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

RACE REPORTS 2016

RIBBLE VALLEY 10K - 27th DECEMBER 2016

'Twas a crisp & misty winter's morning as some of the top runners in the north lined up for a late year 10K. Samantha Murray, 2012 Olympic Modern Pentathlon Silver Medallist & 2014 World Champion was guest of honour to start the race. As soon as the gun went I knew this would be a fast race, with many familiar faces from Salford as well as a strong presence from Leeds, Blackburn & other top clubs.


After a fast downhill start, quickly followed by an equal uphill section, the course flattened out. I managed to sit in a pack for 3K or so with people averaging 3:40K pace, a pack which got smaller & smaller as the race progressed. An undulating course throughout provided some challenging sections, with the mist making it hard to gauge how far I’d dropped back. I quickened the pace & caught some familiar faces before the 8K mark & was pushed all the way to the finish - as at the start this was a short downhill followed by an uphill section & a 300m straight.


I was the 1st finisher of several RRR representatives, with a new 10K PB of 36:43. Happy & excited as I was to be running so quickly heading into the New Year, reality soon hit me when I found out this was only good enough for 124th place. Other RRR finishers included Neil Brock (363rd in 43:45), Andrew Schofield (397th, 44:13) & Jason Keast (464th, 45:58), with the latter just holding off Simon Howard who knocked around 2 minutes off his PB (despite suffering in the last few hundred yards) to finish in 46:26 (476th). Next home were Steven Shaw (552nd, 48:07), Gary Smith (564th, 48:32) & our only female entrant Bernadette Ball (939th, 1:00:00). The race was won by Marc Scott of Richmond & Zetland Harriers in a phenomenal 29:33, with the 1st lady Emily Japp (Blackpool Wyre & Flyde AC) crossing the line in 34:35.  [Jarrod Gritt]

SOUTH-EAST LANCS CROSS-COUNTRY (TANDLE HILLS) - 10th DECEMBER 2016
Due to a quirk of the fixture list, we finished the racing year exactly where we started. The 1st club race of 2016 was the SEL event at Tandle Hills on 23rd January & here we were, back in the same cowpat-full field to do it all over again...

It's fair to say that this isn't the most popular of cross-country venues. Although the relatively mild weather attracted more runners for the senior races than in January (208 compared to 181), this was still considerably less than the 277 who took part in the previous SEL race at Heaton Park. Several of the junior races didn't even make double figures. RRR was pretty well-represented with 18 participants, despite the absence of cross-country regulars Jillian Heywood & Simon Howard, who were off doing some crazy night trail race in Grizedale Forest.

Only 4 of our squad lined up for the ladies race, but as is so often the case they set a very high standard. Despite suffering a badly twisted ankle Sophie Wood ran through the pain for her best cross-country finish yet, coming home in a superb 5th place & (significantly) ahead of all the East Cheshire Harriers competitors. With Jen Bloor crosssing the line in 10th, Kirsty White 14th (2nd FV40) & Clare Slater a fine 50th (10th FV40) that gave us a fantastic victory in the team event, 5 points clear of East Cheshire. After the 1st SEL race at Heaton Park I reported that "East Cheshire...are going to be hard to catch this year". Shows how much I know...

So on to the men's race. Just to make the course a little bit more challenging, after 2 big laps we had an extra loop to complete on the final circuit - I think most of us clocked the total distance at well over 6 miles. Not that our runners were bothered by that; you can tell the strength of our squad by the fact that Rob Battye (37th overall, 4th V40) didn't make it into our top 4 counters as he was led home by Jarrod Gritt (another excellent run for 13th place), Rob Fairbanks (just 18 seconds behind in 15th), captain Shane Reading (22nd, 3rd V40) & Shaun Armstrong (32nd). That added up to a marvellous 2nd team position behind (surprise, surprise) East Cheshire. Rob Battye did however get his moment of glory, joining Shane & Carl O'Callaghan (45th, 4th V45) to earn a similarly impressive 2nd place V40 team, behind...oh you can guess which club.           
Pushing our leading finishers all they way were Michael Fleming (48th), Bryan Lawton (53rd, 5th V50), Mike Bundy (63rd, 6th V40), me (67th, 7th V50), Rob Marsden (79th), Lee Higginbottom (90th), Paul Sencicle (107th, 13th V40 despite still not having cleaned his shoes since the start of the cross-country season) & Ray Williams (114th, 15th V50). We've really got great strength-in-depth in the men's team this season - it's a shame they've changed the rules so that only the 1st 4 finishers count for senior teams.

So all-in-all a great way to finish the year! If we can repeat this level of performance at Leigh (in January) & Chorley (February) there's every chance that we could beat last year's impressive & record-breaking SEL medal haul.  [David Emanuel                       

MANCHESTER CHRISTMAS PUDDING 5 MILE DASH - 27th NOVEMBER 2016

As far as I am aware, this is the first Christmas fun run in the local area of many to come. Several members of RRR ventured to Wythenshawe Park on a fairly cold morning, donning their best Christmas outfits; I have apparently given Simon Howard competition for the role of the RRR Christmas fairy, as suggested by Angela Rogowskyj. A special mention to the brave & I imagine very warm Rob Nixon, who came dressed as a Christmas pudding, very fitting given the title of the race.  Other outfits included several elves (Garry Bower, Gail Shaw & Angela Rogowskyj) & a snowman (June Allingan).


Before the race began there was just enough time to complete a warm-up, also known as the ‘scurry’ or the children's fun run. Immediately following this 1.4K race (which was won by Hannah), 141 people assembled on the start line including RRR President June Allingan, a welcome sight on her 1st post-injury run.


Confident of a good finish I set off in the leading pack along a straight path before we turned onto a trail. Here I started to gain a lead, clearly my wings were helping me fly. After looping around a field & passing the start line we passed through a little woodland, onto a rugby field & back into woodland before finishing one lap of the 5-mile course. As I still led, support came from Bernadette Flynn & Martin Jones as well as several of the children that came along.


On lap 2 & still feeling feeling comfortable in the lead I kept my pace. Upon reaching the rugby field I could see an emerging Victor van Velzen; a quick glance at the Garmin confirmed I wasn’t slowing. As we approached 7K & despite still maintaining my pace, Victor caught & overtook me to claim 1st place in a very respectable 30:31, while I finished slightly behind in 30:51 for 2nd, just over half a minute ahead of unattached runner Mark Taylor (31:22).


After quickly shaking hands with a few of the leading finishers (all the remaining top 10 boringly not in fancy dress) I decided to cool down by running the second half of a lap again, catching & pushing Angela Rogowskyj to a sprint finish. I imagine she was warm in the elf outfit. Angela finished in 116th place in a time of 58:21. Other Royton finishers included Steven Rogowskyj (35th, 41:08) & Rob Nixon (36th, 41:22) in a tight finish; Garry Bower (40th, 42:04), Gail Shaw (67th, 47:09), & June Allingan (135th, 1:07:59). Our men’s team (myself, Steven Rogowskyj & Rob Nixon) also won the team prize, a nice few bottles of wine.


