39:39), Elliot Stone (40:44), Shane Reading (40:56), Rob Kellett (41:08), Eamonn Nolan (41:27), Andy Schofield (41:29), John Higgins (41:05), John Lambe (42:58), Neil Farrell (43:18), John Sweeney (44:00), David Booth (45:55), Rochelle Evans (46:15), Val Kilburn (47:51), Matt Kilburn (47:53), Tony Kane (48:35), Stephen Jones (49:04), Dave Smith (49:15), Laura Walters (51:27), Diane Allingan (52:09), Anne Jones (53:46), Neil Barker (54:38), Kay Fitton (55:51), Rachael Kilburn (57:04), Tony Hunking (57:34), June Allingan (58:03) & Phillip Jump (60:22).  [David Emanuel]


BOX HILL 10K ("KNACKER KRACKER") - 1st JANUARY 2012

My son-in-law Andy asked me if I'd like to do a 10K on New Year's Day. We were down south for Christmas, so what could be nicer a gentle little run in leafy Surrey to blow away the cobwebs after the excesses of Xmas? When I went online to enter the alarm bells began to ring...the Box Hill 10K is known as the "Knacker Kracker" & billed as the toughest 10K in Britain. Not only that they charge you £30 for the pleasure! Nonetheless the first day of 2012 found me lining up amongst the bankers & stockbrokers (not that you'd know, fancy dress was the order of the day). I've not seen so many suspenders & bizarre costumes since RRR presentation night! I went as a very sexy Father Christmas - the lady marshals loved my frilly Santa shorts (eat your heart out Stuart). Andy was a green elf - he's 6'2".

The race started on a hill, had hills in the middle & just for fun the 10K was now a 12K because they found another hill & added it on as a bonus. With some encouraging words from the starter & a loud rendering of "God save the Queen" we were off. Our first objective was to aim for a distant speck on the horizon which we were told was a lone piper. To reach him we laboured up a hill that was like Crompton St with grass. It was no coincidence that the piper was playing a lament, as all around me nuns & fairies seemed to be breathing their last. Having toiled all the way up this monster, we had to go round the piper & straight back down again, all that effort for nowt. On to the road now & up a hill called Zig Zag Lane - it's that steep that it's been included in the Olympic cycling event (I could have done with Cavendish to give us a lift). I did manage to pass Darth Vader on this stretch - he gave me a right dirty look! A soldier in bare feet & a pink fairy were soon passed, but an Asian lad in a skimpy bikini was too fast for me & disappeared up the hill. After the zig-zag we entered the woods along trails, going up & down on a series of energy-sapping steps. On one set of stairs I actually passed a lad dressed as Wee Willie Winkie - nightshirt, hat & even carrying a candle. Amazing.

The rest of the race was along miles of paths, ankle-deep in mud - it was like being a messenger on the Somme. By now my legs were seriously complaining & it was with some relief that I ran down to the finish for some very welcome soup & sandwiches. I had kracked the Knacker Kracker. The atmosphere & camaraderie amongst the runners was amazing & the organisation from the officials superb. Never again will I call them Southern softies. Would I do it again? Hmmm...yes, I probably would. But their next event is a wife-carrying race, it's a big 'no' to that one. Get down Sheila!  [Dave Phillips]

 
Click here for 2011 race reports archive.
Click here for 2010 race reports archive.