Monday, Jun 26 at 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Monday, Jun 26 at 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Wednesday, Jun 28 at 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Wednesday, Jun 28 at 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM

RACE REPORTS 2015

SOUTH EAST LANCS X-COUNTRY (HEATON PARK) – 12th DECEMBER 2015

Just when you think cross-country conditions can't get any worse...after several days of non-stop rain, Heaton Park was quite literally full of water. Overflowing in fact. You couldn't get out of the Sheepfoot Lane car park without crossing a river, it was difficult to tell where the boating lake finished or the footpath started & I'm pretty sure I passed an old bearded bloke building an ark on the way up to race HQ.

Having got my feet completely soaked carrying half of Gloria the Gazebo to the sparsely populated tent village, I made the executive decision not to go back for the rest - not least because there hardly seemed to any other RRRs present. Turned out it was only the ladies' team that was depleted, however, so once they set off & after an unsuccessful attempt to shelter under a tree, we made our camp under cover at the stables (which seemed fitting somehow).

With only three RRR ladies on the start line & little warm-up time due to car problems, it was also going to be difficult for the team to maintain their recent level of South East Lancs performance. Under those circumstances & in such difficult conditions, a 3rd place finish behind strong East Cheshire & Glossopdale teams was a fantastic achievement - so great credit goes to Jen Bloor (7th), Kirsty White (12th, 2nd FV40) & Rochelle Evans (35th, 6th FV40) for keeping us in the running for the team prizes.        

So for once it was the men who stole the show! In what may possibly be our best-ever performance we finished in a superb 2nd place overall behind Salford Harriers. With Danny McManus (22nd) leading from the front once again, closely followed by the impressive Nick Cuff (23rd) & team captain Shane Reading (28th, 6th V40), ably supported by Rob Fairbanks (37th), Mo Butt (47th in his 1st cross-country race of the winter) & Neil Brock (50th, 6th V50), this was a great team effort. As if that wasn't enough we were also 3rd in the V50s (Neil joined by Barry Greaves & myself) & 4th in the V40s (Shane, Neil & me). Barry also joined Kirsty in claiming an individual place on the podium as 3rd V55.

Perhaps even more impressive was the strength-in depth shown by our men's team. The ever-improving Carl O'Callaghan finished only seconds behind me in 54th place (8th V40), with Jason Keast (8th V45) & Lee Higginbottom (69th) not far behind. They were followed home by the ever-reliable Ray Williams (16th V50), Chris Nicholson (116th) & Kevin Kennedy (18th V45).

Bit of a break now, which should hopefully give us all time to get our shoes dry. Next cross-country race is at Tandle Hills on 23rd January 2016.  [David Emanuel]  
SANTA DASH OR DAWDLE - 13th DECEMBER 2015
Here we are again for the 10th anniversary of the Springhill Hospice run around Hollingworth Lake - not sure on the exact numbers, but it looked to me as though there were more than the 400 Santas who took part last year. Quite a sight...

Four RRRs lined up on the start line in unfamiliar red garb. Andy Hayhurst & Mike Bundy were just out for a sociable jog round with family & pets, so that left Richard Fiddling & I taking it slightly more seriously than we really should have been. I'm not sure you can really call this a 'race' as there are no results, no times & no prizes - but we were still the first two home, continuing a fine tradition which started with Stuart Carroll's victory in 2008. Another Santastic victory for RRR!  [David Emanuel]         
CITY OF SALFORD WOMEN'S 5.25 MILE RUN - 29th NOVEMBER 2015
In late November I took part in the 25th running of the Swinton Ladies Race.  Since about 1992 I have run quite a few of these races, as when I ran with Middleton Harriers it was sometimes designated a ladies club championship race. I have taken part as LV60, LV65, LV70, LV75 & now LV80 - my time for this I do not wish to remember! Perhaps if I can improve my stamina for next year I can improve on my time. [A time of 55:08 for 1st LV80, 172nd overall of 228 finishers, sounds pretty impressive to me! ed]
 
It is a great event & one I would thoroughly recommend. This year was no exception & I met lots of friends from other clubs who I haven't seen for a few years, as it was 2008 when I last ran the race (due to one thing & another I haven't been racing much). The weather wasn't too good - no surprise there, over the years it has been terrible at times - but the atmosphere, organisation & support was tremendous. I have no hesitation in thoroughly recommending this race.  [Lou Gilchrist]
RED ROSE X-COUNTRY (MARL PITS, ROSSENDALE) - 5th DECEMBER 2015
The fourth & final Red Rose fixture of the season was at Marl Pits, Rossendale. I'd heard plenty of horror stories about the course, hearing it described as 'Hell on earth' & 'Cess Pits'. I'd not run it before, so whilst pulling into the car park I was looking for signs that conditions wouldn't be as bad as predicted:
 
No air ambulances lifting stricken runners from the course. Check.
No children covered in mud & crying. Check.

However, it soon became clear that strong wind, sideways rain & knee-deep mud was the menu for the day. Which RRRs would step up to the plate & taste the delights of Marl Pits? For the women, hitting the 'course from hell' head-on, was the inspirational Nefa Nessa who finished in 34.35, a fantastic time in such muddy conditions & smashing her run of 37.11 from last year.

For the men...Kevin Kennedy (1.00.38), who despite a heavy training schedule this month, despite having done a 2 mile backpack training run just before the race & despite plenty of swear words, set off with the enthusiasm of someone who hadn't just been comparing the course to a battlefield; me, trying & failing to learn how to run down hill in spikes (54.03); Ray Williams, who was trying to lift team spirits by telling every one on the start line that it would be an enjoyable experience, finishing in 47.02 & improving on last years time of 48.14; Lee Higginbottom (41.43) who having recently become a father & no doubt suffering with sleep deprivation in recent weeks, was as giddy as a child in Santa's Grotto on the start line; Bryan Lawton (41.04), who had done a bit of a recce beforehand & told us, with a twinkle in his eye, that the 'swamp' was worse than expected; the ever-improving Carl O'Callaghan who, despite concerns about the conditions & questioning his sanity for taking part, finished in an impressive 40.36; & Neil Brock, despite injury concerns & having run Oldham Parkrun earlier in the day, showed no signs of tiredness as he crossed the line in 40.20. Then there was Team Captain Shane Reading (37.12), lifting morale on the start line with his infectious enthusiasm, while leading the team home was Danny McManus, who didn't seem to notice the heavy conditions & flew round the course in a rapid 35.14, lapping me in the process when I was on one of my many visits to the floor. These results meant the men's team finished in 10th place on the day.

Not forgetting Simon Howard who stood in the cold, wind & rain, cheering the RRRs on despite not being able to run himself due to injury. To give you an idea of how bad the conditions were for Simon, he was only able to take one photograph, due to concerns about damaging his phone if he exposed it to the elements.

Unfortunately, for safety reasons, Gloria the Gazebo couldn't make it. I've spoken to her since the race & she is disappointed she was unable to be involved but hopes to be at Heaton Park for the next South East Lancs fixture on Saturday 12th December.  [Chris Nicholson]

TODMORDEN PARK WINTER 5K (3/4) – 3rd DECEMBER 2015

The end of another excellent series of headtorch races in Todmorden - and the cold, nasty, relentless rain was back again. Not that it bothered the 6-strong RRR contingent, as we recorded a series of excellent results in this race & the series as a whole.

Pride of place has to go to Rob James, first across the line in 16:44 for the fourth time in a row, a clean sweep which gave him the overall series victory (best 3 races count) by almost two minutes. Very impressive!

A special mention too for Nefa Nessa, who somehow allowed herself to be persuaded, at the previous night's track session, to come along for her Tod Park debut. She was rewarded with a 1st female RRR finish in 27:37. Admittedly she was the only female RRR present, but that doesn't make it any less of an achievement!

Another fine run from Danny McManus (19:09) saw him come home in 4th place, moving up to 3rd in the series overall. Close behind was Ian Dale (5th, 19:25), at last claiming the V50 prize (at the 4th attempt) & giving him an excellent 6th in the series. Lee Higginbottom, like Nefa running his only race of the series, raced round in 22:24 to finish 17th on the night.

Having missed the 3rd race, I'd been building this up as the big showdown with Tony McAndrew, as we stood at 1-1 from the earlier races. Sadly Tony wasn't able to attend...but I've added up our times over the 3 races we each ran & am claiming victory by the very smallest of margins. According to the official 'chip' results, my aggregate time was just 0.6 hundredths of a second quicker than Tony's. Some might think that's so close that we should call it a draw...but I'll take any success I can get. My win! Those performances put Tony & I in 10th & 9th places for the series respectively, meaning that RRR had 5 of the top 10 overall finishers. Tawnia Norman, the only other RRR to complete 3 races, finished a superb 17th & 3rd female.

Despite consistently terrible weather - although it was apparently better for the 3rd race, which I missed - this has been another enjoyable series & it's been great to see some new RRRs taking part. Hopefully they'll be inspired to don their headtorches again in 12 months' time!  [David Emanuel]             
RED ROSE X-COUNTRY (BOLTON) - 21st NOVEMBER 2015
I don't know if it's just me, but this season's cross-country season is really playing havoc with my feet. Already ugly & misshapen - yes, I am still talking about my feet - with significantly fewer toenails than toes, the addition of what appears to be trench foot really isn't an improvement (I checked on Wikipedia which describes trench foot as "a condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp, unsanitary & cold conditions...affected feet may become numb & begin to have a decaying odour...").

Of course I've only got myself to blame, turning up early for this event at Bolton & standing around in mud for a couple of hours before the men's race started. However this did give me the opportunity to watch all of the junior races. When we're constantly hearing about a childhood obesity crisis in this country, it's heartwarming to see so many youngsters out in the fresh air getting some healthy exercise; admittedly they were covered in mud & (in many cases) crying uncontrollably, but it's still good to see.

An impressive 23 RRRs braved the freezing conditions to take part in this, the 3rd race in the Red Rose series. Highlights included a cross-country debut for Stacey Andrew (117th place), our Kirsty White (26th, 6th FV40) at last beating the fake Kirsty White (Burnden Road Runners) by a whole 3 seconds & Jen Bloor crossing the line in 4th place. This puts Jen in 3rd place in the series as it stands - but since she'll be missing the final race at Marl Pits, I think she's going to just miss out on a top 3 finish. Likewise the RRR ladies team, currently lying in 4th place behind Bury, Accrington & Todmorden, will struggle to force their way into the top 3 in Jen's absence.

Captain Shane Reading (66th, 19th V40) led from the front for the men's team in the absence of Danny McManus. To his credit Danny was present to cheer us on, even though he wasn't well enough to run, along with some chap called Gary Fielding (never heard of him) who blamed his own illness on a bug spread by Bryan Lawton. Nice work Bryan - if you can just infect all the other teams I think we could win this!

Once again the men's team had to rely on our strength-in-depth, with Shane joined by Neil Brock (102nd, 10th V50), me (111th, 12th V50), Jason Keast (122nd, 20th V45), Ronnie Garrod (123rd, 32nd V40) & Carl O'Callaghan (126th, 34th V40) to earn us a creditable 12th place. The men's contingent was completed by Lee Higginbottom (139th), Gary Smith (168th, 12th V55), Simon Howard (182nd, getting stronger every week), Ray Williams (187th), James Cashin (197th), Kevin Kennedy (201st), Adam Stirling (203rd) & Mark Heaney (207th).

Rochelle Evans (65th, 13th FV40) produced another fine run to be 3rd counter for the ladies team, followed home by Clare Darraugh (87th, 18th FV40), Lisa Howarth (88th), Sue Heaney (103rd, 16th FV50) & Jillian Heywood (111th, 26th FV40). Nefa Nessa (124th) arrived direct from a teacher's conference desperate for food - fortunately Garry Bower (present as chief photographer) was able to break out the emergency cake rations. A delay to the start gave Nefa just enough time to eat sufficient quantities to get her through to the finish.

It's been a pretty full-on sequence of cross-country races recently, with races on 3 successive Saturdays, so congratulations & many thanks to those who have managed to take part in all of them. Enjoy next weekend off & see you again at Marl Pits on 5th December!  [David Emanuel]                                  

TODMORDEN PARK WINTER 5K (2/4) – 19th NOVEMBER 2015

That's more like it! A couple of puddles by the bowling green at the far end of the course & a bit of rain during the final lap felt like a considerable improvement on last week's splashfest. There were more of us too - the 6 RRRs who ran last time were joined by Richard Fiddling & Mark Heaney. Both ran extremely well, Richard claiming the 1st V45 prize as he finished 13th in 20:15, Mark returning from injury for 2nd V55 (24th overall) in 22:12.

The improved conditions meant some better times - for all of us except Tawnia Norman. Her 22:13 meant she was 2nd lady home, an excellent result, but it was 5 seconds slower than the week before. What's the opposite of a 'fair weather runner'?

Rob James was first across the line once again, his impressive 16:43 a 32-second improvement on the previous week, which took him 35 seconds clear of the field. Danny McManus (5th, 18:44) & Ian Dale (8th, 2nd V50, 19:14) also improved significantly but this trio were again just pipped into 2nd place in the team race. Worth mentioning that there wasn't a single club with three female runners, so there's a prize up for grabs if we can get two other RRRs here next week to support Tawnia!

Having let me catch him on the final lap last week, Tony McAndrew (11th, 20:04) changed tactics & sat on my shoulder waiting for the perfect moment to strike. That moment came about 30 metres from the finish & he beat me by 2 seconds. Since I have to miss Race 3, that means we're all set for a big showdown at the final race on 3rd December. No doubt he's already planning his strategy for that one... [David Emanuel]   

SOUTH EAST LANCS X-COUNTRY (LEIGH) – 14th NOVEMBER 2015

Back to Leigh already! Just a month after starting the cross-country season here in the Red Rose League, we returned for the 1st of this winter’s SEL series - in very different conditions. Leigh is well-known as the flattest & easiest of all of the cross-country courses, but the heavy rain made it as tough as I’ve ever seen it. It was pretty cold too!


As if that wasn’t enough to contend with, ridiculously heavy traffic on the M62 delayed everyone’s arrival – with Selina McLean & Becky Mercer arriving after the start & missing the race. Selina arrived just as the gun went & suffered a frantic few minutes trying to decide whether she could sneak into the race as they came round after their initial lap of the field. It was probably best (for her conscience!) that my inability to find the race numbers made the decision for her.


The pressure was on for the rest of the RRR ladies as they started the defence of the South East Lancs title they shared with East Cheshire Harriers last season. Once again it looks like it’s going to be a straight fight between the two clubs, with no other squad looking likely to make a challenge. On this occasion East Cheshire came out on top – it looks like they’ve strengthened their team this year, with their top three runners finishing 2nd, 4th & 10th. Even so they only beat us by 6 points, with Jen Bloor once again leading us home in 3rd place, Jane Augsburger an excellent 7th & captain Kirsty White crossing the line in 12th (3rd FV40). It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we get onto the tougher courses – I fancy our chances of overturning this result if our leading trio stay fit & healthy.


Next RRR home was Rochelle Evans in 39th place (10th FV40). Then came Margaret Bluer, producing an impressive run for 55th place (4th FV55), followed by Lisa Howarth (66th) & Jillian Heywood (78th, 10th FV45). Fine performances all!


The men’s team was the strongest we’ve had for some time, with the welcome addition of new member Nick Cuff & RRR cross-country debutant Rob Fairbanks. They crossed the line as 3rd & 4th team counters respectively, with Nick in 28th place just behind team captain Shane Reading (27th, 5th V40) & Rob 31st. With Danny McManus (21st) leading us home, plus Neil Brock (5th V50) & myself (8th V50) both getting inside the top 50 finishers, this was good enough to give us 3rd place in the team event behind East Cheshire (them again!) & Leigh. Let’s hope we can continue that level of performance throughout the series – it would be nice for the men to get on the podium for a change!


Shane, Neil & I also combined for 3rd place in the V40s, while Neil & I were joined by Barry Greaves (4th V55) for the same position in the ‘Over 50’ competition. Barry just managed to overhaul the in-form Jason Keast (7th V45) in the latter stages of the race, with Carl O’Callaghan (9th V40) next across the line. Then came Lee Higginbottom, closely followed by Garry Bower & Gary Smith, with Ray Williams, Simon Howard, Martin Jones & Kevin Kennedy also completing an increasingly boggy course.


These races really are coming thick & fast at the moment – next up it’s a trip to Bolton to resume the Red Rose competition. Hope to see you there!  [David Emanuel]

TODMORDEN PARK WINTER 5K (1/4) – 12th NOVEMBER 2015

I must admit that, as I drove to Todmorden in the torrential rain for the first in this year’s winter 5K series, I didn’t expect many other RRRs to make an appearance (if any). After all, my race reports last year enthusing about the delights of running laps of Centre Vale Park with a headtorch hadn’t attracted many to venture across the border. So it was a pleasant surprise to bump into Danny McManus on my arrival at race HQ – followed by Rob James, Tony McAndrew, Tawnia Norman & Ian Dale. Not a bad turnout on a filthy November evening!


Most of the 64 entrants huddled around the cricket club pavilion until the last possible moment before venturing out into the deluge. Then we were (mercifully) quickly sent off for three crazy laps, splashing/wading through huge puddles throughout the park. My new, super-powerful headtorch succeeded only in making the rain brighter. Following on from the cross-country at the weekend I now have three pairs of running shoes stuffed full of newspaper, which might just be dry again before the New Year.


Rob James may have run too fast to get his feet wet at all as he produced a remarkable run to cross the line 1st in 17:15, a full 27 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Danny McManus came home 6th in 19:11, closely followed by Ian Dale in 19:38. The V50 category seems to be getting tougher every week – Ian was 10th overall but only 3rd V50, while my 20:21 gave me 14th place & 5th in the same age category. I only managed to sneak ahead of Tony McAndrew on the final lap, as he crossed the line just 3 seconds adrift. Tawnia Norman had a great run to finish in 22:08, 6th lady overall & 3rd Senior Woman.


So probably not our quickest 5Ks ever, but we all agreed it’s the fastest we’ve ever swum this distance. On the positive side, conditions have got to be better for the rest of the series…haven’t they?  [David Emanuel]

RED ROSE X-COUNTRY (HYNDBURN) - 7th NOVEMBER 2015
I'd always thought it would be impossible to find a cross-country course with more mud than Boggart Hole. Now I know different...

Not that the boggiest of boggy venues will put off the RRR team, as an impressive 20 of us took part in this 2nd race of the Red Rose series. Expectations for the ladies team were naturally lower, however, with the absence of Jane Augsburger meaning that it was going to be near-impossible to match the magnificent 3rd place achieved in the team race at Leigh. But only near-impossible...a fantastic run by Tawnia Norman for 44th place, backing up the ever-reliable Jen Bloor (9th) & Kirsty White (23rd, 5th FV40), secured 3rd place again, behind Bury AC & Todmorden Harriers but beating the Accrington Road Runners team that was 2nd in the previous race. Good to see that our Kirsty had closed the gap to the other Kirsty White (Burnden Road Runners) to just 6 seconds - I'm sure she'll beat the 'imposter' next time!

Our leading ladies were joined by 5 others in a fine team performance. Rochelle Evans survived a tree branch booby-trap set by a rival runner to come home 80th, followed by Becky Mercer (89th), Lisa Howarth (100th), JIllian Heywood (109th) & Nefa Nessa (127th). Nefa announced that she will be missing from the next race at Leigh, so we'll all be on smiling practice this week so we're ready to make up for her absence.

The standard of the senior men's competition (205 finishers) can be seen by the fact that our star performer Danny McManus crossed the line in 45th place. Team captain Shane Reading was next home in 60th (15th V40), followed by Jason Keast (96th, 17th V45). Jason had a fantastic run - I can vouch for this as I followed him round all three arduous laps, seeing him put in another burst every time I thought I was closing the gap. Making up the team 'counters' were Bryan Lawton (124th, 21st V45) & Carl O'Callaghan (138th, 24th V40), closely followed by Ronnie Garrod (149th, 26th V40), Tony McAndrew (155th), Gary Smith (163rd) & Ray Williams (183rd). Simon Howard completed the course in 195th despite starting to doubt the wisdom of using these cross-country races to get his fitness back, while Kevin Kennedy (204th) described it as "a horrid, muddy bog experience...just glad I got off the course in one piece!"

Back to Leigh next Saturday for the 1st race in the South East Lancs series. Hopefully everyone's kit will be clean again by then!  [David Emanuel]             

DERWENTWATER 10 - 1st NOVEMBER 2015

Wow, what a great way to end another great RRR club season! Back in July our very own ‘The Royton Trail’ was staged on the hottest day of the year; who then would have predicted that our last race of the season would be run on the warmest November day on record?

 

The day didn’t in fact start off that warm, as around 65  club members braved the cool misty morning & boarded the two coaches from Royton. Several others set off under their own steam, with some joining us at Westmorland Services & the remainder in Keswick.  There was an initial stunned silence for a moment before we set off, as those on board realised that Brian Moore was actually joining us for a club day out.


On the way up to the service area there was a big uptake for the coach competition, which this year meant predicting the first & last RRRs (from those on the coach only) and their times. Amazingly five got the correct pairing, headed by Simon Howard (3rd), Mike Harrison (2nd) & Ronnie Garrod taking the top prize of £15.00. The competition also raised £20.00 for our club charity, Oldham Mountain Rescue.


At the services there was the usual look of horror on the faces of the café staff as the endless flow of green hoodies converged on their food counters. There was even more horror on my face as Joel White sat next to me & proceeded to eat a pre-race black pudding!