With a nice medal, free Christmas pudding & mince pies this was a pleasant & enjoyable run, all dressed up. Undoubtedly there will be several more of these events to take part in between cross-country races, as well as the Owdham Geeks annual fancy dress run on Christmas Eve. Hope to see everyone there!  [Jarrod Gritt]

RED ROSE CROSS-COUNTRY (MARL PITS, ROSSENDALE) - 3rd DECEMBER 2016
There are a couple of ways of judging the severity of conditions at Marl Pits - the fact that only 2 junior runners were seen in tears, that the gazebo didn't need to be pegged down to stop it blowing away & that several of our team were prepared to run just in vests (without gloves!) will tell you that conditions were the mildest at this venue that any of us could remember. That doesn't mean it was easy - the bog at the far end of the circuit still came up to your knees & the steep descents were as challenging as always (to wimps like me, at least).

We only just had sufficient runners for a ladies team, but the 3 who were prepared to brave the Rossendale mud all did us proud. Sophie Wood once more led from the front & although she was 'taking it easy' ahead of Sunday's Stockport 10 she finished in a fantastic 9th place, her best performance of the series & good enough to lift her to 10th in the overall Red Rose standings. A great debut! Jillian Heywood - arriving on time this week - appeared to thoroughly enjoy the run as she ran well for 13th FV45  (12th in the series), while Bernadette Ball was a fine 2nd FV60. Rochelle Evans, not running in this race, still managed to claim an impressive 6th overall in the FV40s.

Jarrod Gritt led the men's team home in an excellent 36th place (despite one of the photos from the race appearing to show him leaning against a tree for a rest), closely followed by Rob Fairbanks (39th), whose fears of disqualification for going out of the flagged course in search of firm ground proved to be unfounded. Those performances made these 2 our best-placed finishers in the series overall, Jarrod in 26th & Rob in 29th. Excellent running from both of them!

In the absence of team captain Shane Reading (whose running in the previous 3 races earned him 8th place in the V40s), the men's team was completed by Carl O'Callaghan (23rd V40), Bryan Lawton (12th V50), Jason Keast (30th V45) & me (18th V50) as we finished in 12th place (9th for the series). That put Carl in 19th place in the V40 series, whilst Bryan & I finished 11th & 13th respectively in the V50s. Rob Marsden put in another great effort - despite also having the Stockport 10 to look forward to - as he passed me on the descents on both the 1st 2 laps, but I just about managed to stay in front on the final lap.

Next home - choosing an interesting way to celebrate his birthday - was Gary Smith, a 10th V55 finish giving him an excellent 11th place for the series. Gary was followed home by Ray Williams (24th V50), Paul Sencicle (33rd V40) & Simon Howard (36th V45).

So that's another tough Red Rose series completed. Whilst there have been some really good performances RRR participation hasn't been great this winter, so we are considering making a change next year & putting all of our efforts into the South East Lancs competition; those races don't clash as much with our road race season, they are spread out better (one race per month from November to February) & we're in with a much better chance of picking up prizes. Individual runners would however still be able to enter the Red Rose events if they wished. If you have any views on this I'd be delighted to hear from you!  [David Emanuel]                     
TODMORDEN PARK WINTER HEAD TORCH 5K SERIES - 10th NOV to 1st DEC 2016
Sadly, this could well be the last time this excellent 4-race series takes place in its current format, as the numbers were pretty disappointing this year. The biggest field was 48, for the 1st in the series, with just 21 runners completing all 4 races. RRR certainly did our bit, however, with 7 of us taking part. We just missed out on the (male) team prize, finishing 2nd to Trawden Athletic Club on 3 occasions.

The races consist of 3 laps of a circuit which starts & finishes in Todmorden Cricket Club, taking in a loop of Centre Vale Park including a tricky woodland section. It's flat & has the potential to be a fast course (if you're fearless & have a good headtorch!) - Salford's Adam Slodowicz won the 1st race in 16:06. The weather conditions this year were considerably better than they have been in the past - the 1st 2 races featured heavy rain & a hailstorm, but after that we had cold but pretty perfect running conditions.      

The improving conditions helped Garry Bower & I to record a steady improvement through the series. Garry went 53 seconds quicker in the final race as he recorded 22:42 for 4th V45, following 23:35 & 23:00 in Races 2&3 respectively. I ran all 4 races & progressed from 21:47 to 20:26, adding to my sock collection by picking up a couple of V50 prizes along the way. Mark Heaney also completed the full series & would probably have produced similar results if he hadn't suffered with a non-functioning headtorch in Race 3 & injury concerns in Race 4 (which produced the classic post-race quote "I managed to keep my groin under control"). In the 1st 2 races Mark had recorded 22:32 & 22:27, finishing as 2nd V55 on both occasions.

Richard Fiddling & Sue Heaney only ran once each, but both produced excellent winning performances - Richard 1st V45 (10th overall, 20:43) in Race 2 & Sue 1st FV55 (25:58) in Race 3. Owen Flage also ran well for 2nd V40 (8th overall, 20:24) in the 1st event. Lee Higginbottom ran the final 2 races in 21:55 & 22:02, 3rd V35 on both occasions, his "new tactic" not quite paying off as he faded in the latter after a rapid 1st lap.              
It'll be a shame if this was the last year for the series, as racing in a headtorch provides an interesting challenge & we've competed in some pretty extreme weather conditions over the last few years. However if it does go, I'm sure that Cannonball Events will come up a similarly appealing alternative!  [David Emanuel]      
SOUTH-EAST LANCS CROSS-COUNTRY (HEATON PARK) - 19th NOVEMBER 2016
That's more like it! Quite a few of our team had clearly been saving themselves for the start of the SEL series, as this was by some distance our best turnout this winter. 24 RRRs were competing - it would have been 25 if Jillian Heywood hadn't got stuck in traffic & arrived about 2 minutes too late, although she did still complete one lap (in her wellies) alongside Nefa Nessa.

Amongst the ladies taking part was an extremely enthusiastic Jen Bloor. Before the race she gave the team a truly uplifting motivational speech, outlining the many reasons that she hates cross-country. Fortunately she'd only covered the 1st 20 points or so (I seem to remember the time of day & the mud featuring quite extensively) when the runners were called to the start.

The other major pre-race incident occurred when Neil Brock pulled from his bag an RRR bobble hat without a bobble - which I think just makes it a 'hat'. Apparently he'd managed to remove said bobble by shutting it in a drawer. This prompted a lengthy discussion regarding (a) whether it's possible to get a replacement bobble & (b) whether they would have been better in a different colour anyway. I fully expect Neil to turn up to his next race with a giant new yellow bobble attached...

On to the racing...the overnight snow had gone & the heavy morning rain had passed, but they'd taken their toll on the course, which was extremely boggy in places (not as bad as last year though - like most others who took part, I still don't think I've dried out properly from that experience). Sophie Wood, no doubt reaping the benefit of having run in all 3 Red Rose races to date, led the way on the 1st lap for the RRR ladies. Although Jen Bloor came through strongly on the long 2nd lap to cross the line in front, there were only 14 seconds between them at the finish, Jen in 10th place & Sophie 12th. With team captain Kirsty White following home next in 16th (3rd FV40) that gave them an excellent 2nd place in the team competition - although with East Cheshire's leading runners finishing 3rd, 5th & 9th they are going to be hard to catch this year. With fantastic support from Rochelle Evans (34th 5th FV40) & Helen Radcliffe (41st, 7th FV40), Kirsty also led us to 3rd place in both the FV35 & FV40 categories. Despite arriving at the park with only minutes to spare, Selina McLean (42nd 8th FV40) & Nefa Nessa (101st with Jillian's support) both ran well, as did Bernadette Ball (95th, 7th FV60). All in all a great start to the SEL series!

That was a tough act to follow, but our leading men did us proud. With Danny McManus producing a fabulous run for 13th place, closely followed by Rob Fairbanks (18th), Shane Reading (23rd, 3rd V40) & Shaun Armstrong (34th), we finished just behind a strong Middleton Harriers team in 4th place. Shaun's appearance was a big (but welcome) surprise, not least because their was an early kick-off at Old Trafford! Pushing Shaun all the way was Rob Battye (35th, 4th V40), one of three impressive RRR cross-country debutants alongside Michaels Pickering (42nd) & Fleming (44th). It's a bit of a shame that the SEL doesn't adopt the Red Rose policy of 1st 6 finishers to count, as by my calculations that would have put us up to 2nd. As some consolation, Carl O'Callaghan (66th, 5th V45) produced another excellent run to join Shane & Rob Battye for a superb 2nd place in the V40 team competition.

Next across the line was Mike Bundy (77th, 7th V40), while a great finish by Rob Marsden saw him finish 95th, just 2 positions & 8 seconds behind me. Then came Simon Howard (14th V45) followed by Gary Smith (11th V55), Ray Williams (22nd V50) & Martin Jones (157th). Neil Brock really shouldn't have tried racing, given his injured achilles, but he still battled home as 24th V50.

Having such a big squad really added to the atmosphere & we even went 'full gazebo' for the 1st time this winter! I doubt there'll be so many for the next cross-country race on 3rd December - partly because it's the final Red Rose event & clashes with the Saddleworth Santa Dash, but mainly because it's at the infamous, legendary Marl Pits...  [David Emanuel]       
     
                           

13 ARCHES TRAIL HALF MARATHON - 20th NOVEMBER 2016

A new event for this year put on by Radcliffe AC was a sell-out, although only 224 ran. The course started with a 300m jog around Cams Lane track before we headed out to the Irwell Sculpture Trail, which commemorates Outwood Colliery, for an undulating jog through Outwood Country Park.


By this point the leader & eventual winner Seamus Walker (Bolton United Harriers) was still in sight but gaining a comfortable lead, closely followed by 2nd-placed Andrew McMenemy (unattached). I followed a couple of other runners - Paul Thompson (Bolton Tri Club) & Benn Heywood (Bury AC). Upon reaching Hurst Wood, which presented some tough hills, Paul & I started to lose Benn.


At Philips Park we were presented with the 13 Arches for which the race is named, before reaching some more mud at Prestwich Clough. After turning & heading back toward Philips Park I first passed our own Ian Dale & shortly after Michael Wildbore.


Back through the park Paul & I caught & left behind the person in 4th place, but we were ourselves caught by James Jordan (unattached). Heading out of Philips Park I picked up my pace, leaving Paul & eventually catching James. The last few kilometres presented a flat, relatively straight stretch toward the finish. Along here I managed to increase my lead over Paul and James, slowly catching Kieran Lomas whose pace seemed to decline as mine stayed relatively the same. I caught Kieron & overtook with just over a kilometre left to run on a narrow, muddy country path. We were left with a very tough short sharp hill before a 200m stretch back toward the track. A quick glance behind alerted me to Kieran’s increased pace. With around 100m of the lane & 100m of track to run I picked up my own pace & saw Andrew finish just 11 seconds ahead of my 1:25:11 as I finished in 3rd place, 2nd in my age category. The winner Seamus Walker, with a time of 1:23:14, was at the finish to congratulate us. Ian Dale finished in a respectable 19th place (2nd V50) in 1:34:15 while Mick Wildbore looked strong as he held off the chasing Steven Hopley (Rossendale Harriers) to finish 32nd (8th V40) in 1:40:01.


A very well-organised & well-marshalled half marathon, this race is highly recommended by all 3 of us to anyone fancying a late-year challenge. With several short but steep hills it does test one’s mental toughness in parts, but through the beautiful parks offering various fascinating sculptures & a promise of more places next year it should be considered by all. For just £12 finishers received a decent medal, a buff & a goody bag with some small chocolates & crisps, with free fruit & water at the finish. Add free tea & coffee before the race, warm showers, massages provided by Bolton University & homemade cakes at the end for a charitable donation, this is great value for a very enjoyable race.  [Jarrod Gritt]

WINDMILL 10K (LYTHAM ST ANNES) - 13th NOVEMBER 2016

Having completed this race as the only club representative in 2015, I was pleased to be joined this year by 2 other RRRs (it would have been 3 except for a nasty incident with a telephone exchange box for Mick Wildbore, glad he is on the mend now) plus a member of Oldham & Royton who really should be running in the green of our club. Come on Paul Anderson, you know it makes sense, then you can get the recognition for running so well whenever you join us for a race...


Following last year’s horrendous conditions - blowing a gale & driving rain - this year had almost balmy conditions: 8 degrees, dry, with 3mph wind, perfect running weather.

The start had moved from beside the windmill 3 miles up the road to Fairhaven Lake & the postcode in the emails didn’t take you there, which resulted in me having to guide Paul & Selina by phone to the registration point.


Before the start, due to Remembrance Sunday, there is a reading of the beautifully observed poem ‘The Soldier’ & 2 minutes silence along with the Last Post. Last year it was played by a bugler but this time it was played over the tannoy, a bit of a shame. Then we set off at about 11:05 for a very flat 10K that first looped around the lake before heading along the promenade to the windmill at 5K. Here the drinks station was situated & a stretch of grass that seemed to drain the energy from my legs before we came back for another loop of the lake to the finish, passing the runners behind us as we went, which I always enjoy as I can look out for people I know & give them a little encouragement.