Coach 1 landed at Keswick Race HQ at approximately 11.15am -  but where was Coach 2, we wondered.  The answer became clear 20 minutes later as the occupants appeared, cursing the driver's satnav which had apparently planted them in an unnavigable country lane. That will teach them to all sit at the back...


Anyway, panic over & the massed throng of green, yellow & white vests finally made it to the start line - me in my number 50 to celebrate my birthday & June in her 100 to mark her 100th RRR club race. The race went off on time in great running conditions. If you had blinked you would have missed the fact that this was a different start to previous years, to be honest there were probably 100 metres in it. So several members donned their races faces (me included) as they battled to fit together the final pieces of the season's jigsaw. Dave E highlighted what was still up for grabs last week via the website & to be honest I don’t know how everything worked out. I do however know that Dave Peart beat Bernie G to take the Vet 45s & Dave Ellis ran like he was being chased by a tiger to beat both me & Richard Fiddling to land the Group 1 title.


The weather conditions made it a pleasure to be out on the course for most & with the local car drivers behaving themselves this year I felt honoured to be taking part as I took in the views across Derwentwater towards the mountains. The last couple of miles followed a new route, which proved to be a little gentler than the old course. At the finish the consensus appeared to be that it made the race a little short, with 9.8 miles being the most common view.


The race also offered up some club success with the Ladies taking the team prize, June taking 1st V70 & Ian Dale 3rd V50 (I think). Just as impressive was the achievement of the fabulous four who completed the full set of 17 club races in 2015 - Eloise Bartlett, Mike Doolan, Rochelle Evans & Shane Reading. Incredibly this was in fact Shane's 48th consecutive race - whenever (if?) this record-breaking run comes to an end. it's going to take some beating.  


With the running out of the way, it was on to the end-of-season celebrations. Wetherspoons took the first hit & after we had eaten all their food & dropped birthday cake all over their floor, we gave our patronage to The Oddfellows. As usual it got very loud & enjoyable - I was grateful to Elliot Stone for doing his Town Crier impression just before 6pm which amazingly got everyone moving towards the door.


As you probably know I am not permitted to write about the return coach journey antics, other than to say we all made it back in one piece & mostly with smiles on our faces.  A great end to a great season - Mad Dog 2016 here we come!  [Bryan Lawton] 

OLDHAM HALF MARATHON - 18th OCTOBER 2015
I'm sorry if it's getting a bit boring starting every race report with details of a new club record...but if you wonderful people keep turning up to club races in such vast numbers, I'm going to keep writing about it! An incredible 73 RRRs completed this year's race, which is our biggest-ever participation in a half marathon, comfortably beating the 62 in the same race last year.

Somehow, despite there being so many RRRs in the race, there seemed to be just as many club members out on the course, both marshaling & supporting (often both). That fantastic level of support certainly helps create a special atmosphere at this race, almost (but not quite) making you forget about the hills...       

Do you want some more records? 167 members have now completed at least one club race this year (beating the 133 in 2014), with 60 running at least 9 races (we've never previously reached 50). It may be a tall order, but if we could get 88 or more RRRs running at Derwentwater for the final race of the season, we'd average exactly 70 per race this year (compared to a previous best of 54).

Of course behind all these statistics is a wealth of amazing individual achievements. Such as that of Selina McLean, who ran a new half marathon PB of 1:50:03, more than 13 minutes quicker than she ran at Oldham a year earlier. Or Mike Doolan (2:06:57) who continues to be ever-present this season & knocked 5 minutes off his 2014 time. Then there's Shane Reading, whose 1:26:00 (13th overall, 3rd V40) made him the 2nd RRR finisher behind Rob James (a marvellous 3rd place in 1:18:09 in his first Oldham Half), secured 3rd place in this year's Club Championship & extended his record-breaking sequence to 47 consecutive club races; when that run started in 2013, Shane was competing in the division below the Premiership, an indication of how far he has come in such a short time. There was a welcome return for Michael Harrison, running his 1st race since the Rochdale 10K in July in a stunning 1:31:44. Carl O'Callaghan (1:45:34) & Mike Bundy (1:45:49) both recorded new PBs - Carl running 6 minutes quicker than at Blackpool in February - while Rochelle Evans (1:47:35) ran a full 13 minutes quicker than she ever has on this course. And how about Jen Bloor, 3rd lady in 1:29:37, her 1st sub-90 minute half marathon, a qualifying time for New York Marathon & an improvement of more than 6 minutes on last year. Last, but certainly not least, Simon Lake stepped in at the last minute for the ultimate tail-running experience, finally crossing the line in 3:10:21.
 
Jen led the RRR ladies to yet another victory in a team event, supported by Kirsty White (2nd FV40, 1:38:14) & Debbie Shaw (1st FV50, 1:44:59). Prizes were also picked up by Dave Phillips (1st V70, 1:52:57), Teresa Hollins (1st FV60, 2:01:44) & June Allingan (1st FV70, 2:27:08). This was June's 99th club race, so time to start planning big celebrations in Keswick on 1st November! Several other RRRs produced great runs that came agonisingly close to collecting age category prizes - Dave Peart (2nd V45, 1:26:22), Barry Greaves (2nd V55, 1:34:14), Debbie Fiddling (2nd FV50, 1:45:04), Margaret Bluer (2nd FV5, 1:56:29) & Fay Royle (2nd FV60, 2:11:08).

Making impressive debuts for the club were Charlotte Chadwick (2:23:35) & Paul Joyce (1:31:32), while James Holdaway (2:00:08) made a welcome return to RRR colours, having recently rejoined. Mark Wilde (1:38:41) bravely (foolishly?) chose the toughest race in the calendar for his 1st appearance of the season.

All the other RRR finishers: Karen Stuttard (2:43:42), Carol Robinson (2:35:32), Melanie Kershaw (2:29:51), Mary Freer (2:27:05), Eloise Bartlett (2:25:37), Mark Oliver (2:25:23), Anne Jones (2:24:01), Liz Phillips (2:20:20), Stephen Jones (2:17:44), Claire Timms (2:16:51), Neil Barker (2:12:43), Jillian Heywood (2:08:44), Damieon Pickles (2:06:22), Rachel Wood (2:05:06), Clare Darraugh (2:01:47), Ray McBride (2:01:03), Stuart Brown (2:00:40), Ray Williams (2:00:26), Chris Nicholson (2:00:10), Chris Prince (1:58:26), Martin Jones (1:58:09), Paul Cooke (1:55:34), Laura Walters (1:55:33), Ronnie Quinn (1:55:30), Val Kilburn (1:55:21), Andy Schofield (1:51:54), Steve Shaw (1:49:43), Lee Higginbottom (1:49:00), Gary Smith (1:45:57), Jason Keast (1:43:51), Matt Kilburn (1:43:20), Stephen Lee (1:43:27), Elliot Stone (1:42:52), Garry Bower (1:42:40), Eamonn Nolan (1:42:14), Ronnie Garrod (1:41:36), Richard Fiddling (1:41:17), Joel White (1:41:03), Dave Freer (1:39:05), David Ellis (1:37:20), Alan Reynolds (1:34:23), Dan Yarwood (1:34:18), Shaun Armstrong (1:33:48), Bernie Goodwin (1:33:42), Ian Dale (1:33:36), me (1:30:47, 3rd V50), Rob Battye (1:27:43 in his 1st half marathon), Dave McBride (1:27:44) & Daniel McManus (1:26:08).    

Just one race to go now. Keswick here we come!  [David Emanuel]                             

RED ROSE X-COUNTRY (LEIGH) - 10th OCTOBER 2015
It always seems a shame that the cross-country season starts whilst our road race championship is coming towards its conclusion. In each of the last two years we've had 14 RRRs taking part in this first race at Leigh, not helped in 2014 by the fact that it was held the day before the Oldham Half Marathon. There was no direct clash this time, but with the race falling right in the middle of the Chester Marathon & Oldham Half, not to mention several potential cross-country team members completing their last long run ahead of the Snowdonia Marathon, I wasn't really expecting many more.

Then a strange & wonderful thing happened. I went off to sort out a missing race number & when I returned a small group of RRRs had gathered & made a brave attempt at erecting the gazebo (under Jen's expert leadership). Over the next half an hour or so, more & more people in club colours arrived. By the time the senior races were due to start we had a remarkable 27 runners ready to go. By my calculations that makes it the best cross-country turnout in RRR history.

Not only the best turnout but, at least as far as the ladies are concerned, one of the best-ever performances. Our expectations have certainly been raised after their victory in last winter's South East Lancs League, but the competition in the Red Rose series is considerably tougher...so for Jen Bloor (3rd overall), Jane Augsburger (7th) & Kirsty White (22nd, 5th FV40) to finish 3rd - level on points with 2nd-placed Accrington Road Runners - was truly remarkable. To put this performance in perspective, the ladies team finished 15th at Leigh last year & the best individual Red Rose performance was Kirsty's 11th place at Marl Pits. Perhaps what impressed me most was the air of confidence & determination before the race - this trio (plus Becki Robinson, when fit) now expect to be competing at the front of the field, regardless of the terrain.

Of course the team is far more than just the leading runners & it was great to see three cross-country debutants in Lisa Howarth (91st overall), Jillian Heywood (121st, 31st FV40) & Della Wright (144th, 22nd FV50) performing so well. Hopefully they will all follow in the footsteps (trail-shoe steps?) of Nefa Nessa, Sue Heaney & Clare Darraugh, who all made their 1st cross-country appearances at this event in 2014. All three knocked huge amounts off last year's times - 5 1/2 minutes for Nefa (122nd overall), 4 minutes for Sue (100th, 17th FV50) & 3 minutes for Clare (80th, 20th FV40). Nefa was particularly pleased to finish before the men's race started! Meanwhile Tawnia Norman (46th) had a fine run which suggested she could be challenging the top 3 in future.

Once again that left an awful lot for the men to live up to! There were a few debutants here too, including Carl O'Callaghan (172nd overall, 35th V40) & Chris Nicholson (199th) plus a welcome return for Colin Green (103rd, 23rd V40), who was pretty much the only RRR competing when he last ran a cross-country race. Leading the way for RRR was Danny McManus with a fine 42nd-place finish.

With 6 runners to count, strength-in-depth is rewarded in the men's team event & our excellent turnout enabled us to improve to 11th place (from 14th last year). Danny & Colin were joined by Jason Keast (120th, 23rd V45), Ronnie Garrod (114th, 25th V40), Neil Brock (84th, 6th V50 despite pulling up in the last mile with a recurrence of his calf injury) & myself (83rd, 5th V50). Next home were Tony McAndrew (135th) & new dad Lee Higginbottom (138th - it's a boy, named Max, in case you haven't heard!), followed by Gary Smith (166th, 24th V50), Ray Williams (194th, 32nd V50), Martin Jones (202nd), Mark Heaney (a welcome return from injury in 209th, 16th V55), James Cashin (210th) & Kevin Kennedy (225th, 40th V45). Adam Stirling sadly had to drop out, but hopefully he'll be back competing in future races. 

There are much tougher cross-country races to come...but this was a fantastic start to a winter season which promises more silverware!  [David Emanuel]            
CHESTER MARATHON/METRIC MARATHON - 4th OCTOBER 2015
You've got to hand it to the organisers of this event - not only for an excellent race village on the racecourse & the option of a Metric Marathon (26.2 K = 16.3 miles, "the ideal stepping stone from a half marathon to a full marathon" according to the race website, which I'm sure is what Nefa Nessa had in mind), but also for the introduction of Club Corner. I hadn't planned to run until I heard about this, but so glad I did. Pitches were allocated along the home straight according to the number of club entrants, so Gloria the Gazebo & our fantastic supporters were right by the finish line. Having a base where everyone could gather made this a great 'team event', just like at the relays & cross-country races.

Once Gloria was in place, we'd collected our 'nutrition pack' (a generous supply of Lucozade sport, water & gels) & helped other clubs sort out their gazebos, the full marathoners went off first. An impressive 12 RRRs lined up for this race, including Jillian Heywood & Stacey Andrew tackling 26.2 miles for the first time. Both produced excellent debut performances, with Jillian finishing in 4:42:12 & Stacey crossing the line in 4:48:38.

Conditions were great at the start, but it got increasingly warm as the morning progressed. The course seemed tougher than I'd been led to believe - no big hills (until one in the last few miles) but lots of long gradual climbs which seemed to sap your energy (well mine anyway). I also wasn't prepared for the speed bump in the road which saw me eating tarmac at the 9.5 mile drink station. On this challenging circuit two standout performances came from Fay Royle (3rd FV60, 4:37:25) & Eileen Ingham (3rd FV65, 4:39:15), although Matt Kilburn's 3:28:35 was also a great run, inspired by his support crew of Val, Rachael & Hamish, the latter surely covering more miles than any of the runners on the day. First RRR home was Stuart Carroll, who probably shouldn't have been running after an injury-plagued year but still finished as 14th V40 in 2:58:39. Steve Shaw (4:03:13) completed his 5th marathon of the year, followed home by Stuart Brown (4:21:17) & Mark Oliver (5:08:07). Colin Green had the pleasure of running the course carrying a badminton racket as the official 4:15 pacer. Chris Lowe (3:07:32) & I (3:05:15) both set out aiming to go under 3 hours but didn't quite make it. Next time...

An hour after we set off, the Metric Marathon got underway. Judging from the photos, our runners were by far the happiest in the field - at least on the starting lap of the racecourse. Dave Freer (2:10:17) appears to have run the whole race with his hands in the air, which makes his time particularly impressive. Leading the way were Robert Fairbanks (62nd overall in 1:55:23) & Neil Brock (70th, 1:56:44), both building up to overseas marathons later in the month, although the star performer was Gill Lowe, 3rd FV50 in 2:19:51. Nefa Nessa (2:46:13) made it a remarkable 30 miles in 2 days, having taken part in the Rivington Trail Half Marathon 24 hours earlier; for once I think she earned the vast quantities of cake consumed after the race.

All the other RRR Metric Marathon finishers: Julie Greenwood (2:33:18), Jayne Foden (2:33:45), Annabella Gloster (2:35:34), Liz Phillips (2:52:12), Charlotte Chadwick (2:52:13), Mary Freer (3:03:30), Della Wright (3:11:53), Karen Stuttard (3:21:02), Ann Leyland (3:27:42) & Angela Rogowskyj (3:38:21).            
                 
Congratulations to everyone who took part & thanks to all the supporters/ photographers. I'm sure plenty will be back again next year!  [David Emanuel]  
SWINTON 10 - 27th SEPTEMBER 2015
I think it's generally accepted that this isn't the most popular of club championship races - the 44 RRR finishers, the lowest so far this year, appears to support that - but it retained its place largely down to the lack of other 10-milers, particularly with the Great Warford race being cancelled. However almost everyone I spoke to afterwards had something positive to say; not sure if that was down to the perfect weather, the great times everyone posted, the excellent organisation & marshaling or the many prizes that we picked up at the post-race presentation. Probably a combination of all four...

Once again it was the RRR ladies who dominated the prize-giving - three in particular. Debbie Shaw (1:15:14) claimed a fine FV50 award & Kirsty White (1:09:33) was an excellent 1st FV40, but pride of place must go to Jen Bloor. First lady across the line in a remarkable 1:04:41, 27th overall & nearly 5 minutes clear of the 2nd-placed runner, Jen continued her excellent recent form to set a new RRR record for 10 miles, overtaking the 1:07:36 posted by Carole Madden at Sale (arguably a much faster course) back in 2010. This trio also claimed the ladies team prize, beating a strong team from Burnden Road Runners by a single point. They headed home laden down with cash & bottles of wine (the perfect prize combination).

Our leading men couldn't quite match that performance, finishing 5th in the team race. However if there had been a Men's Vets competition they would have been clear winners as Gary Fielding (14th, 1:00:59), Dave McBride (returning to form in 16th, 1:01:41) & Shane Reading (18th, 1:01:56) finished as 3rd, 4th & 6th V40s respectively.

Given the excellent conditions I'm sure there were plenty of PBs recorded, although the only one I've seen mentioned on Facebook was by Sue Heaney (4th FV50, 1:29:51). Mike Doolan (1:29:31) knocked almost 10 minutes off his time here from 2014 as he completed his 17th successive club race. Chris Eavers (1:14:36) was 3rd V60 in his 100th club championship race, having first competed for the club in 2004, while Dave Peart (3rd V45 in 1:04:06) became the latest member of the '50 Club'. This was also the race when we passed 1,000 championship race appearances in a calendar year for the first time, exceeding the previous record 920 (in 2014) with two races still to go. We now have 54 members who have completed 9 or more races this year - yet another club record. 

All the other  RRR finishers: Eloise Bartlett (1:47:50, still on schedule to complete all 17 club races this year), Adrian Bowcock (1:43:56), Niparun Nessa (1:35:57), Jillian Heywood (1:32:10), Teresa Hollins (2nd FV60, 1:28:32), Lisa Howarth (an impressive 1:28:25 in her longest race since October 2013), Margaret Bluer (3rd FV55, 1:24:08), Val Kilburn (1:23:49), Ray McBride (1:23:13), Selina McLean (1:21:18), Paul Cooke (1:21:05), Laura Walters (1:20:41), Stuart Brown (1:19:50), Steve Shaw (1:19:22), Garry Bower (1:18:03), James Wright (1:17:47), Rochelle Evans (another ever-present this year, 3rd FV40 in 1:17:26), Carl O'Callaghan (1:16:41), Gary Smith (1:15:17), Lee Higginbottom (1:14:18), Elliot Stone (1:13:18), Matt Kilburn (1:12:25), Phil Marsden (1:09:32), Bryan Lawton (1:08:54), Brad Howard (1:08:48), David Ellis (1:07:54), Bernie Goodwin (1:07:08), Ian Dale (1:06:31), Dan Yarwood (1:06:28), Robert Fairbanks (1:06:05), Daniel McManus (1:05:47), Neil Brock (3rd V50, 1:05:25), Mo Butt (1:04:59) & me (1st V50, 1:03:11).

Well run everyone! Next club race is the legendary Oldham Half Marathon on 18th October...unless you're running the Chester Marathon/Metric Marathon & the 1st Red Rose cross-country race at Leigh, in which case you've got a tough few weeks ahead...  [David Emanuel]       
YARROW RIVER 10K TRAIL RACE - 20th SEPTEMBER 2015

Just the 3 RRRs for this one - Selina McClean, Clare Darraugh and myself. I had to twist both their arms just a little to join me; Clare said that when I told her we had to run through a river she was sold.


The original plan was for the 3 of us to stick together & have some fun, but Clare’s late night caught up with her & she encouraged Selina & I to push on after the 1st mile. I had been joking with Selina during that mile that the route seemed very flat...then we turned a corner & the 1st climb of many came in to view. With a shout of “Here we go” from me we did what RRRs do best & stormed up the hill.


The route was tough & very scenic with copious amounts of mud. Selina completely blew the ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ image she usually portrays with her language as she tried to tiptoe around each boggy bit, but she gave up in the end & just ploughed through them. I was laughing so much I was finding hard to breathe at times.


At 5 miles comes the 1st of 2 river crossings. When we arrived one guy had fallen in the water & was splashing about. The water came up to my knees & it was so much fun to run through. I was joking with the guy who had fallen for the next stretch, telling him that swimming cost extra & not to tell anyone.

More mud followed, but this was washed away again by the 2nd river crossing, which was followed by more mud & then on to the finish. I can’t remember the last time I have crossed a finish line with a bigger smile. I totally loved the route along with Selina’s company & we crossed the line together holding hands in the air in 56:11, which gave Selina the win in the F40 category & joint 46th overall. Clare came 75th  in 1:03:20 for 2nd F40.


All 3 of us have agreed we will be back again next year. The medal & T-shirt were great too & for £13 this race (put on by Mad Bull Events) is great value & I will be checking out some of their other events. If this one is anything to go by you can’t go wrong. Put this one in your diaries for next year - I promise you won’t regret it.  [Garry Bower]

GREAT LANGDALE MARATHON - 12th SEPTEMBER 2015
The Langdale Marathon in the Lake District is described as one of the hardest around due to some nice hills dotted throughout the course & to spice things up it's a 2-lap course. It is also one of the country's most beautiful runs, due to the amazing scenery & views.


Preparations for this year's run had been going well, I've been enjoying my running whether it be on my own, with the club or with my wife Della. So after couple of weeks getting a tan, race day was fast approaching. Friday night, kit ready & raring to go...then just after 2.30am I am up in agony with severe cramp in my left calf. You can guess some of the (unprintable) words running through my head over next hour or so.

More negative thoughts were running through my head after getting soaked waiting for my number, but these were briefly dissolved when Paul Craddock called by to say hello - another RRR in town, but wisely choosing the Half Marathon (which he ran well). After our chat I decided to bite the bullet & give it a go. A quick warm-up then onto the soaky grass to start.

The rain had all but stopped & the valley looking good again as I set off at a nice steady pace, having decided to just try to enjoy the run as best I could with this constant pain. Just after the 1st mile is the steepest hill, the kind where you lean forward, hands on knees & push as best you can. Each hill is followed by some sharp downhills no matter where you are on the course. I managed to settle into a steady pace, nothing too fast. There was plenty of encouragement around the route, sometimes just walkers passing by, but all very much appreciated.
 