I was the first RRR home in 132nd place (out of 945) in 47:48 (15th MV45), followed by  Selina McClean 169th in 49:30 (a very impressive 5th FV40). Next home came Jillian Heywood, 445th in 57:21 (29th FV45). I have no idea how Jill keeps going - in 3 weekends she has run the Snowdonia Marathon, Derwentwater 10 & this race, plus the cross-country in (I am told) a quagmire at Bolton. She is one tough lady.


The medal we received is one of the heaviest around; unfortunately 3 boxes of them had been held up in Customs so some of the later finishers didn’t receive theirs on the day (according to Facebook they were sent out the day after).


If you want a chance of a PB & the weather is kind, this race is well worth looking at for next year. Oh & if you are interested Paul Anderson finished 48th in 43:35 (5th MV45), although I am sure no one really cares (grin)...  [Garry Bower]

RED ROSE CROSS-COUNTRY (BOLTON) - 12th NOVEMBER 2016
At the risk of offending some of my fellow 'senior' RRR team-mates...one of the best things about the cross-country season so far has been a welcome injection of youth into our team. Nearly 40% of our 18 runners at Leverhulme Park (the best RRR turnout of the winter to date) were not in a 'veteran' age category & that included most of our top finishers - Sophie Wood (15th female, looking stronger every time she runs), Jarrod Gritt (42nd male), Rob Fairbanks (53rd), Nick Cuff (91st), Lee Higginbottom (167th) & Rob Marsden (171st on his 1st RRR cross-country appearance). Whatever is happening in the rest of the world, the RRR future looks bright!

That's not to say that our 'vets' didn't do a fine job too, on a course that was even muddier than usual after several days of heavy rain. Rochelle Evans (63rd, 7th FV40) & Clare Slater (78th, 14th FV40) contributed to a creditable 12th place finish in the ladies team event, while Jillian Heywood (96th, 15th FV45) joined them for the same position in a strong ladies vets competition & Bernadette Ball achieved an excellent 3rd FV60 finish on her cross-country debut. For the men, team captain Shane Reading (58th, 12th V40) led by example as always, even if Jarrod is now challenging him in the who-can-wear-the-longest-spikes competition, whilst Carl O'Callaghan (119th, 31st V40) & Paul Sencicle (181st, 41st V40) followed their impressive performances at Blackburn by running well once again to help us to 11th men's team, 13th in the men's vet category.

With added support from Simon Howard (199th, 35th V45), Ray Williams (212th, 28th V50), Gary Smith (222nd, 19th V55) & Adam Stirling (225th), plus my 142nd (20th V50) finish, we're now sitting in  a solid 10th place in the Red Rose men's series (12th vets) with one race - the dreaded visit to Marl Pits - to come. The ladies are also 10th overall, but 8th in their vets competition. Our best-placed individuals are Rochelle Evans (a superb 5th FV40), Sophie Wood (joint 14th overall) & Shane Reading (8th V40).

Before we head to Marl Pits, it's time to kick-off the South-East Lancs cross-country series at Heaton Park on 19th November. This is a competition where we've performed really well in recent years, so it'd be great to see a big RRR turnout!  [David Emanuel]     

DERWENTWATER 10 – 6th NOVEMBER 2016

So another season comes to an end, with the usual thoroughly enjoyable visit to the Lake District - not spoilt at all by some pretty nasty weather (mainly before the race, thankfully), a change of route (which involved an extra hill to climb) or the fact that Richard Fiddling & I sat through a long presentation during which RRR won not a single prize. As always I'll only write about what happened in the race itself - what happens on the coach/in the pub stays on the coach/in the pub - although I will take this opportunity to remind those on the 'geriatrics coach' (the men, anyway) that they all agreed to grow a beard & dye it green for Presentation Night...   

A grand total of 63 RRRs were amongst the 476 finishers, not quite as many as last year but still pretty impressive. That total means that we finish the year averaging just over 65 runners per club race, the 2nd highest in the club's history. Only in 3 of the half marathons, plus Dentdale & the Riverside 10, did our numbers dip below 50.

To be fair, although we were left empty-handed after a race which had a particularly strong field, some RRRs came mighty close to a prize - Richard Cummins was 2nd V50 in 1:05:57 (making him the clear early favourite for our V50 championship next year); Chris Lowe (1:02:32) finished 2nd V45 as he beat Shane Reading to clinch the club's V40 title; Janet Jobey was 5th FV40 (1:15:14) & Val Kilburn 5th FV45 (1:20:02); while Debbie Fiddling (1:16:04) & Debbie Shaw (1:17:16) finished 5th & 6th respectively in the FV50 category.

After a long hard season which started in Southport way back in February, many congratulations to Garry Bower (1:22:12), Lee Higginbottom (1:22:36) & Shane Reading (1:05:27) for joining an exclusive club in completing all 17 club races in a year. Unbelievably, that's a 3rd consecutive complete season for Shane - he's now run 65 club races in a row dating back to 2013. No idea when that sequence will end (if ever), but it's hard to imagine it being bettered.

At the other extreme, starting their (hopefully long) road racing careers with RRR - although they've both already represented the club in cross-country races - Sophie Wood was the 1st female RRR finisher in an excellent 1:11:13 whilst Paul Sencicle ran a fine 1:17:20. Colin Green (1:19:34) completed his 1st club race of the year, but since he's now a committed ultra runner he felt he had to warm-up by spending the previous evening running 20 miles in the dark in support of a White Rose Ultra 100 competitor. I'm sure it seemed a good idea at the time, maybe not so much as he slept like a baby on the back seat of our coach on the way home.

Some of the Club Championship issues to be decided in this last race produced the hoped-for exciting finishes (I'm sure Brian Moore will correct me if I've got any of these wrong). Apart from Chris Lowe's success in the V40s, Nick Mallon (1:19:17) timed his charge to perfection to claim the Group 4 title from Paul Cooke (1:19:30). Jenny O'Callaghan (1:41:48) produced a similarly impressive performance to claim the Group 6 title ahead of Anne Jones (1:46:10). Jarrod Gritt (1:05:55) was 4th RRR across the line to claim 3rd place in the Championship standings, while in Group 5 Chloe Clegg (1:33:22) did just enough to overtake Stephen Jones into 3rd place. At least Stephen had the consolation of holding onto the V60 bronze medal. Elliot Stone (1:10:07) secured 2nd place in Group 1, where Matt Kilburn (1:14:44) wasn't quite able to force his way into the medals, while Ronnie Quinn (1:22:16) added 3rd place in Group 2 to V60 victory to cap a successful year & Vikki Smith (1:22:03) pipped Selina McLean (1:26:55) to 3rd place in Group 4. Last but not least, Janet Jobey & Val Kilburn confirmed their 2nd & 3rd places behind Mick Wildbore in Group 3. Rob Fairbanks wasn't racing for a prize but a very strong run for 1:04:15 saw him finish 2nd RRR, earning just enough points to move into 4th place in the final Premiership standings ahead of Nick Cuff (1:08:18).     

All the other RRR finishers: Sharon Dracup (2:07:32), Stephen Rogowskyj (1:59:03), Angela Rogowskyj (1:59:02), Nefa Nessa (1:58:05), Tracey Hall (1:54:52), Carol Robinson (1:54:19), Stacey Andrew (1:53:55), Claire Timms (1:53:08), Bernadette Ball (1:45:27), Jillian Heywood (1:41:38), Brian Swindells (1:40:08), Gail Shaw (1:38:02), Clare Slater (1:35:16), Lisa Howarth (1:33:40), Gary Smith (1:30:13), Kevin Kennedy (1:29:39), Lisa Cummins (1:28:59), Robert Nixon (1:27:25), James Wright (1:24:21), Chris Eavers (1:23:58), Simon Howard (1:23:46), Tony Kane (1:23:09), Helen Radcliffe (1:22:56), Neil Farrell (1:22:43), Jason Keast (1:21:44), Rochelle Evans (1:19:22), Stewart Jones & John Williamson (both 1:18:33), Bryan Lawton (1:15:28), Rob Marsden (1:14:28), Ronnie Garrod (1:13:36), Mark Wilde (1:10:51), Richard Fiddling (1:10:27), Carl O'Callaghan (1:09:44), Bernie Goodwin (1:08:03), me (1:07:47), Ian Dale (1:07:28) & Shaun Armstrong (1:06:24).

So that's it then. We'll be celebrating another excellent year at Presentation Night on 17th December. If you're not planning to join us for any of the cross-country races then enjoy your break - we'll start all over again at Dewsbury on 5th February 2017!  [David Emanuel]                             

NORTHERN MASTERS 10K CHAMPS – 9th OCTOBER 2016

It's taken a while to write this report - I've been struggling to find of a copy of the results - but I thought it worth doing, if only in an attempt to persuade more RRR vets to sign-up with Northern Masters AC (as 2nd claim, obviously, currently a mere £12 per year) & take part in these events. If you can cope with running multiple laps of a running track, you're almost guaranteed to head for home with a medal!

I have to say 'almost' because, although there were only 21 in total on the start line at Leigh on a lovely late autumn morning, 7 were V50s. So whilst all runners in every other age category picked up an award - including the sole female, a FV35 from Holcombe Harriers - four of us V50s had to miss out...including this fine pair (pictured) from RRR.

As usual, despite racing only a week after his efforts at the Chester Marathon, Ian Dale set off quickly & was soon half a lap ahead of me. The distance stayed about the same as the laps ticked by, punctuated by the occasional excitement as one of the quicker runners lapped us (the winner - one of those pesky V50s - finished in 34:27), but I slowly started to close the gap as Ian tired after around 20 laps. I briefly thought I might catch him, but as our solo female competitor passed Ian on the penultimate lap he responded & stayed with her, picking up the pace to cross the line in 39:47. I followed home 6 seconds further back.

The post-race presentation revealed that we'd finished 6th & 7th overall...but 4th & 5th in our age category. So no medals for us, but an enjoyable run just the same. It's an interesting challenge racing 10K on the track - it feels longer than the equivalent distance on the road & the prospect of completing 25 laps seems particularly daunting in the early stages, until you get into your running. Recommended!  [David Emanuel]     
RED ROSE CROSS-COUNTRY (BLACKBURN) - 29th OCTOBER 2016
Four important questions that arose at today's cross-country: does Shane Reading wear the world's longest spikes? do Helen Radcliffe & Lisa Cummins take their RRR bobble hats absolutely everywhere they go? how much faster could Richard Cummins run if he ran in proper cross-country footwear rather than his road shoes? does Bryan Lawton put more effort in when it's a 'double counting' race for both RRR & GMP? The answers: probably, yes, a lot & almost certainly.

It's lucky that Bryan was on top of his game, because I had an absolute shocker & came home in a sorry 114th place. However with Bryan in 104th (14th V50), an excellent run from Carl O'Callaghan (92nd, 18th V40), debutants Richard Cummins & Jarrod Gritt finishing in 74th (6th V50) & 52nd places respectively & the ever-reliable Rob Fairbanks (49th) & Shane Reading (44th, 4th V40), we achieved 7th senior men's team position & 6th vets team. That's a big improvement on the performance at Leigh.

Paul Sencicle was another debutant - "my first cross-country race since school". Despite ignoring all the advice & setting off far too quickly on the 1st of 4 challenging laps of Witton Park, Paul still finished in an impressive 145th place. Martin Jones (176th) insisted immediately after the finish that he would never run this course again, but just minutes later he looked like the happiest runner in the world as he became the 1st RRR in history to locate, purchase & eat a post-cross-country ice-cream.

As at Leigh we had a disappointingly small ladies team, but this time boosted by 2 more debutants, the permanently bobble-hatted Helen Radcliffe & Lisa Cummins. This helped deliver another much-improved team result, with Helen (47th, 6th FV40) just behind Rochelle Evans (45th, 5th FV40) & the 2 of them joining Sophie Wood (an excellent 14th place) for 8th in the senior ladies team race. Meanwhile Clare Slater (impressive in 77th, 15th FV40) teamed up with Rochelle & Helen for 8th position in the vets competition. Lisa, despite her claims that she was 'dying' halfway through the race, still finished her 1st ever cross-country event in a fine 56th place (14th FV45).

Next up in this series is Leverhulme Park in Bolton on 12th November. No doubt we'll be experiencing some 'proper' cross-country weather by then...  [David Emanuel]         
MILLTOWN TO MOORS OLDHAM HALF MARATHON - 16th OCTOBER 2016
A cold, wet morning in Oldham for the penultimate race of a long club championship season - but does that sort of thing bother RRRs? Of course it doesn't. This was another stat-tastic day for the club as 72 members completed this toughest of races. That's the 2nd biggest turnout for a half marathon in the club's history, bettered only by the 73 in the same race last year. It also takes us to an aggregate of more than 1,000 RRR championship races completed for the year, a total also only surpassed once before. On average there have been 65 RRRs in each club race in 2016 to date.

Of course behind those figures are lots of amazing individual achievements. Like Mick Wildbore, running 1:38:07 in a very fetching dress (sadly not in club colours, although sky blue did seem to suit him) to raise funds for the National Autistic Society (you can visit his fundraising page here). Or Shane Reading, not letting a car accident on the way home from the previous day's cross-country event stop him completing his 64th consecutive club race in 1:28:52, good enough to be 4th V40 & 5th RRR finisher (incidentally Shane is 1 of just 3 club members still on schedule to complete all 17 races this year, alongside Garry Bower & Lee Higginbottom, who crossed the line here in 1:54:42 & 2:09:24 respectively). Then we have Jenny O'Callaghan (2:21:02), Chloe Clegg (2:20:04), Lisa Cummins (2:06:35) & Helen Radcliffe (2:01:46) who each  - for some strange reason - chose the hills of Oldham & Saddleworth for their 1st half marathon experience, whilst Claire Timms (2:26:23) Tansy Wilson & Charlotte Chadwick (both 2:37:59) decided to make this their 1st club race of 2016. Not to mention new member Robert Nixon, who completed the course in a fine 1:56:13 in his 1st race in RRR colours, making him the 6th V60 finisher.