Between miles 4-6 I got talking to someone from a club in Preston with 'RRR' on their black vest who described us as "one of the other RRRs".  A nice bloke who helped distract me as we pushed on up & down some nice sharp climbs. Having run here last year I knew that I had to get to the Youth Hostel high up to know I would at least get to half distance before deciding if to continue. At miles 10-12 I was having that runner's argument in my head: "Listen to your body", "I'll be OK"...

As you approach halfway those doing the Half Marathon turn onto grass, the rest of us are waved on. A quick glance at my watch as Mrs Craddock & dog shouted encouragement, I noticed I was a few minutes under 2 hours but my legs were wrecked. I stopped with my supporters for a glucose drink & said I might be done shortly, but would try a bit more. As I hit mile 14 I knew I was struggling, some people were passing me, all checking I was OK. Mind games were kicking in now, I will try a bit more, maybe the big steep 1-in-3 hill, there are marshals who would help me if needed. This went on until around 16-17 miles.

Somewhere after the 17-mile point I managed to run more freely, dragging myself as best I could from point to point. Mr Garmin was telling me I would be not as fast as I had hoped, but at some point I decided to just get to the finish in one piece.
All around the course runners, marshals & ramblers were giving great encouragement. As I was jogging through a wooded area with about 5 miles to go, I passed a few people in my club vest & chuckled as I heard, "Look John, he's from Royton." This spurred me on a bit. As I finally reached the Youth Hostel 2nd time around, I knew I had about 3 miles to go, with one steep downhill & the undulating homeward stretch.

The last steep downhill was really hurting as a 100 Marathon Club member came flying past me at crazy speed.  I plodded on as an elderly lady & young girl gave me so much encouragement to carry on. At this point I decided I would hit the bottom & only stop once more in last 2 miles for a drink. I kept going & encouraged anyone in my path. The last mile just seemed to go on for ever but the finish was near. I think the clock said 4:48 as I hit the line but I didn't care! It was 30-40 minutes slower than I had hoped but I had made it back in one piece. I knew I was going to suffer for a few days but hopefully had not done any long-term damage by (in my own words) stupidly carrying on, completely ignoring the advice I give Della on a regular basis. Like many out there I am learning every time I run & doing my best to enjoy running. This weekend I should have listened to my body & will of course learn the hard way with the aches & pains...but I am already looking forward to getting back out there, aiming for Snowdonia next month.

For anybody who likes a challenging race I would wholeheartedly recommend this Langdale event - either the half or maybe the full marathon if you are mad enough. The scenery is amazing too! A big thank you to all who helped me train better & gave me messages of support, all very much appreciated. It was also nice to meet Paul, hope he enjoyed the day. Thanks also to to all the RRR members who have been supportive, helpful & encouraging since we joined earlier in the year & good luck to all with your own upcoming events.  [James Wright]

NORTH WEST COUNTIES ROAD RELAYS – 12th SEPTEMBER  2015

Yet another wonderful record-breaking day in the life of RRR! The 10 teams we had taking part in this event, in the impressive surroundings of Edge Hill University, comfortably exceeds the 4 at Stockport last year. The only club to come close to that level of participation was Knowsley Harriers, with 30 runners compared to our 34. To cap it all, our fabulous Ladies 'A' team of Jane Augsburger, Kirsty White & Jen Bloor finished 10th overall of 61 teams & 3rd in Greater Manchester. Jen & Jane ran the 7th & 9th fastest legs respectively of all Greater Manchester athletes, with Jane overhauling the final leg runner from Trafford AC to secure 3rd place. The winning trio are pictured here proudly wearing the 1st relay medals won in RRR history.

Those record numbers reflect our determination to ensure that everyone who wants to take part in relays is given the chance to do so. However this presents its own challenges to team captains Kirsty & Shane Reading. The inevitable late withdrawals usually mean some frantic last-minute texts & phone calls seeking replacements. So very special thanks to Rachael Shuttleworth (Kirsty: "Only 2 weeks out of running retirement, standing in at the last minute"), Eloise Bartlett (Kirsty again: "Wasn't even running until she showed up today to cheer us on, after running 17 miles yesterday") & Matt Kilburn, the official 'RRR Hero' who had run 18 miles in the morning but was drafted in to run in a vest that had already been worn, Shane's trainers, Rachael's pink socks & Mark Wilde's spare shorts. It's that sort of commitment to the cause - added to the incredible support we had all around the course - that makes us the envy of many other clubs.

Of course that's not to downplay the efforts of all the other RRRs who contributed to a fantastic team effort. The Ladies 'B' team of Tawnia Norman, Val Kilburn & Rochelle Evans came home in a fine 31st overall, with Selina McLean, Lisa Howarth & Clare Darraugh finishing 42nd, while Margaret Bluer, Sue Heaney & Jillian Heywood were not far behind in 48th.  Next to finish was the team containing Nefa Nessa, Rachael Shuttleworth & Jo Mitchell, with Eloise Bartlett, Emma Kennedy & Fay Royle not far back in 52nd. It may be worth pointing out that 5 of our 6 ladies teams finished ahead of the one team representing Rochdale Harriers...

In the men's event, Shane led from the front for the 'A' team, joined by Dave Peart, Gary Fielding & Daniel McManus for a 37th place finish overall of 81 teams (an excellent 8th in Greater Manchester, although it's only fair to mention that was one place behind Rochdale Harriers 'A'). Gary ran 18:08 on the breezy 2-lap course of just over 5K, the fastest RRR time of the day. The 'B' team (Mark Taylor, Rob Fairbanks, Mo Butt & me) were 49th, followed by Garry Bower, Mark Wilde, Joel White & David Ellis in 60th. Matt Kilburn ran the anchor leg for the 'D' team to give him time to get his unusual outfit together, following Chris Nicholson, Mike Bundy & Martin Jones. Amazingly, Matt gained 3 places on the final leg to get the team into 69th place.

Another thoroughly enjoyable relay day - full results can be found here. Hopefully everyone who took part, plus many other RRRs, will be inspired to sign up for the Northern Athletics Road Relay Championships in Stockport next April!  [David Emanuel]

BRYAN LAWTON BROWNHOUSE RESERVOIR RACE – 10th SEPTEMBER  2015

Just to clear things up straight away, since at least one RRR member (who shall remain nameless) was a bit confused by the name of this race...it was indeed named after our very own Chairman & not some other (deceased) local athlete with exactly the same name. In addition, that same RRR Chairman is still very much alive & kicking, as demonstrated by the picture (right) showing a presentation by Race Director Andy O'Sullivan before the race, not to mention the fact that Bryan actually took part in the race & finished 36th in 20:08, despite having completed a 10 mile race (representing GMP) the day before.

I should probably also mention that Bryan had no involvement in the choice of route for his race! The off-road elements of the course certainly weren't to the liking of everyone, while the fact that the race distance was on the low side of the "approx 5K" advertised (I clocked 4.54K) disappointed some who briefly thought they'd set a new 5K PB.

However there were lots of positives! It was a lovely warm September evening, the traffic delays caused by road closures did not cause the problems feared & the 57% of the field representing RRR might just be be a new club record. Amongst that number it was good to welcome back George Meynell (2nd V70 in 25:00) for his first club race of the year, as well as Neil Farrell (57th, 21:56) in his 1st appearance since the Ian Casey 5K & Carol Robinson (31:56) for the 1st time since the Dovestone Diamond. This was also a special race for those reaching a new 'Roll of Honour' landmark, with Elliot Stone (20:23) becoming the latest member of the '50 Club' while Jason Keast (19:50) & Mike Doolan (26:04) both joined the '25 Club' - Mike completing his 16th race in a row. Pride of place, however, must go to Debbie Shaw. Debbie (1st FV50, 21:51) completed her 150th club race, a remarkable achievement over her 13 years with RRR, which sees her join Bernie Goodwin as the only two members to have reached this total.

The race itself was won by Ashley Holt (Rossendale Harriers), rather spoiling the party as he was closely followed home by two RRRs. Daniel McManus (16:56) was just 3 seconds behind, with Gary Fielding (1st V40 - he's not reached 50 yet, whatever his appearance & the official results might suggest) producing a similarly impressive run to finish a further 3 seconds back.

The battle between our top ladies was as competitive as ever, with Jane Ausburger (18:52) coming out on top this time ahead of Jen Bloor (18:56) & Kirsty White (1st FV40, 19:27) as they filled the top three places. Jane, running her 10th race for the club, was assisted by the extremely vocal 'encouragement' of Phil Marsden (18:50). If Phil is ever looking for a career change, town crier might be a good option to consider...

Other fine performances were produced by Shane Reading (5th overall & 3rd V40, 17:34) & Ian Dale (1st V50, 17:51), while I can personally vouch for the speed of Ronnie Garrod's finish as he burst past me to cross the line in 18:48. Barry Greaves was 1st V55 (20:05), Dave Phillips 1st V70 (22:06), Val Kilburn 1st FV45 (22:30), Rose Rowson 1st FV55 (24:47), Sheila Phillips 1st FV65 (35:14), June Allingan 1st FV70 (29:20), Natalie Fitzpatrick 2nd FV35 (22:54), Rochelle Evans 2nd FV40 (22:22), Sue Heaney 2nd FV50 (24:31), Bernie Goodwin 2nd V45 (18:25), Neil Brock 2nd V50 (18:21), Ronnie Quinn 2nd V60 (21:49), Liz Phillips 3rd FV35 (27:31), Selina McLean 3rd FV40 (22:53), Anne Jones 3rd FV55 (29:38), Steve Shaw 3rd V55 (21:16), Chris Eavers 3rd V60 (21:59) & Peter Boulton 3rd V65 (26:01).

All the other RRR finishers: Amanda Lane (30:55), Eloise Bartlett (27:43), Emma Bower (27:35), Stacey Andrew (27:00), Claire Timms (26:52), Niparun Nessa (26:44), Jillian Heywood (26:26), Adrian Bowcock (25:50), Lisa Howarth (25:26), Stephen Jones (24:56), Clare Darraugh (24:03), Chris Prince (23:10), Paul Cooke (23:05), John Sweeney (22:57), Bernie Cassidy (22:01), Gary Smith & Carl O'Callaghan (both 21:12), Stephen Lee (20:31), Garry Bower (20:10), Lee Higginbottom (20:03), Matt Kilburn (20:02), Dave Ellis (19:26), Richard Fiddling (19:12), Dave McBride (18:59), me (18:49), Mo Butt (18:46), Robert Fairbanks (18:11) & Rob Battye (18:08).

That's the last of the shorter races in this season's club championship. Sad news for the speed merchants, but next up is a very different challenge - 10 miles of running on the leafy streets of Swinton.  [David Emanuel]                                                              

LITTLEBOROUGH LIONS 5K – 25th AUGUST 2015

In some ways this was even more impressive than those massive RRR turnouts that we get for club championship races! A small, inconsequential charity run on a Tuesday night at peak holiday time, this year's Lions 5K race attracted just 41 runners...but 13 of them (32%) were from RRR. Even better, 6 of those 13 had completed the Rochdale Half Marathon just two days earlier. One of that 6 had also managed to squeeze in Brian Moore's track session on Monday night, but I'm far too modest to reveal who that was...

As the picture shows this was a happy night for the Bower family, with both Emma (28:01) & Garry (20:51) recording fine new 5K PBs. That's Shaun Armstrong joining the celebrations - fresh from a long break in Canada, apparently featuring no running at all, Shaun picked up right where he left off with a strong run for 7th place in 19:01. No doubt there'll be plenty of quicker times to come once he gets back into the weekly track routine.

Leading us home once again, winning by more than a minute, was Rob James, with the fastest time recorded in this race since 2011. By my reckoning the only RRR who has run a faster 5K than Rob's 16:30 is Ian McBride. I can't wait to see these two racing against each other! Debbie Fiddling (21:53) picked up the ladies prize, finishing 15th overall. It's not the first time that Debbie has won this title, but it is the first that she's received a trophy, which went down extremely well with both her & Richard (who sadly won nothing for coming home 10th in 20:11).         
         
The other RRR finishers: Matt Kilburn (22:36), Val Kilburn (22:35), Steve Shaw (22:29), Dave Phillips (22:25), Bryan Lawton (20:33), Ian Dale (19:55) & me (19:18 - yes, I really can run a 5K in something other than 19:25). 

Well done all - doing RRR proud once again! [David Emanuel] 

ROCHDALE HALF MARATHON – 23rd AUGUST 2015

Judging from some of the comments on Facebook I may be in the minority, but I thought for a 1st attempt the Cannonball Events team did a pretty impressive job! I know there were a few teething problems - with the race numbers, T shirt sizes & a few crazy motorists - but to attract so many runners (508 reported finishers for the half, 368 for the 10K) & for the race to pass off as well as it did seems quite an achievement. The atmosphere in the 'runner's village' outside the Town Hall at the finish was great. It certainly wasn't an easy race - the heat, stiff breeze & a few challenging climbs made sure of that. I'm pretty sure the race will return next year, it'll be interesting to see if the same route is used.

As usual, there were plenty of positive comments about the number of RRRs taking part, not least from our old friend Andy O'Sullivan on the microphone at the finish. Our 49 finishers in the half marathon was actually our lowest for any club race this year other than Dent, but still significantly more than any other club & not bad given injuries, holidays, etc. Attention stats fans: we've now beaten our previous record (set in 2014) for the number of club race participants in a year - with 4 races still to go - & could pass 1,000 if we get a good turnout for the Bryan Lawton Brownhouse Reservoir Race on 10th September. We're still averaging more than 70 RRRs per race & an incredible 162 club members have taken part in at least one race this year. Perhaps even more impressive is the number who have completed at least 9 races (each individual's best 9 scores count for club championship points) - this has been consistently between 40-50 over the last few years, peaking at 47 last year, but we're already on 43 this year with another 16 having completed 8 races to date. That's another record set to fall soon!

So on to the race itself & another fantastic set of RRR performances across the board. Jen Bloor returned from her holiday with a little bit of a tan (OK, that's an understatement) but still in the same excellent form she was before she went away, crossing the line in 1:32:06 for 2nd Senior Female, 5th overall. The FV50 category was a great battle between RRRs, with Debbie Fiddling (1:43:25) just coming out on top ahead of 2nd-placed Debbie Shaw (1:43:35). Rose Rowson just dipped under the 2-hour threshold, her 1:59:45 good enough for 3rd FV55. Rebecca Mercer (1:58:31) also went under 2 hours for the 1st time, with the help of expert pace-maker Brian Moore.

Am I still allowed to call Rob James a 'new member' in what I believe was his 5th race in an RRR vest? Either way he again led the club home with a superb 1:17:55 for a 6th place finish behind some top quality athletes. In the absence of a V70 category Dave Phillips (1:51:34) had to settle for 2nd V65, while Dave Peart (an excellent 1:25:20) & Shane Reading (1:25:41 despite a hip problem) claimed 3rd in the V45s & V40s respectively. I just managed to hold off an in-form Neil Brock (1:29:06) for 2nd V50, with Neil coming home in 4th. Dan McManus continued his return to full fitness with a perfectly-paced 1:24:50 for 14th place overall.

All the other RRR finishers: Ann Leyland (2:45:08), Angela Rogowskyj (2:43:48), Karen Stuttard (2:38:40), Tansy Wilson (2:35:52), Liz Phillips (2:33:41), Eloise Bartlett (2:27:51), Dave Watt (2:27:47), Mary Freer (2:24:18), Anne Jones (4th FV55, 2:20:41), Stacey Andrew (2:16:25), Mike Doolan (2:11:29), Stephen Jones (2:08:17), Jillian Heywood (2:06:18), Chris Nicholson (2:06:03), Sue Heaney (2:05:25), Damian Mercer (1:58:42), Selina McLean (a new PB of 1:54:06), Lee Higginbottom (1:51:32), Rochelle Evans (4th FV40, 1:47:25), Chris Eavers (5th V60, 1:46:37), Gary Smith (1:45:59), Elliot Stone (1:46:01), Ronnie Garrod (1:44:36), Ronnie Quinn (4th V60, 1:43:21), Bernie Cassidy (1:41:53), Jason Keast (1:41:31), Eamonn Nolan (1:41:28), Brad Howard (1:40:36), Richard Fiddling (1:39:43), Dave Freer (5th V45, 1:37:06), Joel White (1:35:22), David Ellis (1:34:06), Ian Dale (1:34:00), Robert Fairbanks (1:33:01), Dan Yarwood (1:32:29), Mo Butt (1:31:47) & Bernie Goodwin (1:31:35).

A few weeks to recover now, before we all head to Whitworth for something very different, a 5K race named in honour of our Chairman!  [David Emanuel]                     

CANNONBALL 3 DAY EVENT, LITTLEBOROUGH – 14th-16th AUGUST 2015

Well that was fun! There were a few changes for the 2nd year of this excellent 3 Day Event, which takes place almost literally on my doorstep in Shore. Moving away from the August Bank Holiday weekend probably helped attract more runners (93 completed at least one of the races, almost double last year’s total), while an enforced move away from the King Bill pub saw us gathered instead in a field a few yards away. Impressively organised at short notice, this probably created a better atmosphere, although our good fortune with the weather helped. The three races remained the same, however – as someone pointed out after the final race on Sunday, it’s quite an achievement to have three short races starting & finishing in the same place which are all such completely different challenges.


RRR participation increased slightly this year to 6, with 3 of us completing the full series. Leading the way in fine style was new member Rob James, recording his first victories in an RRR vest as he came home 1st in both the 7K road race that kicked off the event on Friday (25:05, over a minute clear of the field) & the closing 3 mile fell race (18:39, winning by another big margin). Despite being just pipped in Saturday’s 4.5 mile trail race (2nd in 27:15 behind Gavin Tomlinson of Trafford AC), Rob was a clear winner of the overall series, with a victory margin of more than 4 minutes. Following quickly after his 4th place at the Saddleworth 6, it’s a fantastic start to what we hope will be a long & successful RRR career!


The others completing all three races, as last year, were myself & Ian Dale. Once again Ian’s all-round abilities (including being able to run fast downhill, which I seem to be incapable of doing) enabled him to win two individual V50 prizes & finish 9th overall for the series, with me trailing in his wake each day by various margins. Disappointingly our times were slightly slower than last year, but maybe we can use the proximity of the Saddleworth 6 as an excuse; admittedly it didn’t seem to affect Rob too much, but then he's much younger than us…


Bryan Lawton made a guest appearance on Friday evening, running an impressive 29:58 for 18th place overall (4th V45) before retiring to fulfil his weekend football duties. Neil Brock & Kevin Kennedy were both unable to make it for that race, but both completed the remaining two events. Neil, henceforth to be known as the RRR ‘International Man Of Mystery’, flew in from Germany overnight (returning from his latest spying mission, I believe – has anyone else noticed that ‘Neil Brock’ has the same number of letters & syllables as ‘James Bond’?) to beat me in both races. I’d like to claim this was because he was rested having not run on the Friday night, but he had instead run a new parkrun PB earlier on Saturday morning & managed to fit in a long run on Sunday morning too. Perhaps I’d rested too much? Meanwhile Kevin produced two excellent performances, completing the trail race in 44:27 & the fell race in 34:33.


I’m sure all of those mentioned above would join me in encouraging more RRRs to take part in this series next time around – not least because we were only just beaten to the team prize each day by Todmorden Harriers. I know that it falls in the middle of the holidays & a busy period of club events, but all of the races are short & it’s a really good test of your ability to compete on different surfaces. See you there next year?  [David Emanuel]

SADDLEWORTH 6 – 12th AUGUST 2015

Surprise surprise (that's a tribute to the late Cilla Black, in case you didn't notice) - another record-breaking race for RRR! 68 finishers here represented nearly a quarter of the field & beat our previous Saddleworth 6 record of 59 set last year. It may not be as many as we've had at other club races recently, but in the middle of the summer holidays it's a pretty impressive total. Advance notice of the dodgy start, involving a narrow woodland trail in a previously undiscovered part of Saddleworth, might have put a few people off as well...   

Amongst our finishers was new member Rob James, immediately proving what a valuable addition he will be to the club as he came home in 4th place in a time of 34:07, leading us to victory in the Senior Male Team competition alongside Daniel McManus (7th overall, 35:56) & Mo Butt (38:11). A warm welcome back too for Jimmy Beadman (40:40) & Lisa Howarth (51:56), both completing their 1st club championship races of 2015.

Rob, Danny & Mo weren't the only RRRs to pick up a team award. Jane Augsburger (8th lady overall, 41:18), Kirsty White (42:43) & Debbie Shaw (43:45) were comfortable winners of the Female Team competition ahead of Middleton Harriers, whilst our leading over 40s - Gary Fielding (36:28), Rob Battye (36:33) & Dave McBride (37:01) - claimed the Male Vets prize. Not much of a surprise this one, as they were in fact the 1st three V40s to finish. What was slightly more remarkable was that we took the 1st SIX places in the Male Vets team rankings. In fact of 25 Male Vet teams recorded, 11 were from RRR. Incredible strength in depth! There was no award for female vets teams, but I'm pretty sure we'd have won that too.

Individual age category prizes were harder to come by in a strong field (apart from our super trio of V40 winners). However Dave Phillips (45:58) picked up his usual 1st V70 award & Neil Brock (38:05) produced a superb run to finish 2nd V50 - even more impressive when you know how stressful Neil's last few weeks had been.

In the continuing tale of our ever-presents, all four continued the sequence. Shane Reading (37:54), Rochelle Evans (46:08), Mike Doolan (53:03) & Eloise Bartlett (1:02:24) all completed their 12th club championship race of the year. For Shane that's now 43 in a row & he shows no sign of stopping any time soon. Hope I haven't just jinxed him...