At the head of the race Rob James (1:17:34) was just beaten into 3rd place by 2 Salford Harriers, while our men dominated the age category prizes with victories for Dave Phillips (1st V70, 1:56:43), Barry Greaves (1st V60, 1:39:15), Dave Hall (1st V55, 1:35:44), Ian Dale (1st V50, 1:34:50) & Chris Lowe (1st V45, 1:24:27). Dave Hall's performance was particularly impressive in his 1st race back after a long illness which I understand had to be treated with vitamin injections - not sure if this counts as a 'TUE'?

Good as those performances were, they don't come near matching the domination of this race by the RRR ladies. With Jen Bloor winning by a distance in an excellent 1:32:57, followed home by Kirsty White (2nd female, 1st FV40, 1:37:50) & Debbie Fiddling (3rd female, 1st FV50, 1:42:37), there was no doubt who would pick up the team prize. In fact, with strong supporting performances from Debbie Shaw (2nd FV50, 1:45:04), Janet Jobey (2nd FV40, 1:45:26) & Val Kilburn (2nd FV45, 1:47:34), we had 6 of the top 9 women to finish. Add to that the prize won by Teresa Hollins (1st FV60, 1:59:52) & that all looks like a pretty good morning's work.

Race times appear to indicate that those who attempted to 'double-up' by representing RRR in the previous day's cross-country at Leigh really paid the price. Apart from Shane & Lee that included Jillian Heywood (2:15:20), Neil Brock (2:09:20), Jason Keast (1:54:12), Simon Howard (1:53:03) & me (1:35:36) - all apart from Neil & Simon (who both missed the 2015 race) ran significantly quicker at Oldham last year. So much for 'taking it easy' in the cross-country...

All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (2:50:07), Karen Stuttard (2:39:52), Carol Robinson (2:35:01), Nefa Nessa (2:30:31), Anne Jones (2:27:45), Bernadette Ball (2nd FV60, 2:27:29), Chris Whiteman (2:27:51), Fiona O'Sullivan (2:23:28), Lisa Howarth (2:20:05), Stephen Jones (2:19:15), Adrian Bowcock (2:13:09), Martin Jones (2:12:02), Rebecca Mercer (2:03:16), Damian Mercer (2:02:16), Kevin Kennedy (2:01:17), Tony Kane (2:00:53), Stephen Rogowskyj (1:59:40), Selina McLean (1:58:05), Dave Watt (1:57:06), James Wright (1:55:16), David Crewe (1:54:27), Ray Williams (1:52:53), Paul Cooke (1:52:53), Vikki Smith (1:52:41), Ronnie Quinn (1:51:34), Nick Mallon (1:50:51), Stewart Jones (1:49:36), Neil Farrell (1:49:31), Ronnie Garrod (1:43:29), Matt Kilburn (1:41:35), Richard Fiddling (1:37:29), Dan Yarwood (1:35:30), Carl O'Callaghan (1:35:20), Brad Howard (1:35:07), Dave Peart (1:34:16), Bernie Goodwin (3rd V45, 1:33:36), Nick Cuff (1:33:31), Mike Pickering (1:32:18), Michael Fleming (1:31:35), Shaun Armstrong (1:29:30), Rob Battye (3rd V40, 1:27:18) & Jarrod Gritt (1:25:33).

So just one club race to go - the big trip to the Derwentwater 10 on 6th November - with the destination of several end-of-season prizes still to be decided. That includes the V40s - with Shane Reading & Chris Lowe going head-to-head for top spot - whilst Group 1 sees Elliot Stone, Matt Kershaw & Matt Kilburn in the running for podium positions behind Eamonn Nolan. Should be fun!  [David Emanuel]        

RED ROSE CROSS-COUNTRY (LEIGH) - 15th OCTOBER 2016
We were all geared up for a quiet start to this year's Red Rose cross-country series - with so many RRRs committed to either the Oldham or Manchester Half Marathon the following day, it seemed unlikely that many would also be prepared to run at Leigh. Under those circumstances a turnout of 15 was pretty impressive - although most of us who doubled-up were probably regretting the decision at some point during Sunday's races.

Having said that, we certainly got the best of the weekend weather. George the new Gazebo looked splendid in the glorious sunshine & there was no need for winter running gear, although Bryan Lawton still insisted on running in his gloves. Someone suggested that the afternoon had the feel of a school sports day. The usual pre-race footwear debate took a very different turn, as those who had turned up with only a pair of spikes were regretting their decision not to bring their road shoes.

Just 3 RRRs headed for the start line of the ladies race, led by debutant Sophie Wood. Sophie was understandably holding something back for the Manchester Half, but still finished in a fine 37th place in a strong field, which augurs well for the races to come. With Rochelle Evans running extremely well for 52nd place (9th FV40) & Jillian Heywood 112th (20th FV45), our trio finished in a very respectable 15th place in the team event.

The men's event was as big as ever, with nearly 250 athletes taking part. Team captain Shane Reading led the way impressively in 51st place (12th V40), joined by Rob Fairbanks (67th), David Ellis (116th, gaining several places on a strong last lap), me (126th, 15th V50 after an embarrassing fall on the 2nd lap of the easiest cross-country course known to man), Bryan Lawton (143rd, 20th V50) & Lee Higginbottom (160th) for 13th place in the men's competition. Jason Keast (166th, 25th V45) joined Shane, Bryan & myself for 15th in the Male Vet rankings. Next home for RRR was cross-country debutant Andy Nuttall (184th), followed by Neil Brock (nursing an achilles injury in 191st, 25th V50), Simon Howard (201st, 31st V45), Adam Stirling (228th) & Gary Smith (making a welcome return from long-term injury in 231st, 20th V55).
                       
Next up is Witton Park in Blackburn on 29th October. No clash with a club race that weekend - although a number of RRRs will be tackling the Snowdonia Marathon - so hopefully we'll have a few more of our 40 registered runners taking part!  [David Emanuel]   
LITTLEBOROUGH 10K - 2nd OCTOBER 2016
Whilst a big crowd of RRRs were enjoying the luxury surroundings of Club Corner at the Chester Marathon/Metric Marathon, a few of us chose a shorter race a bit closer to home. 11 RRRs joined a decent-sized field of 239 for an enjoyable (if chilly) 10K which included a repeat of a section of the Rochdale Half Marathon from 7 days earlier.