All the other RRR finishers (please note that with no 'chip timing' the results don't allow for the time it took some runners to reach the start line!): Ann Leyland & Angela Rogowskyj (both 1:12:15), Sheila Phillips (1:08:02), Amanda Lane (1:05:05), June Allingan (1:03:39), Karen Stuttard (1:02:38), Emma Bower (1:01:36), Tracey Hall (1:01:21), Anne Jones (1:01:16), Claire Timms (1:00:25), Liz Phillips (57:46), Niparun Nessa (56:42), Adrian Bowcock (55:22), Jillian Heywood (55:13), Clare Darraugh (54:28), Dave Watt (52:39), Rachel Wood (51:10), Stephen Jones (50:58), Chris Nicholson (50:30), Ray McBride (50:19), Stephen Rogowskyj (50:01), Selina McLean (48:56), Chris Prince (48:42), Paul Cooke (48:08), Rebecca Mercer (47:56), Val Kilburn (47:20), Kirsty Simcox (46:24), John Higgins (46:05), Laura Walters (45:33), Gary Smith (45:18), James Wright (44:52), Chris Eavers (44:07), Elliot Stone (43:36), Ronnie Quinn (43:34), Jason Keast (43:08), Bernie Cassidy (42:46), Garry Bower (42:34 in his last race before becoming a V45 - happy birthday!), Ronnie Garrod (41:57), Matt Kilburn (41:50), Dave Peart (41:03), Richard Fiddling (40:53), Dave Hall (40:46), David Ellis (40:20), Brad Howard (40:14), Bernie Goodwin (39:10), Dave Freer (39:03), Dan Yarwood (38:40), Ian Dale (38:28), Robert Fairbanks (38:24), me (38:19) & Chris Lowe (37:21).

Well done all! Next up is the shiny new Rochdale Half Marathon on 23rd August - no doubt we'll be breaking records & winning lots of prizes as usual!  [David Emanuel]   

TODMORDEN PARK 5K SERIES, RACE 4 – 6th AUGUST 2015

Well it's taken until the final race in the series, but suddenly Tod Park is full of RRRs! Dave & Mary Freer were here to make their debuts on this course & Brian Moore was back for the first time since Race 1, in addition to those who ran the 3rd race - Ian Dale, Lee Higginbottom & myself.

Despite the warmer conditions, Lee managed to knock a handy 4 seconds off his previous run as he crossed the line in 21:24, while Brian Moore (20:18) improved by a whole second (even though he's turned 50 since his last race here). Dave Freer went even better & set a new PB of 19:12 - he looked pretty impressive as he eased past me on the 3rd lap - although this turned out to be just a warm-up for a fantastic 18:52 at South Manchester parkrun on Saturday. Mary Freer (the 1st female RRR to take part in this series) also produced a fine run for 29:01.

Ian Dale's 19:07 ensured that he was the 1st RRR home once again & completed a very consistent set of results (average time 19:09) - good enough for 10th place overall & 2nd V50 in the series. I managed to run a 3rd 19:25 out of 4 races on this course, which at least continues my scientific experiment - I can now confirm that racing 2 days after a 10K is the same as 5 days after a Trail Marathon or 11 days after a 24-hour event (as part of a team of 2). Either that or I'm just not very good at running 5Ks faster than 19:25...  [David Emanuel]         

COTSWOLD 24 HOUR RACE – 25th & 26th JULY 2015

What an incredible event! Colin Green & I didn't really know what to expect as we drove (very slowly, due to horribly heavy traffic) down to Cirencester on Friday afternoon. The first thing we discovered was a very wet Cotswolds, so we made our first good decision of the weekend - rather than camp on site as planned we found a handy B&B for the night, ensuring we kept everything dry, got a good night's sleep & a hearty breakfast the next morning.

The weather was much more pleasant & event set-up was in full swing when we arrived back at Cirencester Park on Saturday (driving past the polo field on the way in - with the greatest respect, this was no Alexandra Park). After getting our tent sorted we had a little jog around the first part of the course, then started sizing up the opposition. It was a bigger event than we'd expected - 119 entrants/teams, with a large number of 'solo' runners through to teams of eight people. However there were only 12 'pairs' taking part, five mixed & seven in our 'Male Pairs' category; although we joked that we were now confident of a top 10 place, I think we were both thinking that a podium finish might be a possibility.

Before we knew it the pre-race briefing was taking place & then at 12 noon Colin set off with the rest of the field on his first lap. The logistics were quite straightforward - each lap was a well-marked, looping, mildly undulating circuit of just over 9K (5.6 miles) consisting of fields, paths & woodland tracks. Only one runner from each team was allowed on the course at any one time & every member of each team had to complete at least one lap. Simple!

In our pre-race planning we knew that we had to run within ourselves to keep going for 24 hours & thus agreed to aim for just under an hour per lap. We also decided to write a log back at the tent after each lap - partly because we could leave messages & share information without any delay at changeovers, but also because we realised that the laps would all start to blend into each other after a while & this would be a good record of our experience. If you're thinking of taking part in an event like this in future, you might want to have a read!

The good news for the rest of you is that you can ignore that link & skip straight to the finale! Our consistent pacing meant that we completed 243K (just over 150 miles) between us in almost exactly 24 hours, achieving a surprising (to us!) win in the Male Pairs & finishing 19th overall. Of the teams that completed more laps than us the majority had 7 or 8 members - there were just two teams of 4 ahead of us. Despite the return of the Cotswolds rain we headed off happily for much-needed sleep, followed by well-deserved beer, with tired legs & a nice little trophy each.     

I'm sure Colin would join me in recommending this event if it returns again next year. Well-organised with an excellent & supportive atmosphere, it would really suit taking several RRR teams along to add an extra bit of friendly rivalry - I know a few have already expressed an interest in beating our 'pairs' performance. I'd certainly consider doing it again...but maybe in a team of 3-5 next time, so I can have a little bit more rest!  [David Emanuel]             

TODMORDEN PARK 5K SERIES, RACE 3 – 23rd JULY 2015

Back up to three RRRs for the 3rd race in this excellent series, with the return of Ian Dale & a Tod Park debut for Lee Higginbottom.

Not my best preparation for a race - partly because I arrived at Tod Station straight from work just 20 minutes before the start, but mainly due to the after-effects of Brian Moore's track session the night before. Really I'm just making excuses for the fact that Ian disappeared into the distance on the first of the 1K laps & I never got close to mounting a challenge. Mr Dale knocked 10 seconds off his time in the 1st race as he crossed the line in 19:05 (2nd V50), while I had the small consolation of finally ending a sequence of 19:25s on this course with a 19:14 finish.

Lee responded to the unique challenge of a 5-lap 5K event in impressive style, announcing after the race that his time of 21:28 was his 3rd fastest 5K to date. Hopefully he'll be back in a few weeks time for the last race in the series, to see if he can go even quicker!  [David Emanuel]    

MOSSLEY 10K – 19th JULY 2015

Only a few RRRs ran the 1st Mossley 10K in 2014, but most of them were quick to recommend it for inclusion in the club championship this year. I think we were right to listen! A challenging course with a nice start/finish in front of the main stand & the race organisers coped impressively with a big increase in the size of field, not least in the speedy way they got the results online. They also produced a nice race programme in which we seemed to feature on most pages – I particularly liked the feedback on last year’s race from Selina McLean & Karen Stuttard, both of whom managed to sneak in a plug for RRR. Completely 'on message'!


It’ll come as no surprise to hear that our members were once again out in force, despite a few late withdrawals due to injury - sadly including Simon Howard, who has been championing this race for some time, but was at least present to watch the action. Here's the latest fantastic fact - the 75 RRR finishers here represent the biggest turn-out ever for a ‘debut’ club race, just beating the 73 at the recent Milltown 7K.


Amongst that contingent was our chairman Bryan Lawton. Most people mark their 100th club race with a celebratory glass of something nice, but Bryan likes to be different & chose this special occasion for a spot of mid-race pavement-diving. Wounded but not beaten, he still managed to cross the line in 37th place in 43:19, thus becoming the 11th member of the RRR ‘100 Club’. Starting out on that long journey were new members Wendy Leech (58th lady, 58:55) & Paul Leech (58:56). Welcome to the club!


Phil Marsden was once again the first RRR across the line, 4th in 37:06 behind defending champion Paul Green, a performance which moved him into pole position in the race to be 2015 club champion. Phil was followed home by Gary Fielding (7th, 37:56), Shane Reading (8th, 38:41), Dave McBride (9th, 38:48) & Daniel McManus (10th, 39:03). Shane thus extended his record-breaking run of successive club races to an incredible 42. He is one of four to have completed all 11 club races so far this year, along with Rochelle Evans (an impressive 8th lady here in 47:05), Eloise Bartlett (1:03:41) & Mike Doolan (55:32).


In addition to Rochelle we had a remarkable four more of the top 10 ladies – Jen Bloor (2nd, 40:10), Jane Augsburger (3rd, 42:46), last year’s champion Kirsty White (5th, 43:44) & Debbie Shaw (10th & 1st FV45, 47:44).


All the other RRR finishers: Paul Craddock (official tail runner, 1:38:24), Angela Rogowskyj (1:14:30), Sheila Phillips (1:09:16), Amanda Lane (1:08:21), Karen Stuttard (1:07:15), June Allingan (1:04:15), Emma Bower (1:04:03), Adrian Bowcock (1:03:04), Anne Jones (1:02:57), Adam Stirling (1:00:10), Niparun Nessa (59:34), Kevin Kennedy (58:36), Kay Fitton (58:15), Liz Phillips (57:35), Fay Royle (57:28), Jillian Heywood (57:12), Claire Timms (57:06), Neil Barker (55:29), Clare Darraugh (55:23), Simon Lake (54:49), Stephen Rogowskyj & Rachel Wood (both 53:35), Dave Phillips (53:18), Stephen Jones (53:10), Chris Nicholson (53:08), Ray McBride (52:30), Chris Prince (51:43), Val Kilburn (51:30), Rose Rowson (50:53), Becky Mercer (50:27), Selina McLean (50:22), Paul Cooke (49:59), Ray Williams (49:58), David Watt (49:54), Stephen Lee (49:30), Tony Kane (49:01), Martin Jones (47:59), Damian Mercer (47:22), Carl O’Callaghan (47:01), Elliot Stone (46:47), Lee Higginbottom (46:31), Ronnie Quinn (46:03), Andy Hayhurst (45:38), Jason Keast (44:55), Garry Bower (44:11), Matt Kilburn (44:03), Brad Howard (43:25), Howard Dracup (43:25), Neil Brock (43:03), Eamonn Nolan (42:29), David Ellis (42:19), Dave Hall (41:38), Ian Dale (41:14), Dave Peart (40:14), Robert Fairbanks (40:03), Dan Yarwood (39:58), David Freer (39:55 – his first sub-40 10K), Mo Butt (39:40), Owen Flage (39:24) & me (39:14). 


Bit of a break now until the Saddleworth 6 on 12th August - rather neatly, run on some of the same route as Mossley. [David Emanuel]

TODMORDEN PARK 5K SERIES, RACE 2 – 9th JULY 2015

Quite a contrast to the Rochdale 10K a few days earlier - not just because of the much better weather conditions, but also because there were just two RRRs on the start line. There was however a much bigger field for this latest in the Cannonball Events series, since it formed part of the Pendle & Burnley Grand Prix, with 181 starters making for a pretty crowded first lap.

Best performance of our duo came from Mark Heaney, knocking an impressive 18 seconds off his time from the first race as he crossed the line in 21:41. The impressively-detailed results show that Mark paced the race nicely to finish with his fastest (kilometre) lap of 4:07.

In contrast I managed to run an identical time of 19:25. Since the first race was 5 days after Trail Marathon Wales & this one 2 days after the Rochdale 10K, that's scientific proof that it takes 60% less time to recover from a 10K than a marathon. I believe the Nobel prize is in the post... [David Emanuel]       

ROCHDALE 10K – 7th JULY 2015

Another week, another race, another record. I know you love reading these statistics, so here goes...not only was this the biggest RRR turnout (77) ever for a Rochdale 10K - beating the 68 from last year - but it was one of the highest for any race in our history. Not counting this year's Littleborough 5Ks (97 finishers, but that was over a 3-race series), only The Royton Trail (85 in 2014, 104 this year) & the Mad Dog 10K (85 in 2015) have been completed by more RRRs.

As if that wasn't impressive enough, it was achieved on a day when many would have been tempted to give the race a miss. The rain earlier in the day fully merited the description 'torrential' & guaranteed that the course was going to be pretty soggy. It eased a bit in the hour or so before the race, but it was still unpleasant enough for me to do most of my 'warming-up' sitting in the car with the heater on.

Ploughing through the puddles amongst those 77 finishers was RRR new member Mark Brynes, running exactly 46:00 on his club debut. Welcome aboard Mark! Also great to welcome back Dave McBride for his first race since Dentdale in March; I know Dave was taking it easy because I had him in my sights for most of the race, but he pushed on impressively in the latter stages to finish 24th in 39:14. Meanwhile Elliot Stone continued his long-awaited return with a 2nd race in a week, crossing the line in 47:34.

Those few of us who stuck around for the post-race presentation were rewarded with one of the most comprehensive prize-givings I can remember, rewarding the top 3 in each age category as well as multiple team prizes. Jen Bloor collected so many on behalf of the RRR ladies that she was eventually given a wine crate to carry them all to her car. In addition to her own award as 2nd lady (a mightily impressive 41:12) there was Kirsty White's 2nd FV40 (43:08), Debbie Fiddling's 2nd FV50 (45:03), Natalie Fitzpatrick's 2nd FV35 (46:09), Debbie Shaw's 3rd FV50 (47:17) & Teresa Hollins's 3rd FV60 (54:01). Although the ladies team of Jen, Kirsty & Jane Augsburger (8th lady overall in 44:03) just missed out on a prize - beaten by a single point by a very strong trio from Burnden Road Runners - the Ladies Vets award was claimed by Kirsty, Debbie Fiddling & Rochelle Evans (4th FV40, 46:01).

Our men's vets team was similarly successful, with Phil Marsden (4th overall, 1st V40, 36:21), Rob Battye (9th, 3rd V40, 37:08) & Shane Reading (38:03) a long way clear of their nearest challengers. They were in fact our first 3 finishers & were 3rd in the overall team competition. As well as Phil's V40 prize, Dave Phillips (46:52) claimed a 1st V70 win with the notable scalp of Burnden's Mel Walker & there were awards for Neil Brock (3rd V50, 40:08), Ronnie Quinn (2nd V60, 45:04), Chris Eavers (3rd V60, 46:18) & me (2nd V50, 39:39).

All the other RRR finishers: Sheila Phillips (1:08:52), Niparun Nessa (1:07:27), Jenny O'Callaghan (1:05:05), Amanda Lane (1:03:51), Anne Jones (1:03:21), Eloise Bartlett (1:00:44), Tracey Hall (59:25), Tansy Wilson (58:47), Peter Boulton (58:34), Liz Phillips (58:11), Fay Royle (57:14), Kevin Kennedy (56:55), Jillian Heywood (56:39), Claire Timms (56:34), Adrian Bowcock (56:27), Mike Doolan (55:57), Claire Darraugh (55:47), Sue Heaney (54:23), Margaret Bluer (53:45), Stephen Jones (53:13), Mo Butt (52:35), Ray McBride (52:17), Dave Watt (52:06), Rose Rowson (51:38), Chris Nicholson (49:46), Paul Cooke (49:08), Simon Howard (48:47), Mark Heaney (47:52), James Wright (47:38), John Higgins (47:24), Laura Walters (46:51), Kirsty Simcox (46:48), Martin Jones (46:35), Stewart Jones (46:12), Carl O'Callaghan (45:57), Jason Keast (44:55), Bernard Cassidy (44:49), Stephen Lee (44:48), Tawnia Norman (44:46), Andy Hayhurst (44:28), Howard Dracup (44:12), Dave Hall (43:39), Ronnie Garrod (43:03), Matt Kilburn (43:02), Bryan Lawton (42:27), Richard Fiddling (42:20), Michael Harrison (42:16), Eamonn Nolan (41:59), Tony McAndrew (41:15), Brad Howard (41:10), Barry Greaves (40:59), Mark Taylor (40:49), Robert Fairbanks (40:42), Bernie Goodwin (40:20), Dave Peart (40:04), David Freer (40:02), Chris Lowe (39:54) & Owen Flage (39:08). 

No rest for the wicked - next up is the Mossley 10K on 19th July. A new race for the club, but reports from last year were very positive. Can't wait!  [David Emanuel]        

THE ROYTON TRAIL – 1st JULY 2015

Well that all seemed to go quite well! It was uncomfortably humid during the race, but rather that than the storms which arrived later in the evening. It also meant that many of the runners were happy to hang around afterwards, eating chip butties & taking advantage of the free treatments on offer from Sports Physio UK.

We only really had two targets for this year's race - to break the previous record number of finishers (276 in 2014) & to have 100 RRRs complete a race for the 1st time. Those two boxes were most definitely ticked as 292 finished the race, of whom 104 were Royton Road Runners, a nice round 100 being '1st claimers'. It was also great to see so many of the Royton Road Runners Run England group taking part - judging from their performances, a number of these will soon be moving up to run with the club.

Online entry seemed to work well & I'm sure we'll be adopting the same approach next year.

 After 7 years of uninterrupted success for runners called 'Ian', it was a bit of a shock to see that the best-placed this year was Ian Roberts (Rochdale Harriers) in 5th. The race was in fact won by some distance by Joe Bailey (30:19 - so continuing the sequence of 3-letter names, at least), with his fellow Salford Harrier Billy McCartney following him home more than 3 minutes back. Our own Phil Marsden ran an excellent 33:49 for 3rd place - if he could just shorten his name slightly (Phl?) I'm sure he'll win here one day. Phil was joined by Rob Battye (4th, 34:45) & Dave Peart (right back in form in 7th, 1st V45 with 35:27) to claim the men's team prize for RRR for the 3rd time in 4 years. The RRR ladies were also champions, in their case for the 5th time in the 6 years that we've offered team awards. It's a sign of our strength-in-depth that none of the winning team - Jen Bloor (1st lady, 38:27), Jane Augsburger (4th lady, 41:10) & Tawnia Norman (9th lady, 43:39) - had previously been part of a winning RRR team at The Royton Trail. The same applied to the victorious male trio.

With so many RRR finishers, I hope you'll excuse me for not listing them all here (for once) - you can see the full results on the race page. However some do deserve a special mention - Elliot Stone, running 46:50 in his 1st race back after nearly a year out with injury & illness, the many racing in RRR colours for the first time (Alan Reynolds 40:17, Cindy Carroll 59:56, James Wright 44:57, Laurien Bold 52:45, Nicola O'Connor 1:11:12, Peter Boulton 1:0014, Rob Maddison 43:45 & Stacey Andrew 55:34), plus Bryan Lawton (39:11) who is so comfortable in the Race Director role after 9 years that he was at last able to combine it with running the race. We'll have to wait until next year to see whether he'll make the route a bit easier now that he's experienced it for himself...

We also took more than our share of the age category prizes, with the RRR winners including Chris Eavers (1st V60, 42:52) who had earlier revealed that he had never previously received such a prize. Maybe he'll get a taste for it now? Other awards went to Dave Hall (1st V55, 37:43), Rochelle Evans (1st FV40, 43:50), Natalie Fitzpatrick (1st FV35, 44:30), Dave Phillips (1st V65, 45:20) & Teresa Hollins (1st FV60, 52:12).

Many thanks to everyone who was part of this record-breaking event, either running or as a volunteer helping to ensure that everything went so smoothly. Next year promises to be a very special 10th anniversary race - hope to see you all back again then. I can't guarantee, but it probably won't be quite so hot!  [David Emanuel]     

TODMORDEN PARK 5K SERIES, RACE 1 – 25th JUNE 2015

Just for once, the RRR men produced much better performances at a race than the women - helped a little, I must admit, but the fact that none of the latter were taking part, probably because they're much better organised & realised that it clashed with the Royton Trail recce.

So just the 5 of us lined up on a muggy evening to test out John Lloyd's new course, which promised to be even faster than last year. Still 5 laps, but now anti-clockwise with a section on the trail behind the bandstand which slightly extended each lap & avoided the need for the extra grassy finishing straight. Personally I found this an improvement, with the 'off-road' section through the trees breaking each lap into three distinct stages. When I haven't got a marathon in my legs I reckon there's a sub-19 minute finish to be had here.

This 1st race in the series proved to be a battle of the RRR over-50s & very-nearly-50s. Neil Brock, making light of the fact that he'd run the Eddie's Revenge fell race the previous evening, once again paced his race to perfection to pass Ian Dale on the final lap & finish in 7th place (19:03), with Ian following him home 8th (19:15). I was able to watch all this unfold as I trailed behind in 11th (19:25), just ahead of Brian Moore - in his very last race as a V45 - who was 13th in 20:19. Mark Heaney (actually a V55 rather than a V50, but it's close enough) dipped just under the 22-minute barrier as he crossed the line in 30th place in 21:59.

Hopefully we'll see a few more RRRs in attendance for Race 2 - although that fact that it comes 2 days after the Rochdale 10K probably won't help!  [David Emanuel]   

MILLTOWN OLDHAM 10K - 21st JUNE 2015

The 2nd of this year’s Milltown race series saw 76 RRRs line up for a 10K in the June sunshine. Unfortunately the June sunshine failed to turn up, so we were left with wind & rain. Typical June weather really!


For the second time in a 10K this season there were strange goings on with Gary Fielding’s result. A time of more than 90 minutes at the Mad Dog in February was followed up with a 61-minute performance this weekend. Cue the hasty e-mail to race organisers to get this adjusted. Again. Not sure what his excuse was this time, but he was “carb loading” with a well known brand of lager the night before...


On to the race. Phil Marsden led the club home in style once again in a time of 36:28 (4th overall), while Rob Battye continued his fine form with a PB performance of 37:45 (9th overall) in far from ideal conditions. Another of our men to record a new 10K best was Garry Bower, who broke the 45-minute barrier for the first time in 44:24 (55th overall), with Mike Bundy (44:41, 57th overall) & Lee Higginbottom (44:56, 62nd overall) joining him in the sub-45 club.


Other Royton men registering a PB (according to RunBritain) were Carl O’Callaghan (46:32), Damian Mercer (47:06), Martin Jones (47:27) & Paul Cooke (48:08).


Jane Augsburger headed the ladies home in 42:51 (2nd overall) followed by Kirsty White (43:48, 4th lady) & Debbie Fiddling (44:53), which enabled them to claim an excellent ladies team prize for RRR. Ladies PBs included Selina McLean (49:20), Rebecca Mercer (52:37) & Jennifer O’Callaghan (65:23).


The summer race season is upon us with the races now coming thick & fast. Next up is our own Royton Trail next Wednesday, with the aim to achieve over 100 RRR finishers for the 1st time. I think I’ll let somebody else do that race report!  [Dan Yarwood]

TRAIL MARATHON WALES – 20th JUNE 2015

You think you know someone...all the trips I've been on with Colin Green over the years, running together & sleeping together (not like that) & only this weekend did I discover that he doesn't like cranberry juice (unusual), honey (bit odd), olives (didn't see that coming), bats (more understandable, especially when they fly at your head when you open the door to your B&B at night) & Welsh midges (could have guessed this one).

One thing I did already know is that Colin likes hills...so despite an injury-plagued build-up this race was right up his street, with just the 3,500ft of climbing to cope with. The first half was to follow the same route as the Winter Trail half marathon that Colin ran in January, which gave him plenty of opportunity to terrify me with tales of deadly descents as we drove to North Wales on Friday evening.

On arrival at race HQ early on Saturday it was immediately obvious that the muggy, overcast conditions had brought those midges out in force. Fortunately some better-prepared runners took pity on us & let us borrow their insect repellant, which brought some relief but made our lips go numb for a while (you mean you're only supposed to use it externally?).
Despite the crush on the walk down to the start from Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre, we managed to catch up with Tony Kane, Dave Freer & Mary Freer for a quick chat & a photo (as you can see). Everyone seemed quite relaxed - even Dave, about to embark on his first marathon - before we were sent on our way by some chap firing a rifle (unless he was just shooting at the local wildlife, in which case the whole field got a false start).

Colin & I ran together for a while, until we hit the first significant descent & he pulled away from me (as usual). Much of the early section was run on a rough, stony track & at around three miles I landed my right foot on something that was a bit rougher & stonier than the rest. That really hurt & still does three days later! I can't say it slowed me down (much), but it certainly made the remaining 23 miles somewhat less enjoyable than it could have been.

For the rest of the first half of the race I would slowly close back up on Colin, only for him to disappear into the distance once we reached another descent. I felt slightly better about this on discovering afterwards that he had run that 13.1 slightly faster than the Winter Trail half earlier in the year, apparently in similar conditions. The results show that Dave Freer reached halfway in 2:11:46, with Mary & Tony going through together in 3:02:39.

Colin reckons this race was his "toughest marathon ever...much harder than Snowdonia" & the 2nd half is as much a mental as physical battle. I finally moved ahead (on an uphill section, of course) at around 15 miles & Colin was on the verge of pulling out at the feed station at 18 miles until Dave Freer came into view. It sounds like they helped & encouraqed each other superbly around the rest of the course, in true RRR spirit, with Dave crossing the line in an excellent 4:37:31 (chip time) & Colin in 4:38:03. Mary & Tony continued to run together & came home in an impressive 6:28:14. I foolishly thought I was going to break 4 hours at one point, but the last few miles seemed quite tricky on tired legs & I finally crawled across the line in 4:06:01 (9th V50).

Superbly organised, spectacular scenery & a great atmosphere - if you're looking for a new marathon challenge I'd certainly recommend this one. Just make sure you're prepared for the midges...  [David Emanuel]

LAKELAND TRAILS MARATHON (CONISTON) – 7th JUNE 2015

Getting out of bed at 4.45am on a Sunday for breakfast can only mean one thing – it’s marathon day again. Having struggled my way round to complete VLM only 6 weeks earlier & with only one long run in my legs during those 6 weeks, it could be considered madness to do another so soon. However, today was going to be different as it was 26.2 miles of awesome Lakeland scenery that my feet would attempt to cover.

I arrived in Coniston just after 7am to see runners already setting off on the route. No panic, as this was the early start – Lakeland Trails run 2 races, a 'Challenge' which allows participants up to 8 hours to complete, then on exactly the same route the 'Race' which has a cut-off of 6 hours. For those not wanting the full marathon there are also half marathon routes, which set off at 10am & 11am respectively.


The forecast was for a warm & sunny day - fantastic, as long as you weren’t planning on running a marathon. After covering myself in Factor 30 it started to rain! However, it had virtually stopped by the 9am start.


Running trail marathons is so different to running on the road, as it’s virtually impossible to set a consistent pace. This race was going to be different anyway, as I was using it as a pacing exercise for the Lakeland50 Ultra at the end of July. I was hoping to be on my feet for about 5 hours & decided to adopt a strategy of walking the major hills, running the flats & downhills.


The start was fairly quick, as you set off on a loop of Coniston village, so being fairly flat for the first 3-4 miles it was time to get some quick early miles in. The first climb starts taking runners up towards the Coppermines but then heads off on the Cumbrian Way footpath, which appears fairly flat yet still manages enough ups & downs to test runners. The first major climb takes the course to Hodge Close, where the first food station has a combination of crisps, Kendal Mint Cake, bananas, jelly babies & drinks. I’m starting to believe some of these runs are just an excuse for a big picnic! The run then continues climbing before reaching the picturesque setting of Tarn Hows, with fantastic views of the Coniston mountains as runners loop the tarn.


After climbing up from the tarn, a nice downhill section allows some respite & at about half distance the route goes to the opposite side of Coniston Water. This section is quite challenging as the run goes through Grizedale Forest with plenty of ascent. Knowing that all that's left is a run round the lake should make it easier, but as this lake was used for Donald Campbell’s speed record it is obviously quite a lengthy stretch of water.


On arriving at the end of Coniston you would think that all you have to do is run back along the lake to the finish, but sadly not. You are sent back into the mountains with a climb similar to the end of the Snowdonia Marathon (although not quite as steep). After looping round the beautiful Beacon Tarn the route finally heads downhill in a section that should be easy but is quite technical due to the slippery rocks underfoot. Finally the route arrives back at Coniston Water before joining the path for the fairly flat path (well, Lake District flat!) back to Coniston village. As long as your tired legs avoid the tree roots, this is quite an easy finish.


I was really pleased to finish in 5:20, which meant that despite walking the major hills I had managed to average about 5 miles an hour - a perfect training run for the Lakeland50. Even more pleasing was how strong I felt at the end, which will certainly be necessary when trying to complete 50 miles of Lakeland hills in July. I would highly recommend the Lakeland Trail Marathon, especially if you are looking for an off-road challenge. The routes are superbly marshaled & you get great support on this type of run from other runners, as you're not pushing for times like you would on a road marathon. Anybody not fancying the full 26.2 has the option of a half marathon & Lakeland Trails also do other races with shorter routes - the next event is a 15K at Keswick in early September. [Simon Howard]

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K SERIES, RACE 3 – 3rd JUNE 2015

I think that can be considered a successful experiment! The idea of including a full race series in the RRR Club Championship (for the first time) was to give those who struggle to get to midweek events a few bites at the cherry. The results speak for themselves – a grand total of 97 RRRs took part it least one of these three races, considerably more than we’ve ever had for a single event. Perhaps even more significantly, of the 78 club members who competed in this 3rd & final race, 20 were taking part for the only time in the series.


Of the 45 athletes who completed all three races an incredible 67% were RRRs. It will come as no surprise that this number included Shane Reading (2nd overall in the series, all three runs within 10 seconds of each other, finishing here with his best time of 18:37) & Nikki Green (1st FV45 overall, also finishing on a high with 25:46 for 3rd FV45). Shane & Nikki have both now completed 38 consecutive championship races, a club record, dating back to the Vera Hirst 5K in March 2013. Amazingly that was also Nikki’s very first club race – she hasn’t missed a single one since she joined. Quite a tribute to their determination & fitness, I’m not sure which of these two is going to blink first…


Other notable performances amongst those who completed the full series included Ian Dale (1st V50, 3rd overall), Katherine Brierley (1st FV40, 3rd lady overall), Dave Phillips (1st V70), Steve Shaw (1st V55), Becky Mercer (1st SF), Sheila Phillips (1st FV65), Neil Brock (2nd V50), Stephen Lee (2nd V45), David Smith (2nd V55), Selina McLean (2nd FV40), Eloise Bartlett (2nd SF), Angela Rogowskyj (2nd Fv45), Brad Howard (3rd V40), Lee Higginbottom (3rd SM), Simon Lake (3rd V55), Niparun Nessa (3rd SF) & Zoe McMunn (3rd FV35). The fact that most of these posted their best time in this final race is an indication that these were probably the best conditions to run in.


RRR also dominated the ‘best improver’ results with 9 of the top 10, including several of those named above. Simon Lake generously turned down his 2nd prize, on the basis that his 16.5% improvement over the series was a result of just starting his return from serious injury at the first race. This saw Angela Rogowskyj promoted to 2nd place (14.3% improvement), with Emma Bower picking up a well-deserved 3rd prize for a progression which saw her cross the line in 28:02 in this last race, compared to 30:59 back in April.


There were also plenty of prizes on the day for those RRRs who didn’t complete the full series. Team prizes were claimed by both the men (Daniel McManus 5th in 17:38, Phil Marsden 6th in 17:49, the ever-improving Rob Battye 9th in 18:10) & women (Kirsty White 3rd overall & 1st FV40 in 20:48, Tawnia Norman 6th in 21:32, Debbie Shaw 8th & 2nd FV50 in 21:56). Alan Bodell completed a rare outing on the road as 1st V50 (18:53), Dave Hall was 1st V55 (20:07), Ronnie Quinn warmed up for his big RRR Cup showdown with 1st V60 (21:55) & June Allingan ran 30:40 for 1st FV70.


All the other RRR finishers: Karen Stuttard (31:42), Amanda Lane (slightly less muddy than at the Dovestone Diamond in 31:17), Jenny O’Callaghan (31:16), Jillian Heywood (27:54), Adrian Bowcock (27:30), Fay Royle (2nd FV60, 26:57), Jo Mitchell (26:27), Neil Barker (25:58), Ray McBride (25:51), Sue Heaney (3rd FV50, 25:24), Stephen Jones (25:08), Paul Craddock (24:49), Adam Stirling (24:37), John Sweeney (24:26), Stephen Rogowskyj (24:04), Neil Farrell (24:02), Chris Prince (23:49), Dave Watt (23:35), Chris Nicholson (23:25), Matt & Val Kilburn (both 23:24, Val finishing 2nd FV45), Paul Cooke (23:14), Damian Mercer (23:04), John Higgins (3rd V60, 22:49), Janet Jobey (3rd FV40, 22:27), Carl O’Callaghan (22:26), Natalie Fitzpatrick & Rochelle Evans (both 22:25, 3rd FV35 & 2nd FV40 respectively), Stewart Jones (22:18), Laura Walters (22:17), Martin Jones (22:16), Chris Eavers (2nd V60, 22:15), Howard Dracup (21:47), Bernie Cassidy (21:45), Mark Heaney (3rd V55, 21:30), Eamonn Nolan (21;07), Garry Bower (21:05), Matt Kershaw (20:58), Ronnie Garrod (20:17), Bryan Lawton (20:14), Richard Fiddling (20:04), Dave Peart (3rd V45, 19:55), Tony McAndrew (19:42), Dan Yarwood (19:18), Robert Fairbanks (19:15), David Emanuel (19:04), Bernie Goodwin (2nd V45, 18:57) & Gary Fielding (11th overall, 18:29).


So if we can get 97 RRRs taking part in this series, surely it’ll be no problem assembling 100+ on the start line of the Royton Trail? If you’ve not yet entered our race, you know what you need to do…  [David Emanuel]

DOVESTONE DIAMOND  – 27th MAY 2015

Once again the Dovestone Diamond sold out in record time & the last three months have been spent ‘jiggling’ runners around (metaphorically, obviously) as some people withdraw & others request places. On race night we had a full complement of 250 runners looking forward to running over mud, rocks & a few gentle inclines, then down a huge grass banking to get back to the brewery - what some RRRs will do for a pint!


Conditions were fairly kind this year - except for the drenching of the course for a couple of hours prior to the race. Runners starting arriving from 6pm to collect numbers & I was glad once again that this race is pre-entry only, as it makes number collection much easier.


I can only relax on race day once I have seen Brian Moore with his laptop & at least one of the Lawton family with a stopwatch. I am really grateful for all the support this race garners, not only from runners but also from the team of 20+ volunteers required to help on the day.


Back to the race...I was most impressed to see a huge number of RRRs in this Club Championship race & thank you all for your support. I am unable to do the usual results analysis so will leave that to the club statisticians - safe to say that Daniel McManus came home as 1st RRR, 10th overall with a very strong showing at the front of the field. The course record currently stands at 35.18 but was closely challenged by Gareth Raven (Sale Harriers) in 35:31 & last year's winner Joe Steward (East Cheshire Harriers & Tameside) in 35:34, which led to a very exciting finish as they swapped the lead several times in  the final 800m.


I would welcome any feedback regarding this race [you can e-mail Colin here - ed]. I am looking to perhaps add a winter version in late November/early December for those runners who find the current version too easy...


Thanks again for your support!  [Colin Green]

MILLTOWN OLDHAM 7K - 17th MAY 2015

"Someone has dumped a load of toxic waste on the course.” Good job Gary Fielding wasn’t in attendance at Sunday’s Milltown 7K, as I’m sure this comment by race director Alan Keane would have given him plenty of ammunition in his long standing love/hate relationship with Mo Butt.  At one point the pre-race talk was of a course change, 400 metres longer but less of the sharp incline of Alt Hill. Which made for an easier race? Less hill or more distance? Turned out to be irrelevant as the offending waste was removed & we were back to the original 'playful' course.


We like to race at the Rs & this was shown again with 70 Royton finishers, at the last count I heard. I’m sure Brian Moore has a couple Cray super-computers churning through all the data to give us a final headcount, but no artificial intelligence was needed beforehand to see once again the start line was going to be a sea of white, yellow & green.


With the vast number of Royton finishers it’s difficult & somewhat unfair to single out any individual performances...so I’ll cover the results by saying we had two of the top three male finishers, with the impressive Phil Marsden only beaten by Sale’s Gareth Raven, who is ranked 2nd in the UK in the M40 category by RunBritain. Danny McManus repeated the result of Thurday’s Ian Casey 5K by following Phil in for 3rd place. It was a clean sweep in the ladies race, with Becki Robinson, Jen Bloor & Jane Augsburger leading the club home, Becki & Jen reversing Thursday’s result.


A mention should also go to the various club members who for various reasons were unable to race but donned marshal's vests & helped orgainse the race.


The 2nd race in the Milltown series is the 10K in June, which is arguably the easier of the three events. No doubt there will be a start line will once again be packed with Royton Road Runners!  [Dan Yarwood]

BRATHAY WINDERMERE MARATHON - 17th MAY 2015
They call this race the 'beautiful marathon' & it claims to be the only road marathon event in the UK that is organised by a charity (the Brathay Trust). Regular readers of these reports will know that I sing its praises every year & I've managed to persuade a fair number of RRRs to give it a go...although strangely I'm still the only one to have run it more than once! This was my 8th attempt & I was delighted that four other club members had decided to join me for a jog around the lake.

Amongst that number was Barry Greaves. I'd told him that the course would suit him & although he reported afterwards that he'd run the first half far too fast, his marathon experience meant that he was able to adjust his pace slightly & come home in a superb 3:17:48. This was good enough to win the 1st V55 prize - the first such achievement by an RRR at Windermere.  As an indication of how good this run was, Barry finished just 12 seconds behind Steve Edwards, the 'godfather of marathon running' & a veteran of the Windermere race who holds the world record as the first person ever to run 500 sub-3:30 marathons. It was great to see Barry collect his trophy from one of his heroes, the legendary fell runner Joss Naylor.

Andy Schofield crossed the line in 4:02:01, an impressive time on this challenging course, particularly for someone whose injury problems meant that "I haven't managed a proper long run since the Wrexham Marathon in March". Steve Shaw (4:10:27) & Stuart Brown (4:27:11) both completed their 2nd marathon in a month, having run at Manchester, making this Steve's 3rd 26.2-miler of the year so far; nice to see him taking it easy for a change...

I was pleased to record my best time to date at this event - I think I'm finally beginning to understand how to pace a marathon! My 3:06:23 was almost a minute quicker than my previous best in 2012 & good enough for 3rd V50, 20th overall. I'm only slightly disappointed that this would have won me the V50 prize last year - it gives me something to aim for in 2016. Hopefully with a few more RRRs for company!  [David Emanuel]   
IAN CASEY MEMORIAL COWM 5K RACE - 14th MAY 2015
I always think this is the most important race report I write each year; incredibly it's now six years since our friend & fellow RRR Ian Casey collapsed & died whilst taking part in the Gloucester Marathon. Each year, the proportion of those running this race in RRR colours who knew & ran with Ian gets smaller, so it's only right to let everyone know why this event will always be part of the club championship. Ian was one of our most enthusiastic & popular members...great as the club is today, it would be so much better if Ian were still with us.

Even someone as positive & optimistic as Ian wouldn't have anticipated that we could have 68 runners in a race & be slightly disappointed! This is one of the rare occasions when I have to write that we had more runners (70) last year - but 68 still represented 61% of the total field. I suspect that this is partly a consequence of the increased number of runners we have taking part in Spring marathons, as a combination of injury & the 'post-marathon blues' kept quite a few people away.

An even more impressive statistic is that 72% of the ladies in the race were from RRR. In addition I'm pretty sure it's the first time that we - or indeed any other club - has ever had the first NINE female finishers in an 'open' event. Yet another amazing achievement, particularly when you realise it was done without a number of our best runners, with the likes of Kirsty White, Tawnia Norman, Kirsty Simcox, Janet Jobey, Gill Lowe, Helen Knight & Val Kilburn all missing.

Leading the ladies home was Jen Bloor (19:39), winning a thrilling sprint finish against Becki Robinson (19:46) - just two of a remarkable 21 RRRs breaking the 20-minute barrier. Not far behind in 3rd place was Jane Augsburger (20:29), followed by Debbie Fiddling (1st FV50, 21:23), Natalie Fitzpatrick (1st FV35, 21:45), Debbie Shaw (21:49), Laura Walters (22:03), Rochelle Evans (1st FV40, 22:22) & Katherine Brierley (yet another PB as she crossed the line in 22:26). Amongst our many other female finishers Fay Royle was 1st FV60 (26:01), June Allingan 1st FV70 (29:32), Anne Jones 1st FV55 (29:49) & Sheila Phillips 1st FV65 (33:12).

At the head of the field we had an impressive 4 finishers in the top 10. Phil Marsden (2nd overall, 1st V40, 17:129) put in a great effort to chase race winner Mick Flatley home, closely followed by Dan McManus (3rd overall, 1st SM, 17:27). Shane Reading (18:01) came in 9th, followed by Chris Lowe (18:26) in 10th.

Shane, along with Nikki Green (24:31) thus completed a 36th successive club championship race. This equals the previous record set by John Sweeney - no doubt both of them will be lining up for the Milltown 7K!

More RRRs 1st in their age category were Ian Dale (1st V50, 18:34), Dave Hall (1st V55, 19:33), Ronnie Quinn (1st V60, 21:18) & Dave Phillips (completing a family double with 1st V70, 21:56).

All the other RRR finishers: Emma Bower (28:56), Niparun Nessa (28:15), Liz Phillips (27:09), Eloise Bartlett (26:51), Mike Doolan (26:40), Jo Mitchell (26:17), Adrian Bowcock (26:17), Stephen Jones (26:00), Neil Barker (25:11), Clare Darraugh (24:51), Sue Heaney (24:39), Stephen Rogowskyj (24:27), Selina McLean (24:09), Howard Dracup (23:16), Jayne Roberts (23:08), Simon Lake (23:04), John Sweeney (22:58), Dave Watt (22:58), Carl O'Callaghan (22:40), Damian Mercer (22:38), Neil Farrell (22:37), Chris Nicholson (22:30), Paul Cooke (22:19), Barry Greaves (21:58), Bernie Cassidy (21:42), Chris Eavers (21:31), Garry Bower (21:19), Martin Jones (21:16), Mark Heaney (21:05), Jason Keast (20:55), Lee Higginbottom (20:44), Stephen Lee (20:29), Matt Kilburn (20:03), Bryan Lawton (19:55), Ronnie Garrod (19:45), Brad Howard (19:38), Joel White (19:37), Richard Fiddling (19:35), Tony McAndrew (19:31), Mike Harrison (19:26), Mark Taylor (19:12), David Emanuel (18:58), Bernie Goodwin (18:46), Mo Butt (18:44), Alan Bodell (18:42) & Owen Flage (18:37).