After the 'incident' at the Rochdale Half (see race report below), Rob James had to put up with countless quips before the start as his fellow runners wondered whether he'd studied this week's route in sufficient detail. With Mike Bundy expertly performing lead bike duties there were no problems this time, but Rob admitted he wasn't feeling on top form as he came home in 3rd place behind Chris Davies (Blackburn Harriers) & Billy McCartney (Salford). Of course us mere mortals can only imagine what it's like to be disappointed with a time of 35:35...

Rob led us to an excellent 2nd place in the men's team event, with fine support from Jarrod Gritt (a new PB of 39:18 in 10th place) & Michael Fleming (12th in 39:53, his 1st sub-40 10K).

This was one of those rare events in which we didn't pick up any age-category prizes, although Sue Heaney was close, finishing 2nd FV55 in 52:01, while husband Mark (46:55) was 5th V55. Dave Smith (51:03) & Steve Jones (55:15) were 6th & 8th V60s respectively.

All the other RRR finishers: Joanne Webb (1:15:11), Cindy Carroll (just missing a sub-hour finish in 60:08), Bryan Lawton (43:38 in his 1st race back following an achilles injury) & me (40:50).  [David Emanuel]        
ROCHDALE HALF MARATHON - 25th SEPTEMBER 2016
All the attention at the weekend may have been on various members of RRR stalking Paula Radcliffe in Paris, but there was plenty going on closer to home as well. Rob James was one of the 3 race leaders taken on an alternative route by the lead bike, eventually covering 15 miles rather than the scheduled 13.1 (literally "going the extra mile" & more). Results have since been adjusted to make Rob joint winner in 1:17:52.

The 1st point to make is that our own Mike Bundy had no part in this! Mike was lead bike for the earlier '2+ hour' race & had a trouble-free ride around the (correct) route, apart from the occasional stand-off with an angry motorist. Secondly there is (as far as I'm aware) no truth in the rumour that Chris Lowe, desperate for points as the club championship season comes to an end, was seen before the race handing a bundle of used notes to a man dressed in hi-vis & lycra. No truth at all...

Chris kept his trophy hopes alive anyway by coming home as next RRR in an impressive 1:22:55, good enough for 7th position overall & a nice 1st V45 prize. With the incredibly consistent Shane Reading following Chris home in 1:24:03 (2nd V40, 9th overall) that was yet another team prize in the bag. In fact their closest challengers were our next 3 finishers - Jarrod Gritt (16th in an excellent PB time of 1:27:16), Shaun Armstrong (20th in a superbly-paced 1:28:11) & me (1st V50, 1:29:04 in my 150th club race, whoo-hoo!).

Despite the absence of some of our leading runners we still achieved 3rd place in a strong women's team event, thanks to the great efforts of Janet Jobey (1:38:09), Debbie Shaw (2nd FV50, 1:38:55) & Val Kilburn (2nd FV45, 1:41:56). There was also age-category success for Teresa Hollins (1st FV60, 1:56:33) & Ronnie Quinn (1st V60, 1:42:04), while Sue Heaney set a new half marathon PB (1:55:50) for 2nd FV55 & Bernadette Ball (2:21:12) was 2nd to Teresa in the FV60s. It was also good to welcome back Kevin Kennedy for his first club championship race of 2016, with a shiny new PB of 1:52:46 the result. A good day all round!

There are of course more important things than prizes, so it was great to see unattached runner Simon Ashton take the time to post on our Facebook page, thanking "the members of Royton Road Runners who gave support to me...It was my first half and I was struggling from 9 miles onwards...even as you guys kept overtaking me, your words of encouragement kept me going".

The general view after the race (amongst those I spoke to) was that this new course was much better than last year's 2-lapper. Neither the canal nor the route around Hollingworth Lake were as congested as some of us had feared, while I've not heard of any major incidents with runners going in both directions on the towpath. I understand that Dave Smith (4th V60, 1:54:02) has to get some credit for this, having taken it upon himself to cut back some of the overhanging shrubbery in the days ahead of the race.

All the other RRR finishers: Nefa Nessa (2:24:42), Anne Jones (2:21:24), Sharon Dracup (2:21:03), Stacey Andrew (2:15:28), Stephen Jones (2:08:13), Adrian Bowcock (2:06:02), Dave Watt (2:02:06 following his RRR Cup Semi-Final victory 24 hours earlier), Paul Cooke (1:49:31), Ray Williams (1:49:09), Tony Kane (1:48:58), Vikki Smith (1:48:41), Garry Bower (1:47:47), Simon Howard (1:47:24), Neil Brock (1:46:56), Jason Keast (1:46:01), Brad Howard (1:44:41), Rochelle Evans (1:44:25), Neil Farrell (1:44:24), Natalie Fitzpatrick (1:44:17), Lee Higginbottom (1:44:06), Steve Shaw (1:42:47), John Williamson (1:41:54), Matt Kershaw (1:40:05), Eamonn Nolan (1:38:15), Matt Kilburn (1:37:14), Owen Flage (1:34:12), Alan Reynolds (1:32:10), Bernie Goodwin (1:31:12), Michael Fleming (1:30:51), Dave Peart (1:30:16) & Michael Pickering (1:30:09).

Next up it's another half marathon - this time the nice flat course around Oldham on 16th October...  [David Emanuel]                    

RON HILL 78th BIRTHDAY 5K - 22nd SEPTEMBER 2016

On a fine evening for a run, 129 local athletes turned out in honour of Ron Hill's 78th birthday. Ron Hill himself, a man who hasn’t missed a single day of running since December 1964, made it up to 130.


As we lined up on a narrow road ready to start the race, a well-earned & respectable ovation sounded as Ron Hill approached the start line. I was feeling a little pressure, as Martin Jones decided that I was in charge of achieving the highest finishing place for Royton. I moved as far forward as I could, knowing such a narrow road would slow the start down.


A short uphill start to Cowm Reservoir got the climbing over & done with, A small pack of 5 led the pace, followed by another pack of 6 or 7, which I firmly sat with. A quick glance at my watch after 1K & 2K showed I was running at 3:45/K pace, putting me on course for a new PB. On the final part of the 1st lap our lovely club president June was offering her support. On lap 2, still feeling comfortable & still sat with the pack, I felt confident of a quick finish. The pack broke halfway around the second lap, I kept my pace & there were 4 of us within a few seconds of each other.


After the 2nd lap June was there again & that pushed me as I approached the downhill finish. At this point 2 runners had a 5-6 second lead on me. I was neck & neck with Ian Warrington of Radcliffe AC. He picked up the pace, I had to match, we came around the last bend on the flat still together. Unfortunately he pipped me to the line to finish a second ahead of me in 11th, leaving me 12th in 18:11. As ever with Andy O’Sullivan’s races the distance was shy, 4.92K, so annoyingly my previous 5K PB of 18:21 remains in place.