Club races are coming thick & fast now. Just a few days to recover before the Milltown 7K!  [David Emanuel]   

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K SERIES, RACE 2– 6th MAY 2015

A quick scan of the Con Club room & I realised we had some notable runners missing, including 2 of the male team that won the team prize a month earlier & all of our winning ladies. Yet even without them we still provided 52 of the field of 110, so only slightly down on the 57 that represented RRR at race 1. Of these 57, 33 had run the 1st race - so 24 were to find out the delights of this route for the 1st time.


The day had been very windy with lots of heavy downpours & it wasn’t looking good as we stepped out of the club for our warm-ups. 15 minutes before the start the rain started to come down but 10 minutes later the wind dropped, the rain stopped & we had almost perfect racing conditions. The race briefing included a warning about the bollard near the start that took a runner out last month, which made all the boys wince!


I am not going to say anything about the route as most of us have now run it & are aware of the steps on Smithy Bridge Road. I so wish we could run over the level crossing instead.


I now realise how hard these reports are to write, as there were some amazing performances & PBs - so if you did get a PB & I have missed you please forgive me.


No team prizes this month, but there were some age category wins for the ever-young Sheila Phillips (1st F65, 33:11), David Phillips (1st M70, 22:47), Debbie Fiddling (1st F50, 21:35) & Katherine Brierley (1st F40, 22:55) - all amazing performances, well done to you all & sorry for pipping you at the line Debbie.


Now let’s have a stab at all the PBs that were broken: Rob Battye (18:40, 2nd M40 & 1st RRR home, 6th overall in his 1st race for the club, 39 second improvement), Stephen Lee (21:00 8th M45, 5 second improvement), Lee Higginbottom (21:07, 11th SM, 12 second improvement), Garry Bower (21:35, 10th M40, 26 second improvement), Jo Mitchell (27:58, 4th F35, an amazing 2:25 improvement in her first club championship race), Eloise Bartlett (27:12, 5th SF, 53 second improvement), Emma Bower (29:37, 6th SF, 1:22 improvement – she makes me so proud) & Zoe Mcmunn (32:57, 6th F35, a cracking 55 second improvement). Well done to all of the PB-breakers, truly brilliant running. The atmosphere in the Con Club was brilliant afterwards with the buzz of your achievements. I am sure pulling on our vest puts an extra bit of power in our legs.


The rest of the RRR finishers: Shane Reading (18:46, 3rd M40), Ian Dale (19:28, 2nd M50), Neil Brock (19:38, 3rd M50), Joel White (19:54, 6th SM), Mark Taylor (20:09, 6th M40), Richard Fiddling (20:10, 4th M45), Brad Howard (20:13, 7th M40), Ronnie Garrod (20:22, 8th M40), Matthew Kilburn (20:36, 5th M45), Dave Hall (20:54, 2nd M55), Jane Augsburger (21:13, 2nd SF), Jason Keast (21:15, 9th M45), Mark Heaney (22:06, 3rd M55), Stewart Jones (22:20, 11th M40), Steven Shaw (22:41, 4th M55), Ray Williams (23:05, 12th M45), Damian Mercer (23:12, 14th SM), Paul Cooke (23:14, 13th M45), Chris Nicholson (23:23, 15th SM), Janet Jobey (23:37, 4th F40 – this was Janet’s 1st individual race for the club & a tidy result to start with, well done Janet), Adam Stirling (23:40, 16th SM), John Sweeney (23:50, 12th M40), Simon Lake (23:58, 5th M55 – great to see you getting quicker Simon after your injury), Dave Watt (24:17, 19th SM), David Smith (24:36, 6th M55), Rose Rowson (24:43, 2nd F55), Selina Mclean (25:05, 5th F40), Rebecca Mercer (25:12, 4th SF), Dean Burgess (25:26, 7th M50), Susan Heaney (25:30, 4th F50), Stephen Rogowskj (25:46, 8th M50 – great to see you back after injury), Nikki Green (25:51, 3rd F45), Mike Doolan (26:57, 4th M60), Jillian Heywood (29:23, 7th F40), Niparun Nessa (29:38, 7th SF), Amanda Lane (30:00, 8th F40), Anne Jones (32:17, 4th F55), Karen Stuttard (32:17, 4th F45) & Angela Rogowskj (33:05, 5th F45).


Best news of the night was that Angela didn’t go for a run along the canal like she did last month, which resulted in a 4:32 improvement on her time from race 1. This was the biggest jump of the night for any RRR, beating Simon Lake by 10 seconds (4:22 improvement). There could be prizes for both at the final race.


So we are nicely set up for Race 3 on 3rd June - still all to play for with the best time of the 3 races counting for the championship points. However before we can think about that we have the small matter of getting through 3 other races - Ian Casey 5K, Oldham 7K  & the tough but very enjoyable Dovestone Diamond.  [Garry Bower]

LONDON MARATHON – 26th APRIL 2015
Just a week after Becki Robinson set a new RRR women’s record of 3:14:26 at the Greater Manchester Marathon, Jen Bloor ran an expertly-paced race to cross the line on The Mall in this year's London Marathon in 3:28:44 to become the 2nd quickest RRR ever over the 26.2 mile distance. Jen also, incidentally, did a fine job of ensuring that my prediction in the GMM race report below ("I fully expect Shiela Waite's previous record to be beaten at least once more this year...") came true in less than a week. I'll give you the results of all next weekend's football results too if you like...
 
An impressive 20 Royton runners completed this year’s London race & all produced typically outstanding performances. This included four who finished in the top 100 in their age group – Club President June Allingan (18th FV70 in 5:14:03), Fay Royle (69th FV60, 4:41:13), Debbie Shaw (84th FV50, 3:38:23) & Chris Eavers (86th V60, 3:37:51) – a remarkable achievement in a race featuring more than 38,000 runners. Stuart Carroll was once again the first finisher for the club, his 2:49:27 a little slower than in 2014 but yet another addition to his impressive collection of sub-3 marathons. Chris Lowe paced his race perfectly to cross the line in exactly 3:00:00 (which sadly cannot be classified as "sub-3"), closely followed by Shane Reading, who set a fantastic new personal best of 3:01:21 in his 2nd marathon - I've no doubt that Shane will break 3 hours in his next marathon (another Mystic Emanuel prediction!). Paul Craddock (4:28:53) & Colin Green (3:14:09) both achieved the remarkable feat of completing a second marathon in a week, having both run at Manchester the previous weekend for what is now becoming an RRR tradition following Stuart Brown's efforts last year.
 
The other RRR finishers in London were Kirsty White (3:39:40), Rochelle Evans (3:40:35), Julie Greenwood (3:51:11), John Lambe (3:51:24), Nikki Green (4:21:43), Simon Howard (4:24:42), Rachel Wood (4:38:19), Martin Jones (4:38:23), Mary Freer (4:44:21) & David Leyland (5:49:16).

So those are the facts; Simon Howard kindly agreed to provide a more personal view of the race & here it is.

"As the Virgin London Marathon (well I suppose I’d better stick the sponsor in) approached, I was a little unsure about my potential for success or maybe failure. Since taking up running in late 2008, due to a family tragedy which gave me a totally different outlook to life, I had wanted to pound the streets of London every April. So every year I entered the official ballot in the hope that one late September/early October, through my letterbox, a shiny magazine would arrive congratulating me on gaining entry. Alas, it was not to be...but somebody was looking down on me the week before Christmas 2014. For those unaware, RRR runners who unsuccesssfully enter the official ballot can enter the draw for allocated club places & I was one of the lucky runners to gain a place this year.

Representing the club was such a wonderful opportunity but one I wanted to take seriously, as it wouldn’t be fair on other club members wanted to run VLM if training wasn’t done properly. The first major decision was that, despite wanting to run it, there was no way I was going to do the Oldham Way Ultra about a month before London. I decided to embark on a structured program of some description, but tweaked my hamstring just 2 days after gaining the ballot place. No panic I thought, as the marathon is over 4 months away. I rested totally over Christmas, although most of this was due to a gastric bug I picked up which made it a wonderful holiday period! As I entered 2015 the hamstring was still tight, so I trained in January but at a much slower pace than I would normally. By the end of the month, I could feel my strength returning & throughout February I had a very successful training month, racking up the miles steadily & completing long runs of between 17-23 miles - so everything was good to go.


My next aim was to use the Dentdale club race as a pacing exercise. I was hoping for sub-4 at London, so decided to run Dentdale at about 8:20 mile pace. I completed the race in 1.57, so felt everything was going fine. Unfortunately, a few days after the race I pushed a little too hard on a track session & the following morning my hamstring was  very painful (this is great PR for the wonderful track sessions Brian Moore organizes!). The next month was an absolute nightmare, with greatly reduced mileage & some extremely slow running. As April approached I seemed to have a combination of hamstring, knee & calf problems. I did manage a couple of long runs over Easter, but at a pace which would make sub-4 virtually impossible.


As race day approached I couldn’t decide what plan to go with, as I know I’m certainly good enough to run a sub-4 marathon but unsure whether my lack of miles would hamper the run. Or would the rest make me fresh? The excitement of the whole event built up as I arrived at Expo. It suddenly dawned on me quite how big this event is; the buzz & excitement was unbelievable as runners collected race numbers & toured the stalls.


On race day itself I arrived at the start feeling rather nervous & unsure, which probably wasn’t helped by a rather damp & chilly morning. There was no way I was wearing extra layers, as I was confident it would warm up once I started to run. The trick was to delay putting your bag on the baggage bus as long as possible, to allow you to keep as many layers on as possible - I felt I did this quite well & stripped down to vest & running shorts about 30 minutes before the start. The next panic was the queue for the loo - I have never seen a queue for a gent’s urinal so long! - but luckily it dispersed fairly quickly & I was able to enter my starting pen with about 10 minutes to go.


I managed to get over the start line in about 7 minutes & decided to try to settle into some sort of steady pace. This wasn’t helped by the official pacers, who seemed to be all over the place. I had settled into 8:45 min pace, which was inside the sub-4 plan I had, so I wasn’t worried to be sat in front of the 4:15 group, but became rather confused when I then had to overtake the 4:45 group & further up the field the 5:00 group! Maybe pacing is different in London! My watch still had me averaging about 8:40-8:45 min/mile, which felt quite comfortable.


During the early miles it didn’t feel like a big city marathon, apart from the number of runners. The race has a strange start with runners coming from 3 different locations, but everybody merges at about 3 miles. The first tingle of excitement came on reaching the Cutty Sark, where the atmosphere was electric. It felt like running into an ampitheatre with everybody being cheered on, no matter what shape or size the runner was. As we continued towards the city the crowds really built up & the atmosphere & excitement continued. To anybody planning on running this race, make sure you put your name on your top. This was a major mistake on my part - while I know I belong to the greatest running club around, a cheer for "Simon" would have spurred me on more than "Well Done Royton".


My lack of miles was still a nagging doubt in my mind & while my calf was feeling fine early on, at about halfway it was starting to tighten a little...but there was no way I was not finishing this race. I decided I may have to slow down a little, as I was still running about 8:50 min/mile. However, disaster struck somewhere between miles 15 & 16 - a shooting pain down my calf. A horrified look must have been on my face as the muscle was bulging & I was in a lot of pain. Luckily I was near a first aid station & they massaged it for me. They laughed when, asking me what I was going to do, I replied that it was only 11 miles to the finish!


The next few miles were a real struggle as water stops involved a quick gulp & the rest of the bottle poured down my leg to ease the pain. I managed a glimpse of John Sweeney & Dave Freer which gave me a boost, as they were the first people I knew that I had seen since the start. A quick high-five with Simon Bruce Lake somewhere around the Isle of Dogs also spurred me on.


Now the race became a struggle both physically & mentally. I felt really down when I started seeing fancy dress runners & even a bloke carrying a ladder in front of me on the other side of the road. I couldn’t believe I was slower than them! Then I suddenly realised my mind was playing tricks on me & they were on the other side of the road because they were at mile 13 while I was about mile 22.


For those who have never been lucky enough to run VLM, hitting Westminster is an experience that is almost hard to describe. The crowds are screaming at you, & there’s no way you won't finish, no matter what state you are in by this point. Many of London’s famous sights are visible from here, but when struggling at the end of a tough race you tend to ignore them, although upon reaching Big Ben I knew I was nearly there. A couple of turns later & the 385 yards down the Mall saw me struggle over the line in 4:24. This was at least 25 minutes slower than I wanted, but the lack of training had taken its toll.


Forget that, I’m taking the positives! I’ve achieved a lifetime ambition & completed the London Marathon. So what if I didn’t get a PB or go sub-4, I’ll do that somewhere else. I have always said I’d be happy just to run London once, but I’ve now got greedy & want it again. So I’m hoping to get lucky in the official ballot for 2016, if not I will try a charity place. If you are unsure about running VLM, you’ve got to go for it. It beat me a little this time, but I’ll be back for more."  [Simon Howard/David Emanuel]

GREATER MANCHESTER MARATHON – 19th APRIL 2015

The first thought on waking on race day - what's the weather like? Veterans of the 2012 GMM (we still shiver at the thought of that day) were relieved to pull back the curtains to reveal a cool, mild morning - a perfect day for marathon running.

Pretty much perfect for marathon drinks-stationing too. As our crack team gathered at our usual spot at Urmston, new Group Leader Mary Freer called us together for a pre-race briefing. It was immediately clear that we were in safe hands, while the announcement that we would be giving out actual bottles of water, rather than those hopeless pouches of previous years, was an added bonus. We waited expectantly for the announcement of the four groups in which we'd be working in rotation. Result! I'd avoided being teamed with Ronnie Quinn once again!

Of course we were only there because there was a race taking place, so I suppose I should give that a mention. You may have heard by now that Becki Robinson absolutely smashed the RRR women's marathon record - her remarkable time of 3:14:26 beat the previous club record, which had stood since 2004, by more than 15 minutes. Becki's time was good enough for 24th place in the senior female category, in an event which had almost 8,000 finishers. Incredible performance! I have a feeling that this might be a 'Roger Bannister' moment - just like when he broke the 4-minute mile barrier, I fully expect Shiela Waite's previous record (3:29:39) to be beaten at least once more this year...although I very much doubt that Becki's new record will be overtaken any time soon, at least until the next time she runs 26.2 miles.  
 
Becki was one of 23 RRRs who completed the race, many achieving new personal bests for the distance. Phil Marsden was first across the line for the club, finishing as 13th V40 in an excellent 2:46:17. Phil was closely followed by his training partner David McBride - his time of 2:51:14 more than 15 minutes quicker than last year & just reward for a hard winter’s training.
 
Several other RRRs also made huge improvements on their previous marathon times. Stewart Jones (3:48:30) improved by 27 minutes & Mo Butt (3:11:12) by 14 minutes on their 2014 times at Manchester. Karen Stuttard (5:38:23) knocked 33 minutes off her personal best, Paul Craddock (4:11:28) ran 19 minutes faster than ever before, Adam Stirling (4:07:12) delivered a new PB by 63 minutes & Kirsty Simcox (3:41:46) broke through the 3:45 barrier for the first time.
 
Other club finishers: Bernard Goodwin (3:13:41), Andy Hayhurst (3:25:49), David Ellis (3:28:12), Robert Maddison (3:31:42), Stuart Brown (3:45:49), Michael Harrison (3:50:08), Tawnia Norman (3:51:03), Dave Hulme (3:52:07), Steve Shaw (3:52:20), David Smith (3:55:55), Vikki Smith (3:58:14), Teresa Hollins (4:05:57 for an amazing 4th FV60), Rose Rowson (4:06:27), Paul Cooke (4:14:39), Mark Oliver (4:57:01) & Ann Leyland (5:08:52).

Anyway, back to the drinks station. One of the biggest challenges each year is deciding which encouraging words to use as the runners come through. We all tried to shout their names (when they weren't going too fast for us to read them), while most of us went for the standard "Well done!", "Keep going!" or "Not far now!". Cathy Ashworth didn't approve of my suggestion, "Looking good!" on the basis that in many cases it wasn't actually true (she had a point); Cathy's preference for "Just a parkrun to go!" did admittedly seem to raise a smile in many cases. Later in the day, Ronnie Quinn suddenly started telling runners "Half an hour to the finish!", based as far as I could tell on no calculation of their pace whatsoever, but presumably on the assumption that once they finished they would be too tired to come back & complain. This soon evolved to "Half an episode of Coronation Street to go!", which led me to ask when the soap had moved to hour-long programmes. "No idea - never watched it," came Ronnie's reply. These events really wouldn't be the same without him...
     
Although the increased number of runners had kept us busier than in previous years, our clean-up teams had done their job superbly & the road remained spotless. Those who ran the final section with some of our runners reported a very different state of affairs elsewhere on the course. As it began to quieten down by early afternoon, our focus moved to preventing the local urchins from stealing our supplies (there must be a significant black market for bottled water in the Urmston area). Eventually, with just a few stragglers still out on the course, Mary sent us on our way. I'm delighted to say that she had no hesitation in agreeing to lead us again in 2016! 

The following day Lyndsey Calder, the new Events Co-ordinator at Xtra Mile Events, wrote to say, "I am astounded by the support & efforts of you all on Sunday. The praise being received by all those who ran is fabulous & all volunteers are receiving compliments by the boat-load." She says 'all volunteers', but I think she really means 'RRR'...

Just another of the (many) days which make you proud to be a Royton Road Runner!  [David Emanuel] 

STRIDE THROUGH THE WOODS – 22nd APRIL 2015

Having never run this race before I didn’t know what to expect, but I had heard good stories about it being a well-organised scenic trail race put on by Hyde Village Striders.


It was a very warm evening & six RRRs made the trip to Hyde - it might have been more if it hadn’t been the Wednesday after the Manchester Marathon & just a few days before London. There were 115 runners in the field.


Danny McManus did the club proud once again, finishing in 10th position in a very impressive time of 19:14. Next RRR home was myself in 36th place (23:19) followed by Chris Prince in 58th place (25:57). Then our three ladies came in, led by Jo 'ultra runner' Langthorne (she has already entered next year’s Oldham Way Ultra) on her debut for Royton Road Runners in 93rd place (30:57) - welcome to the club Jo! Jillian Heywood followed Jo in 94th place (31:13); it might be interesting watching these two race over the coming season. The wonderful Angela Rogowskyj completed the team in 111th place (36:42). No PBs, but I wouldn’t expect them from this race as it isn’t a quick route (Angela insisted that the route reminded her of Mickey Mouse ears, but I have looked at it numerous times and can’t see it myself!).


One thing to say about this course is that the hill within the 1st mile is a stunner & really saps the legs - but the route loops out & back down the hill, so if you are brave enough you can really make up some time here. It’s a two-lap course & matched up to the stories about being very well-organised, well-marshaled & great fun.


My personal reward from the evening was that I seemed to become the buffet for the local midges after the race & now have two beautiful bites on my legs. They have some mean insects over there!  [Garry Bower]

HOLLINGWORTH LAKE 5K– 6th APRIL 2015

I guess the racing season has started - seems you can't turn a corner of late without coming across a bunch of athletes with numbers pinned to their chests! Those RRRs who chose to spend their Easter Monday morning racing at Hollingworth Lake in John Lloyd's latest Cannonball event were certainly well rewarded with a fast 5K course in near-perfect running conditions.

Of course each runner still has to deliver...a quick review of Facebook posts suggests that new 5K PBs were set by Angela Rogowskyj (32:51), Kevin Kennedy (24:57, beating his previous best by more than a minute), Katherine Brierley (22:48), Lee Higginbottom (21:19) & Danny McManus (15th place in 18:03). Garry Bower (22:06) ran his 2nd fastest 5K ever & Brian Moore crossed the line in an impressive 19:38 in one of his extremely rare (but always welcome) race appearances.

Meanwhile Ian Dale (18:26) deservedly claimed the 1st V50 prize & gained quick revenge on me after the Littleborough 5K a few days earlier - the official two second gap (on chip times) looked a lot bigger on the road! Phil Marsden was taking it easy, after his last long marathon training run the previous day, but still finished 16th in 18:07, while Matt Kilburn continued his excellent recent form in 20:08.

For those who missed this excellent PB opportunity, it might be worth putting John Lloyd's Summer 5K series in your diary. There's another fast, flat course (albeit over five laps) which might be to your liking!  [David Emanuel]

RIVINGTON PIKE FELL RACE– 4th APRIL 2015

One of the things that happens when you begin fell running is that you notice hills & ridges that you never paid much attention to before & wonder “what would it be like to run up there?”


Rivington Pike & its larger sister Winter Hill have always been such a place for me - you can’t miss it if you ever go along the M61. I always wanted to have a go at this race on its traditional slot on Easter Saturday & this year I finally got round to it. So it was that eight RRRs made the trip to Horwich on a beautifully sunny day to tackle one of the oldest fell races in the country, dating all the way back to the 1880s, also included in this year’s “Run The Moors” series. Race registration was at the Crown Hotel & the start just a short jog away.


The Pike itself doesn’t look that steep from a distance but is certainly imposing as you stand on the start line. I began to wonder what I’d let myself in for! A short announcement later & we were off. The race starts on Lever Park Avenue with a gentle incline along the road, before a sharp right through a thick muddy section where the climbing began in earnest. The ascent was runnable in the main, although I found myself walking a little more than I would have liked. The terrain was a mix of grassy trail & rocky, stony paths to the summit, lined all the way with spectators shouting encouragement. As the route approached the tower it steepened sharply & after a hands-on-knees slog we were around the tower & blasting straight back down the way we came. Unfortunately I didn’t get much time to take in the scenery, but the view is incredible in good weather.


First home for RRR was Alan Bodell in 29th place, clocking a time of 21.58, closely followed by Daniel McManus in 22.04 (30th). In 74th place was Neil Brock, posting 23.52. Next home was Jason Keast, a time of 26.22 earning 117th place. Not far behind was 'Clean Dean' Moynihan, showing a clean pair of heels (sorry, it’s the best I can do!) to the rest of the field to cross the line in 142nd place (27.28), followed a few seconds later by Gary Smith (151st, 27.51). I was next home for RRR, my legs shot coming back down the road, but I just got in under 30 minutes with a time of 29.51. Unfortunately I don’t appear on the results, so hopefully Horwich RMI Harriers will sort this for me.  Finally Katherine Brierley was the last one over the line for our contingent to take 219th place in 32.19.


This was definitely a race I would do again, with it being an out-and-back, straightforward route in terms of running the race, but a gruelling slog to the top. [James Cashin]

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K SERIES, RACE 1– 1st APRIL 2015

A wet & windy night in a wet & windy week...but nothing stops the RRR juggernaut! A sea of green (& yellow) greeted everyone who turned up at registration, with 57 of our wonderful runners in a total field of 99. However, with the honourable exception of Rochelle Evans, there was no sign of our brilliant Ladies 'A' team from Saturday's relays; I guess they're now demanding an appearance fee before they'll take part in a race? Rochelle (22:55) was duly rewarded with an excellent 1st FV40 position.

Diligent Race Director John Lloyd had been out on the new opening section of the course all day, laying flags & sweeping water away. It still proved to be pretty damp & boggy in places - goodness knows what it would have been like without John's efforts - but that didn't prevent a fantastic race, with plenty of great RRR battles throughout. Difficult to judge, in these conditions, whether this new route is quicker than the 'traditional' Littleborough 5K circuit, but hopefully we'll find out in the remaining two events.

Rochelle was just one of the many RRRs called up at the prize-giving. There were team victories for both the men (Phil Marsden 3rd & 2nd V40 in 17:51, Shane Reading 6th in 18:38, Shaun Armstrong 7th in 18:41) & ladies (Tawnia Norman 1st SF, 3rd lady overall in 22:22, Laura Walters 2nd SF in 22:27, Kirsty Simcox 3rd SF in 22:39). Sheila Phillips (34:36) was 1st FV65, Val Kilburn 1st FV45 (23:00), Ronnie Quinn 1st V60 (22:32), Dave Freer 1st V45 (20:25) & even I managed a rare victory over Ian Dale (19:35) & Neil Brock (19:21) over 5K to claim the V50 prize as Mo Butt (19:14) chased me down. "Another 10 metres & I'd have caught you," said Mo afterwards. Fortunately I'd checked beforehand & this was definitely a 5K race, not a 5.01K...

Of course these races are about much more than taking home the odd bottle of wine (surprisingly none of the RRR winners went for the alternative option of running socks). This was a very special race for Amanda Lane, who crossed the line in 29:52 to break through the 30-minute barrier for the first time. It was also great to see Dave Phillips (22:59), John Higgins (23:06) & Simon Lake (28:20) back in action after long periods out with injury. Meanwhile Eloise Bartlett seems to be setting a PB almost every time she races, her 28:05 here knocking 15 seconds off her previous best %k time.

Other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (3rd FV45, 37:37), Zoe McMunn (33:52), Emma Bower (30:59), Jenny O'Callaghan (30:53), Jillian Heywood (29:08), Niparun Nessa (28:45), Liz Phillips (3rd FV35, 28:33), Mike Doolan (27:14), Nikki Green (2nd Fv45, 26:50), Becky Mercer (26:37), Kevin Kennedy (26:28), Stephen Jones (25:44), David Smith (3rd V55, 25:31), Selina McLean (3rd FV40, 24:53), Chris Prince (23:48), Chris Nicholson (23:40), Ray Williams (23:34), Paul Cooke (23:31), John Sweeney (23:25), Katherine Brierley (2nd FV40, 23:14), Steven Shaw (2nd V55, 23:11), Damian Mercer (23:09), Gary Smith (22:46), Carl O'Callaghan (22:28), Garry Bower (22:26), Martin Jones (22:24 in his 3rd race in 5 days), Andy Hayhurst (21:56), Lee Higginbottom (21:42), Stephen Lee (21:08), Gary Fielding (trying to April Fool the RRR Cup handicapper by running 21:05), Brad Howard (20:51 on his RRR debut), Matt Kilburn (3rd V45, 20:48), Bryan Lawton (2nd V45, 20:40), Ronnie Garrod (20:38), Mark Taylor (19:31), Bernie Goodwin (19:19) & Daniel McManus (18:56).

None of those performances guarantees any points in the club championship at this stage, as for the first time a full race series is included with the best individual times to count. Those who are able to run either of the remaining two races will I'm sure be hoping for a faster time in better conditions...although by the time Race 2 comes along on 6th May, many will have a Spring marathon in their legs. Could be interesting!  [David Emanuel] 

NORTHERN ATHLETICS ROAD RELAYS– 28th MARCH 2015

Back in January, reporting on our ladies team's success in the cross-country race at Leigh, I said that "it doesn’t get much better than this…but if it does, we’re in for quite a year". Well at Sefton Park for the men's 12-stage & women's 6-stage relays I discovered that it does - and although it's only March, it already has been quite a year.

For once, I'm going to let others tell the story. Glyn Billington, a member of the Salford AC team that achieved a fantastic third place finish, took to our Facebook page on Saturday evening to say that "it's been Salford's presentation evening & the talk has not been of how we managed to nick a medal on Merseyside today, but how much respect we have for you guys turning out your teams today & how you encouraged each & everyone of your runners from start to finish". Jacqueline Crowther (Hyde Village Striders) posted that "there were millions of you & it was fab to see, I only hope we can get as many of our club male & female interested next time round, you did yourselves proud". Simon Lake reports "a Penny Lane Strider at the Accrington 10K this [Sunday] morning mentioning how many RRR shirts were on display at Sefton & how well supported all the runners were".

If ever there was a race where results & times didn't really matter, this was it. Full details of the men's race & women's race are available from the SportSoft website...but they really don't tell the whole story (plus some of the names don't match those who actually ran, as registration details had to be submitted well in advance; so 'Clare Darraugh' is actually Janet Yarwood, 'John Lambe' is David Ellis & 'James Cashin' is Andy Hayhurst). Yes, it was a truly fantastic achievement by the Ladies 'A' team to achieve a 17th-place finish, but those present were just as proud (& cheered just as loudly) when Karen Stuttard brought the 'D' team home a little later.

So whatever else RRR achieves in the coming months & years - which I have a feeling is going to be a tremendous amount - these 48 athletes will go down in the record books as our first-ever representatives in this prestigious road relay event: Shaun Armstrong, Jane Augsburger, Eloise Bartlett, Jen Bloor, Katherine Brierley, Neil Brock, Mo Butt, Paul Craddock, Ian Dale, David Ellis, Rochelle Evans, Debbie & Richard Fiddling, Gary Fielding, Andy Hayhurst, Jillian Heywood, Lee Higginbottom, Simon Howard, Janet Jobey, Martin Jones, Stewart Jones, Emma Kennedy, Kevin Kennedy, Matt & Val Kilburn, Helen Knight, Bryan Lawton, Phil Marsden, Danny McManus, Becky & Damian Mercer, S Dawn Mills, Niparun Nessa, Chris Nicholson, Tawnia Norman, Shane Reading, Jayne Roberts, Becki Robinson, Carol Robinson, Angela Rogowskyj, Kirsty Simcox, Karen Stuttard, Mark Taylor, Laura Walters, Kirsty White, Dan & Janet Yarwood & me. Only one other club (Wigan & District Harriers) had more people taking part, none could match our four ladies teams & none came anywhere near the level (or volume) of support that all of our runners received. I can't put it any better than men's captain Shane Reading: "This is an incredible club & I am very proud to be a part of it."

On occasions like this it really doesn't seem right to pick out individuals...but I'm going to do it anyway. People such as Barry Greaves, who came along in case he was needed, provided great support & encouragement whilst doing multiple laps of the course, but was still prepared to step in & run a leg when it looked as though Andy Hayhurst might not make it; Andy himself, for volunteering to run less than a week before race day, arriving at Sefton Park with little time to warm-up & then posting the fastest short leg time for the 'B' team; Katie Nicholson, who came along with Chris to support, armed with a huge tub of delicious home-made banana cakes; Phil Marsden, who boarded the coach straight from a night shift & then posted one of our best performances of the day; Eloise Bartlett, who willingly stepped in to run a long leg at short notice; Simon Howard, who risked the dodgy hamstring he's been nursing ahead of the London Marathon "because I really want to run for the team", but also took time out to expertly secure Gloria the Gazebo so that she stayed put whilst other clubs' tents were flying off in the wind; Janet Yarwood, who was only 'persuaded' to run a few days earlier; & last, but definitely not least, our team captains Shane & Kirsty, who put so much time & effort into recruiting & selecting their teams, then led by example with superb performances in the race itself.

Thanks again to everyone who took part & helped to make it such a memorable day. Hope it's given you a taste for team events & look forward to seeing you all at the next one!  [David Emanuel]      

CANALATHON – 22nd MARCH 2015

The Canalathon - a 50km Ultramarathon crossing the counties of Greater Manchester, Lancashire & Yorkshire from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge. Following the line of the canal there was no navigation required, just get from A to B.

As we approached the start I questioned a few things. Had I done enough training? Probably not in terms of distance, my longest run had been just short of 18 miles, but those were Saddleworth miles & I was hoping the added hills would help. Was I fit enough? I felt strong, I had concentrated hard over the winter period & felt my time out running & cycling would see me through, but it was about to be put fully to the test. Could I finish it? I don’t think this was ever in doubt, anyone who knows me will know how determined I am. But this was never about a race for me, just about finishing.


I looked around to see what looked like seasoned ultra runners getting ready. 150 sets of compression socks, tights & rucksacks with all manner of pockets with bottles & water bladders everywhere to satisfy the safety kit requirements. My kit on the other hand looked heavy & cumbersome but I wasn't about to be overawed.


I was joined by another RRR Martin Wildman & our friend Kev Handley, who approached the start looking like something out of Planet of the Apes due to a bad back, calf & quad, but he wasn’t going to miss out. We had taken on challenges together before & that team effort was to be the difference between success & failure.


We set off at a trot, our race pace was to be around 10 minute miles. At the start I felt like we were left standing as the rest of the field disappeared off ahead. However we stuck to our plan, taking in the scenery, enjoying the experience & as always having a laugh with each other. Before I knew it we had passed Newton Heath, Failsworth,  Chadderton, Rochdale & Littleborough, reaching the second feed station at 20 miles on race pace & feeling fresh. We were now into new territory.


Martin was strong at this point & took off like a train to mile 21, I think this was a 9:24 mile. I hung back a little, keeping touch but starting to feel very heavy-legged. There seemed to be a change now as we reached the ‘summit’ & all the locks appeared to go downhill rather than up. I was glad when the next feed station came just after 26 miles. We had run 4hrs 15 mins for the marathon distance. My plan changed a little at this point - I figured on 50 minutes more running & that would get us home. I counted down 5 x 10mins & this seemed to work for me.


Kev Handley succumbed to his injuries at about mile 28, leaving Martin & I to finish together, but as always the Handley machine wouldn’t be beaten & he came in just behind. I felt we finished relatively strong, maintaining our race pace throughout. We picked off 20-30 runners over the last 10 miles & although I never wanted this to be a race, that feeling somehow gave me a great boost. Strava clocked us at 5hrs 13 mins with a chip time of 5:35, finishing 44th & 45th respectively. Kev came in just behind at 5:39 in 49th.


So what of the Canalathon? A great route, nice scenery, easy navigation, well-stocked feed/water stations & well-organised & marshaled. I would say it's a good stepping stone to the world of ultra racing, whether you want to run for a quick time or just push yourself beyond the marathon distance.  [Mike Bundy]

WILMSLOW HALF MARATHON – 22nd MARCH 2015

What a difference a year makes! In 2014 this race formed part of the club championship & 43 RRRs finished. This year just seven toed the line at Wilmslow Rugby club (shoddy research disclaimer - only includes first claim RRRs as recorded on TDL's results website; I'm not Brian Moore you know!). Wilmslow is known as a fast course, with less climb over 13.1 miles than Oldham parkrun, & a number of personal bests were recorded in the unexpectedly warm March sunshine.


"Are you the Rebecca Robinson who runs for Royton Road Runners?" the 'other' Miss Robinson (from Kendal AC) must be sick of hearing by now. The one & only BR once again led the RRR ladies home in a fantastic 1:29:13. Following up on her podium finish at last month's Mad Dog 10K she finished 29th lady in what must be considered a much stronger field. Karen Stuttard continued her work towards next month's Manchester Marathon, finishing in 2:37:32, while Natalie Fitzpatrick has clearly been working hard over the winter, completing her first race at this distance in 1:46:13 - including a 10-mile split time just one second slower than her Swinton 10 time last September.


Gary Fielding brought the men home in 1:22:36, but will be the second person to say there is more to come after the slog home from mile eight (the first person to comment on this performance would of course be Mo Butt). Mo finished in 1:25:20 which, while not the PB he would have wanted, still ranks 82nd in the country for the U23 age category at this distance. Good work indeed, even Mo must have thought so as he uploaded the race to Strava. Chris Prince followed up his 1:50:50 in the horrendous conditions of the Great North West Half Marathon last month to finish in 1:46:13. Dave Arden continued his sequence of PBs this season with a fine 1:24:10, while I rounded off the PB party with a 1:27:34.


With the Northern Athletics Road Relays this coming Saturday, hopefully these fine performances can be taken into the team event for those representing the club in Liverpool.  [Dan Yarwood]

DENTDALE RUN – 14th MARCH 2015

Thought for the day: are people who live in Dent called Dentists? If so, does the potential confusion explain why there are no dental practices in the village (a Google search suggests that the nearest is in Sedburgh)? I think I may have spotted a gap (tooth) in the market…


Anyway, where was I…there’s a fine tradition of RRRs travelling to Cumbria for this challenging (just over) 14 mile race, dating back to (at least) 2004. Over the last few years there’s been a bit of competition with the Scottish contingent from Dumfries Running Club, but this year it was no contest, with the ‘new generation’ of Royton members boosting our number of finishers to 46 (yet another club record!) compared to just 14 from across the border.


Leading the way for our Dent debutants was Phil Marsden, making light of the hilly course with an impressively speedy 1:28:05 for 12th place (5th V40). Combined with excellent performances from Stuart Carroll (1:27:12, 10th overall, 3rd V40) & Dave McBride (1:29:56, 21st, 9th V40) that gave us a wonderful 1st place in the men’s team competition. A welcome change for the men to get a prize, with our ladies team having grabbed all the headlines of late…


Judging from the photos, most of our other first-timers thoroughly enjoyed themselves – either that or they’ve been taking ‘smiling & waving’ lessons from Niparun Nessa (2:27:04). Nefa was part of a happy group which included Eloise Bartlett (2:34:30) & Mary Freer (2:29:02), accompanied by John Sweeney (2:34:32) apparently out to prove that orange really doesn’t go with our club colours.


Others overcoming the challenge of the undulating country lanes around Dent for the first time included Patrick Kennedy (2:22:25), Mike Doolan (2:18:40), Katherine Brierley (2:17:37), Sue Heaney (2:14:49), Paul Craddock (2:10:08), Ray Williams (2:00:24), Simon Howard (1:57:23), Tawnia Norman (1:56:25), Kirsty Simcox (1:56:23), Stewart Jones (1:55:15), Jane Augsburger (1:53:21), Jason Keast (1:51:33), Joel White (1:48:48) & Neil Brock (1:37:59). Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t only the relatively new RRRs making their debut this year – more ‘experienced’ club members Rose Rowson (2:08:12, 7th FV55), Laura Walters (1:55:06), Debbie Fiddling (1:50:00, 6th FV45) & Richard Fiddling (1:48:59) had all managed to avoid this trip in the past. I’m sure now they’ve experienced it they’ll all be back again!


However the real star of this particular show was Mr Bernard Goodwin. Bernie has been way out in front in the ‘Roll of Honour’ stats from the early days of the club – he was the first to complete 100 club championship races (in 2011) & now he’s reached the incredible total of 150 after finishing here in 1:39:05. That represents 12 years of remarkably consistent, mostly injury-free running, with between 7 & 15 club races completed every year. We celebrated this fantastic achievement in the only way we know - by buying Bernie a beer or several after the race & then presenting him with a giant cake on the coach home. There was very little of that left by the time we reached Royton.


All the other RRR finishers: Owen Flage (11th overall & 4th V40, 1:27:50), me (4th V50, 1:32:08), Shane Reading (1:33:02), Ian Dale (9th V50, 1:37:43), Kirsty White (8th lady overall, 5th FV35, 1:40:51), Shaun Armstrong (1:41:47), Matt Kilburn (1:45:04), Colin Green (1:47:27 after a 6-mile 'warm up' run), Tony McAndrew (1:48:13), Rochelle Evans (10th FV35, 1:49:23), Andy Schofield (1:50:18), Dave Freer (1:53:17), Debbie Shaw (1:53:45), Val Kilburn (1:56:17), Stuart Brown (1:58:51), Jayne Roberts (2:02:15), Steve Shaw (2:02:45), Nikki Green (2:09:19), David Smith (2:09:51) & Neil Barker (2:14:11).


In correspondence with Scott Thornley - Chair of the Dentdale Run Committee - the day after the race, he wrote, "It was a great day & we were really happy to see so many of Royton's members in the field. Here's to even more next year!" You know what you have to do...  [David Emanuel]

SOUTH EAST LANCS X-COUNTRY (BOGGART HOLE) - 28th FEBRUARY 2015

Here's one for the stats fans...in February 2013, at the last cross-country race of the season at Boggart Hole, just one lonely RRR took part (yes, it was me). In 2014 there were 15 of us. This year, despite the absence of several regulars due to illness & injury, we were up to 16. Even more impressive was the number of noisy supporters in attendance - Garry Bower, Sam Davis & Lee Higginbottom taking photos, with Brian Moore, Mark Taylor, George Meynell & Kathy Ashworth cheering us on (hope I've not missed anyone!).

With apologies to all the RRR men who ran so well on a ridiculously boggy course, this race was all about the ladies. Going in, the equation was (relatively) simple - if they finished ahead of East Cheshire Harriers, they would win the overall South East Lancs series...but if East Cheshire won, then our ladies had to finish 2nd to claim a share of the overall 1st prize. After successive victories at Leigh & Heaton Park, that sounded eminently achievable...except that Jen Bloor, who finished 7th & 3rd overall at those two races, bizarrely chose to prioritise a skiing holiday over a soggy Saturday at Boggart Hole Clough (I like the suggestion that all future holiday dates need to be approved by the RRR Committee). A potential disaster! If only we had a talented young club member with cross-country experience who could be drafted into the team...

Enter Jane Augsburger, by remarkable coincidence a talented young club member with cross-country experience, who was duly drafted into the team. On her RRR debut Jane's confidence was admirable, setting off with the leading group & looking fantastically strong throughout. With Kirsty White producing another superb captain's performance to come home in 4th place, Becki Robinson delivering another great run in 7th & Jane crossing the line 9th, they really couldn't have done any more. Unfortunately a very strong East Cheshire team finished 3rd, 6th & 8th to claim victory in the race by just 3 points...but with our trio a comfortable 16 points clear of Burnden Road Runners in 3rd, that ensured a share of overall 1st place. Our first ever team cross-country prize!

However the team is not just about the first three to finish - so congratulations to Rochelle Evans, whose fine run saw her finish 20th overall, 6th FV40 (33rd overall, joint 7th FV40 for the series) & to Niparun Nessa for her best finish yet in 39th (joint 50th in the series, the only RRR lady apart from Kirsty to complete all four races). Clare Darraugh also deserves a special mention - it was her 'counting' run in the first SEL race at Tandle Hills which ensured 2nd team place in that race & thus made a vital contribution to the overall team award. Finally let's not forget that Becki finished joint 7th in the series overall, Jen 5th & our amazing Captain Kirsty 3rd overall & 1st FV40 (finishing 1st in her age group in all four races). What a day & what an achievement!  

So on to the supporting event. Despite the fact that we were all exhausted from cheering the ladies home, we gave it our best shot. Leading the way was Gary Fielding, with an impressively strong performance for 13th place (3rd V40), followed by team captain Shane Reading (20th, 6th V40) & me (24th, 2nd V50). Next home were Joel White (30th) & Mo Butt (33rd, 3rd U20 - yes, he still competes as a junior!) in his first cross-country race of the year. "I had to take a day off work for this!" said Mo, cheerfully. Barry Greaves, fresh from collecting a V55 prize at the Red Rose cross-country presentation the night before, was consistent as ever in 40th place (5th V55), closely followed by Ronnie Garrod (46th 8th V40). Then came the ever-improving Ray Williams (58th, 11th V45), Simon Howard (61st, 9th V40), Andy Hayhurst (63rd, choosing one of the toughest courses for his cross-country debut) & John Sweeney (69th & 10th V40, for once not able to produce one of his legendary sprint finishes, having had all his energy sapped by the mud). Great credit to John, though, who along with Shane & myself thus completed the full set of 7 cross-country races for the men this winter.

It's a mark of how far & how quickly we've progressed in cross-country running that our leading ladies were a little disappointed (at first) to discover that they were having to share the first place trophy. Yet it is a fantastic achievement & a truly historic one for RRR. I understand that on the way home they were already planning their strategy to take the title outright in 2015-16! [David Emanuel]          

GREAT NORTH WEST HALF MARATHON – 22nd FEBRUARY 2015

Another week, another race, another club record! The 50 runners who braved the atrocious conditions to complete this race were the most we’ve ever had at Blackpool, comfortably beating the 42 in 2014. Only at last year’s Oldham Half Marathon have more RRRs (62) completed a 13.1 mile event. We were also, once again, the best-represented club in the race. Of the 1,250 finishers, only the hosts Fylde Coast Runners (40) got close to us, with no other club reaching 20. Incredible!

 

It would have been 51 RRR finishers, but David Leyland very sensibly dropped out after suffering from dizziness & blurred vision. I’m sure all RRRs will join me in wishing David a speedy recovery – hopefully he’ll quickly be back into his very public preparation for London!

 

When I ran my first half marathon at the Great North Run (many, many years ago), I vividly remember watching a highlights programme later that day & being amazed to hear Brendan Foster describe the “ideal conditions” of the race. What he meant was ideal for the elite runners - after about an hour the wind & rain had started & the rest of us ‘normal’ runners had suffered that for much of our run. I suspect it was a bit like that at Blackpool, with the weather getting increasingly severe as the day wore on. I can’t remember ever feeling so cold at the finish of a race - although I don’t think I was in quite as bad a state as Mo Butt, who finished just behind me in an excellent 1:27:06 & could neither see, speak or peel the banana he was given after he crossed the line - so those who were out the longest deserve huge credit.

 

That includes Niparun Nessa (2:08:57) & Amanda Lane (2:23:53), both choosing one of the toughest possible days to make their first half marathon debut, while Eloise Bartlett (2:13:06) produced a remarkable new PB by more than 17 minutes. Then there was Kevin Kennedy (1:59:35), delighted to discover that he’d just dipped under 2 hours on chip time & Damieon Pickles (2:06:56) who made it even tougher by pushing a wheelbarrow around the course (Brian Moore has proposed that we introduce a new ‘with wheelbarrow’ threshold category for the Club Championship). Not forgetting Angela Rogowskyj (2:48:53), Karen Stuttard (2:34:08), Anne Jones (2:28:42), Ann Leyland (2:22:05), Nikki Mellor & Mary Freer (both 2:12:44), Claire Timms (2:10:19), Jillian Heywood (2:09:34), John Sweeney (running with Sam Davis in 2:07:52), Rebecca Mercer (2:07:22), Mike Doolan (2:04:21), Sarah Tomassi (2:00:33) & Rachel Wood (2:00:09). Heroes the lot of you!

 

There were some great RRR performances amongst our other finishers too. Teresa Hollins (1:56:13) was 1st FV60, Stuart Carroll 2nd V40 (14th overall, 1:20:25), Kirsty White 2nd FV40 (1:33:58), Debbie Shaw 2nd FV50 (1:40:33) & Becki Robinson continued her fine recent form to finish 3rd senior female (7th overall, 1:30:48). Also placing well in their age categories were Val Kilburn (4th FV45 in a course PB of 1:48:58), Nikki Green (a new PB of 1:50:43 for 5th FV45), Rochelle Evans (6th FV40, 1:40:11), Neil Brock (another PB in 7th V50, 1:29:20) & Kirsty Simcox (9th SF, 1:45:19). Matt Kilburn (1:35:25) & Katherine Brierley (1:48:23) also managed to defy the conditions to set new half marathon bests - Katherine by more than 6 minutes.

 

Other RRR survivors (sorry, finishers): Shane Reading (1:25:01), me (3rd V50, 1:25:48), Dave Arden (1:27:41), Jen Bloor (1:33:00), Ronnie Garrod (1:38:59), Jason Keast (1:40:04), John Felton (1:41:04), Lee Higginbottom (1:42:11), Andy Schofield (1:40:39), Dave Freer (1:42:26), Stuart Brown (1:47:11), Martin Jones (1:48:00), Adam Stirling (1:49:50), Chris Prince (1:50:50), Carl O’Callaghan (1:51:54), Damian Mercer (1:51:13), Jayne Roberts (1:51:50), Steve Shaw (1:54:03) & Paul Cooke (1:55:31 I believe – there seems to be some confusion in the results over who is the real Paul Cooke!).

 

Bookings are now being taken for the coach trip to Dent for the next club championship race on 14th March (see the News page for details). Surely we’ll get better weather for that one? [David Emanuel]

SOUTHPORT MAD DOG 10K - 8th FEBRUARY 2015
It struck me during the presentation after the race. As the Race Director called up Stuart Carroll to collect the V40 prize (35:37 & a splendid 5th place overall), having already given out awards to Becki Robinson (3rd lady in a magnificent 39:43) & Kirsty White (1st FV40 in a similarly wonderful 41:04), he commented that Stuart was "from, surprise surprise, Royton Road Runners". Suddenly I saw RRR as others see us - a massive club, outnumbering everyone else & taking home most of the trophies.

So we're not "little Royton Road Runners" any more & in reality haven't been for some time. We certainly race in vast numbers - the 86 finishers here was a new club record, just topping the 85 at last year's Royton Trail & far ahead of any other club (Southport & Waterloo AC was next best with 34) - but the performances are top quality too. Ian McBride still holds the Mad Dog course record from one of his two race victories here in RRR colours (welcome back Ian, by the way, we've missed you!) & in addition to our prize-winners this year we had 17 runners breaking the 40-minute barrier, 37 running sub-45, an amazing 55 dipping under 50 minutes. I had planned to report all of the 10K PBs achieved on Sunday, but there have been so many mentioned on Facebook & I don't want upset anyone I miss, so I'll just say congratulations to you all. Truly exceptional running in conditions that were ideal for fast times (certainly considerably better than last year).

Those I will mention individually are the many new members racing for RRR for the first time: Mark Heaney (44:44), Adam Stirling (45:47), Damian Mercer (47:10), Carl O'Callaghan (47:33), Chris Nicholson (51:08), Rebecca Mercer (54:27), Jillian Heywood (55:03), Emma Bower (61:03), Tracey Hall (61:59), Justine Cunniffe (65:38), S Dawn Mills (66:41) & Janet Yarwood (69:12). Welcome to the club & many thanks for contributing to a record-breaking start to the RRR road race season! Welcome back also to Shaun Armstrong (40:20), who missed us so much that he's returned from the Middle East to run with the club again.

I know not everyone is a big fan of the 'Mad Dog experience' & they do perhaps overdo the doggy references, but when conditions are good there can't be many faster 10K courses around. The atmosphere around the course is great - especially the drummers, not so sure about Elvis - & the organisation excellent. If anyone can think of a better confidence-builder to start the season, please let me know!

The many, many other RRR finishers: Phil Marsden (9th overall, 36:03), Owen Flage (14th, 36:32), Daniel McManus (15th, 36:37), David McBride (36:46), Shane Reading (36:50), Gary Fielding (36:59), Chris Lowe (37:18), David Emanuel (2nd V50, 37:19), Mo Butt (38:08), Bernie Goodwin (38:53), Dave Peart (39:05), Ian Dale (39:28), Neil Brock (39:33), Dave Arden (39:42), Joel White (39:52), Jen Bloor (4th lady, 40:10), Dan Yarwood (40:39), Tony McAndrew (40:46), Bryan Lawton (41:49), David Ellis (41:56), Ronnie Garrod (42:10), Andy Schofield (42:38), John Felton (42:59), Dave Freer (43:16), Jason Keast (43:18), Lee Higginbottom (43:37), Debbie Shaw (3rd FV45, 43:44), Tawnia Norman (44:00), Stewart Jones (44:08), Ronnie Quinn (44:28), Natalie Fitzpatrick (44:29), Rochelle Evans (44:49), Gill Lowe (45:22), Laura Walters (45:46), John Sweeney (46:10), Helen Knight (46:20), Garry Bower (46:37), Tony Kane (46:46), Ray Williams (46:55), Stuart Brown (47:00), Chris Prince & Dave Phillips (both 47:18), Katherine Brierley (48:22), Jayne Roberts (48:24), Dave Smith (48:36), Teresa Hollins (2nd FV55, 49:47), Clare Darraugh (49:58), Martin Jones (50:09), Nikki Green (50:10), Rose Rowson (50:33), Sarah Tomassi (50:54), Kevin Kennedy (51:16), Sue Heaney (52:12), Mike Doolan (52:31), Mark Oliver (54:58), Adrian Bowcock (56:09), Liz Phillips (56:17), Niparun Nessa (56:42), Nikki Mellor (56:51), Eloise Bartlett (57:18), Carol Robinson (58:51), David Leyland (59:58), Diana Hand (60:59), Karen Stuttard (61:07), Amanda Lane (62:00), Melanie Kershaw (62:57), Ann Leyland (65:07), Zoe McMunn (68:09), Angela Rogowskyj & Sheila Phillips (both 70:57).

That's a lot of runners when you see them all written down!  [David Emanuel]     

SOUTH EAST LANCS X-COUNTRY (HEATON PARK) - 31st JANUARY 2015

"It's more difficult to stay on top than to get there." So said Mia Hamm, the American football ("soccer") legend. Yet the RRR ladies team didn't seem to have to much trouble in maintaining their superiority in this latest cross-country event. In fact this one was even better, as 5th, 6th & 7th places for Kirsty White, Jen Bloor & Becki Robinson at Leigh two weeks earlier became 3rd, 4th & 6th at Heaton Park.

The snow that had (once again) caused the cancellation of Oldham parkrun in the morning was mercifully absent from Heaton Park, but conditions were still challenging. The sun was bright, but there was a bitterly cold wind which was unhelpfully blowing directly into the runners' faces on what would normally be the fastest part of the course. A number of tarmac crossings ensured that the usual "spikes v trail shoes" debate took up much of the pre-race preparation time. RRR supporters were out in impressive force as usual, including Simon Howard, Eloise Bartlett, Emma Kennedy & Garry Bower (camera at the ready - you can see his handiwork here).

The ladies set off with Kirsty prominent at the head of the field. By the end of the 1st lap she looked comfortable in 3rd place, with Jen on her shoulder & Becki not far behind. A fine 2nd lap from Jen saw her move up into 3rd place, finishing just 5 seconds behind the runner-up from Salford Harriers, with Kirsty next home (4th overall, 1st FV40 for the 3rd race in a row) & Becki valiantly holding off Kay Welsby of Rochdale Harriers to finish 6th. Another wonderful team performance!

Injuries left us with only a small ladies contingent, not enough to make up a vets team, but a fine run from Rochelle Evans saw her improve on her performance at Leigh to finish as 6th FV40 (34th overall). Meanwhile Niparun Nessa continues to get better with every race - I count four runners who beat her at Leigh but were trailing in her wake here, as she came home in 69th place.

So once again the men had a lot to live up to! The good news was that we had a much bigger & stronger team than at Leigh, with (amongst others) the return of Phil Marsden, Gary Fielding, Danny McManus & Barry Greaves, plus a welcome RRR cross-country debut for a fit-again Alan Bodell. Unfortunately things didn't start particularly well. A little surprised to have two of our best runners come charging past me halfway round the first lap, I later discovered that both (who I promised would remain nameless here, although you can find out easily enough on Facebook) had somehow managed to miss the start. Who knows how much higher they may have finished otherwise?

Still, aside from that minor difficulty this was by some distance the best RRR men's team performance yet. Led home by Danny McManus, with a magnificent 11th place finish, we were 3rd in the overall team race behind very strong Salford & East Cheshire line-ups, thanks to great contributions from Phil Marsden (14th, 5th V40), Gary Fielding (27th, 7th V40), Shane Reading (36th, 9th V40) & Alan Bodell (41st, 4th V50), with me (45th, 6th V50) as 6th counter. As if that wasn't enough our V40 team (Phil, Gary & Shane) were also 3rd - just 2 points behind East Cheshire -while Barry Greaves( 52nd & 2nd V55) joined Alan & myself to give us the runners-up spot in the V50s behind Burnden Road Runners.

The competition was fierce amongst the remaining RRRs as they climbed the tough hill to the finish. Next home was Dan Yarwood (70th overall), 16 seconds clear of Jason Keast (74th, 12th V45), with Lee Higginbottom (77th) just 12 seconds further back. Then came Ronnie Garrod (86th) & Dean Moynihan (98th), with John Sweeney (105th) just beating Ray Williams (107th) across the line.                

Incidentally, Mia Hamm also said, "The person that said winning isn't everything, never won anything". Our ladies team now has the opportunity for an historic SEL series victory in the final race at Boggart Hole on 28th February - but Jen Bloor will be otherwise engaged on a ski slope, so the call has already gone out for reinforcements. Come on RRR ladies - your club needs you!  [David Emanuel]

BUFF WINTER TRAIL HALF MARATHON – 25th JANUARY 2015

I entered this race back in August thinking it would be a pleasant meandering run through the forests of Coed Y Brenin. I couldn’t have been more wrong!


It was an early start for all involved as we made the long journey into Wales & the beautiful surroundings of Coed Y Brenin. Pulling up in the car park, to be faced with hoards of strange fellrunner-type people decked head-to-toe in Salomon running gear, made me a little nervous. My apprehension wasn’t helped as we found Colin Green at the Visitors Centre dressed like Sherpa Tensing. It was during the safety briefing (to which I probably should have been listening) that Stuart Carroll, Chris Lowe, Colin Green, Des Thorpe, Bruce Whittam & myself decided to form an unbreakable bond & stick together throughout the race no matter what happened.


Sometimes in extreme circumstances & pressure friendships can crack. This was no different in our case, as after 400 gruelling yards our unbreakable bond was broken & six became three. Stuart, Chris & myself pushed on & quickly discovered to our horror that we would be spending most of the morning running up hill. When we did eventually reach a downhill section it was extremely steep, technical & full of roots & rocks. It was on these downhill sections that Chris developed his own unique running style that mainly involved lots of screaming & the words “I can’t stop!!!” repeated several times.


I can’t use the exact words that Chris used, but at around half way he ‘politely’ asked Stuart & myself to leave him as he was finding the going a bit tough. Three became two! I stayed with Stuart for a few more miles until he told one of the marshals that I was his ‘other half’. It was at this point, as the marshal started to give me funny looks, that I thought it better we split up & run on our own (although the main reason we split was because I couldn’t keep up). Two became one!


This just left the infamous ‘Sting in the Tail’ at mile 11 to conquer. A more appropriate name for this ridiculously steep climb would have been ‘Kick in the B******s’. Once we had crawled to the summit it was almost all downhill to the finish for a well earned cup of soup.


RRR finishing times: Stuart Carroll 1:45:19 (33rd overall, 12th V40), Gary Fielding 1:49:02 (48th overall, 16th V40), Chris Lowe 1:50:16 (55th overall, 21st V40), Des Thorpe 1:56:16 (81st overall, 5th V50), Colin Green 1:58:25 (89th overall, 33rd V40) & Bruce Whittam 2:00:56 (98th overall, 6th V50). A massive well done to RRR’s only female runner Mary Freer. She completed a very tough race in a fantastic time of 2:52:15 (305th overall, 50th lady). A special mention also to Dave Freer who supported Mary throughout in 2:52:16.


So what was supposed to be a pleasant meander through the forest turned into the toughest half marathon I’ve ever run, with 2000ft of climbing & very technical descents. Despite the tough course an excellent time was had by all, which just left the journey home & time for Chris Lowe to check on the definition of the term ‘pack run’.  [Gary Fielding]

SOUTH EAST LANCS X-COUNTRY (LEIGH) - 17th JANUARY 2015

Well it doesn’t get much better than this…but if it does, we’re in for quite a year! The RRR ladies started 2015 in the best possible way, with a first-ever team victory in a cross-country race.

 

To be honest, things didn’t look that promising early on. Although the heavy snow in Oldham & Rochdale didn’t seem to have reached Leigh, it was still bitterly cold. As the early arrivals began to assemble Gloria, Simon Howard announced that Clare Darraugh was present but refused to get out of the car. Niparun Nessa was wearing so many layers that it took us some time to recognise her. John Sweeney also stayed in the warm until some time after the ladies race had started. In addition it soon became clear that most of the men’s ‘counters’ from the final Red Rose cross-country race in December were absent, with the exception of Shane Reading & Gary Fielding – although, since Gary was unfit to run, he was present only to offer valuable vocal support & take pictures whilst simultaneously trying to stop his very sociable dog from eating any of the smaller junior athletes.

 

Yet everything changed as the ladies’ race approached. Despite a badly-timed blast of wind & hail which nearly took Gloria from us, Becki Robinson showed that she really meant business by marching to the start with no additional layers beneath her vest, an act which clearly intimidated the opposition. On the initial lap of a sodden field Becki was right up amongst the leading group, with captain Kirsty White & Jen Bloor in close attendance, & this was pretty much how it stayed for the duration of the race. Two Salford Harriers runners pulled away to cross the line first, but with Kirsty just edging past Becki for 5th place (1st FV40 yet again!), Becki in 6th & Jen 7th the team prize was secured by a comfortable margin ahead of East Cheshire & Tameside AC. Just 13 seconds covered our three leading runners – a fantastic team effort.

 

However there was even more to come. Rochelle Evans, in her first cross-country outing since suffering a broken foot last year, came home in 32nd place (7th FV40), with Clare Darraugh not far behind in 37th (8th FV35). Combined with Kirsty’s great run these performances took us to 4th place in the FV35 competition, just a couple of points behind a strong Rochdale Harriers team in 3rd. Meanwhile Niparun Nessa (now wearing slightly fewer layers) continued her recent improvement to come home in 67th place.

 

That left a lot for the men to live up to & although a depleted team gave it our best shot we couldn’t quite reach those heights. Team captain Shane Reading led from the front in fine style to finish 29th (5th V40), which combined with Neil Brock’s 64th (11th V50) & my 42nd (6th V50) gave us 5th place in the V40 team rankings. Add the fine performances from Joel White (45th overall), Dan Yarwood (66th) & Jason Keast (78th, 13th V45) & that left us as 7th overall team. Not bad considering how many of our best runners were missing!

 

I tend to avoid writing too much about my own race, but I have to mention a great battle with Joel White which made this one of the most enjoyable cross-country races I can remember. Having trailed behind for the first two laps I tried to make my move at the start of the final circuit, but Joel just kept responding. Every time I managed to edge ahead Joel would fight back. All the while this was bringing us closer to Rochdale’s Ian Stainthorpe (a frequent V50 rival). Rarely do I beat Ian, even more rarely in off-road races, but the fact that I did on this occasion owes a great deal to Joel’s efforts.

 

Four more RRRs battled their way around an increasingly boggy course – Lee Higginbottom (85th), John Sweeney (96th, 9th V40), Ray Williams (99th, 19th V45) & Simon Howard (109th, 10th V40). Overall a wonderful team effort that promises much for the season ahead! [David Emanuel] 

HIT THE TRAIL (REDDISH VALE) - 4th JANUARY 2015

As is becoming the norm now, the call went out for anyone who was doing this race to meet up at the Assembly Hall car park in Royton. After a bit of debate we settled on a 9am meet up to allow time for registration. 8 RRRs turned up, complaining about the amount of ice on our windscreens. The ice was also on the inside of mine.


We landed at Reddish Vale & parked near the start line. Not knowing the way to registration we traipsed a mile, following the Sat Nav on my phone, to the pub. A nice little warm up & we met another 2 RRRs at the Carousel Pub, giving us a total of 10 entries for the race. As we walked back to the start we walked down the hill where the finish was & all agreed that it wasn’t a hill to a Royton Road Runner – how much we didn’t know.


With 268 entrants on the start line we all made the mistake of starting near the back - with the paths being narrow this made it quite difficult to find a solid pace for the 1st mile; I completed that mile in 8:59 & after that I was around the 8 minutes per mile mark, showing how difficult it was to get past people. This didn’t detract from the race though.


The 4.7 mile route took us over fields, through frozen muddy puddles, defrosted muddy puddles & small areas of hard-core. There was a shock at 2 miles where we had to climb some steps, just at that awkward distance apart where you have to check your stride, taking a lot of energy out of the legs. Luckily there was a long flat section & a great steep downhill bit that followed, where the braver amongst us could really motor down. Then the last half mile & that hill we had been laughing about. I have now learnt my lesson & I will never say "That looks easy" again. The mud, steps & climbs had taken it out of my legs & everyone agreed that it was a very tough finish.


Leading the Royton Road Runners home was Lee Higgingbottom, finishing in 100th place with a time of 37:17. Following Lee home was Andy Nuttall in 37:58 (113th) with Dean Moynihan completing the trio in 38:14 (116th).


The rest of the RRR finishers: Garry Bower 38:52 (124th), Clare Darraugh 41:16 (155th), Carl O’Callaghan 41:22 (157th), Paul Craddock 41:36 (163rd), Ray Williams 41:43 (164th), Carol Robinson 49:42 (231st) & Niparun Nessa 51:48 (245th). It was good to see Carl & Paul making their debuts in club colours, welcome to the club gentlemen.


A tough but superb race, well organised & marshaled. Another one to do again – a superb way to start the year in style.  [Garry Bower]


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