As I waited on the line some recognisable faces came through the finish, notably Paul Anderson (Oldham & Royton) in a respectable 19:35. Royton had another 8 representatives in the race, so I decided to cool down by running back up the course to offer support to our runners. As I approached the bottom of the hill Simon Howard was approaching the final stretch, crossing the line in 21:57, which I know is one of (if not his best) 5K time this year. Mark Heaney & Garry Bower were close behind in 22:16 & 22:25 respectively. Martin Jones was next home in 22:56, before our lovely Selina McLean came through to win the FV40 prize in a fine 22:57. Our final 3 runners; Ray Williams (23:44), Rob Nixon (25:10) & Gail Shaw (28:07) completed our representation. Ron Hill finished 1st V75 in 31:27, a remarkable achievement.


A great atmosphere followed in the Cock & Magpie, with a few drinks & a presentation in which wine, bags, buffs & even sock hangers for the washing line were handed out to all who took part. With everyone also receiving a commemorative mug, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening race.  [Jarrod Gritt]

NORTH WEST COUNTIES ROAD RELAYS - 10th SEPTEMBER 2016

Everything had been going far too smoothly. For the 1st time ever, all the runners who had put their names forward to take part in this relay event were present (although with captain Kirsty poorly & Lisa Howarth injured, we had reduced our ladies entry to 4 teams). The coach had left Royton as scheduled & arrived at Delamere Forest in plenty of time. We’d met up with all the RRRs who had travelled independently, erected the new gazebo in record time, registered our teams & distributed the race numbers. Having established that the race start was half a mile away, the ladies on the leading leg had all set off early & were in place & ready to go. The sun was shining. What could possibly go wrong?


Well…initially we were told that, due to the junior races over-running, there would be a 10 minute delay to the start of the ladies race. No problem there – more of our runners began arriving at the start & the anticipation was starting to build. Then, about 5 minutes after the original scheduled start time, a gun was fired. Again, no problem, we’re used to the ‘5 minute warning’ at cross-country events. Except that all of the other 1st leg runners had set off down the hill. Why had there been no call to the start line? How come all of the other teams knew that the race was about to start? What was going on?


There was no time to wait for answers. Jen Bloor, Rochelle Evans, Clare Darraugh & Nefa Nessa sprinted off in hot pursuit of the rest of the field. For a few brief moments they occupied the last 4 places in the race, but gradually they began to pick off the other runners. By the time they returned, having completed the 1st of 2 laps of mostly woodland trail (officially covering 6.4K in total, although most measured it a bit longer), Jen had moved into the top 20 & the others were making similar progress. When they completed their 2nd circuit Jen was up to 13th place of the 68 1st leg athletes, Rochelle 47th, Clare 61st & Nefa…still in 68th, but not so far behind. To put Jen’s run into perspective, despite the missed start it was still the 23rd quickest time of the day from 202 female runners, 8th best from all of the Greater Manchester teams. Remarkable running.


Things went a lot more smoothly after that. Val Kilburn & Janet Jobey responded superbly to their promotion to the ‘A’ team, consolidating Jen’s excellent run to cross the line in 21st position – 7th in the SW Greater Manchester competition (which as far as I can tell consisted of all the Greater Manchester clubs plus East Cheshire Harriers). The ‘B’ team finished a creditable 52nd, with Helen Radcliffe & Selina McLean following Rochelle's lead, while similarly strong running from Jillian Heywood & Lisa Cummins took the ‘C’ team to 60th place. Nefa was joined by Emma Bower & Angela Rogowskyj as the ‘D’ team came home in 66th. A wonderful effort all round.


This was our 1st relay event for a year & it was good that so many were back to take part again, hopefully having enjoyed the events at Ormskirk & Liverpool in 2015 - of the 12 women running, only Helen, Lisa & Emma were making their debuts. The men’s squad was a bit more inexperienced, with half of the 16 RRRs appearing for the 1st time, but that didn’t stop them producing excellent performances as the temperature soared, demonstrating our impressive strength-in-depth. Our ‘B’ team of David Ellis, Michael Fleming, Jarrod Gritt & Richard Cummins finished in 48th place, only 2:16 behind the ‘A’ team (Ian Dale, Rob Fairbanks, Mike Pickering & Shane Reading) in 43rd. Is it OK to mention that both these teams beat the single one entered by Rochdale Harriers? Well I’ve done it now…


Meanwhile our ‘C’ team (Jason Keast, Rob Marsden, Richard Fiddling & Carl O'Callaghan) finished in a fine 62nd place, beating a number of ‘B’ teams from other clubs including Sale Harriers, Wesham Road Runners & Salford Harriers, as well as a few ‘A’ teams (including Warrington Road Runners, Blackpool Wyre & Fylde AC). The ‘D’ team of Garry Bower, Kevin Kennedy, Stephen Rogowskyj & Simon Howard battled hard for 76th place, finishing less than 3 minutes behind Chorlton Runners ‘A’.

Only one club took more teams than us to Delamere Forest – Vale Royal AC, the Northwich-based club for whom this was effectively a ‘home’ fixture. However what really marked us out (as usual) was the level of support for our fellow runners. Throughout both the men’s & the ladies race there were more RRRs at the changeover point cheering our teams on than anyone else. For much of the time Lisa Howarth commandeered the perfect camera position, in the middle of the course at the changeover point (I think the organisers let her stay there because they thought she was the official photographer) – although judging by this picture (Angela Rogowskyj finding a potential new RRR member?) she must have wandered into the forest at some point…


So another excellent day out, some great running & a meeting with a giant wooden Gruffalo. There was cake on the coach too. What more could you ask for? Hopefully there will be even more members joining our relay teams in 2017.  [David Emanuel]

PETER GILLIGAN RESERVOIR 5K TRAIL RACE - 7th SEPTEMBER 2016

Despite this being a local event. only 3 RRRs (including myself) managed to run, outdone by Middleton Harriers who provided 18 of the 32 finishers. I suppose with the upcoming relays, the Great North Run & its timing people had other priorities. A sunny, warm evening made nice conditions for running. However after warming up I wished (as ever) that it was a little cooler.


Undoubtedly a familiar route to most of the crew, the 5K (well, 4.6K) route started just down the road from the Oxford pub, which presented an immediate uphill road start leading onto a stony trail. At this point I knew I had lost all chance of catching Clive Fitzpatrick of Trafford AC, but a glance back confirmed a nice distance between myself & Ian Stainthorpe (Northern Masters AC).


A short steep(ish) descent led to Brownhouse Wham Reservoir. Looking back I could see a few runners start to make their descent to the reservoir, led by our own Mark Heaney.  2 laps of the reservoir were required before the short steep(ish) return climb. The last runner, Ian Stansfield, was making his descent to the reservoir as I climbed.


From the top it was time to let the legs go & get to the finish as quickly as possible. With nobody to be seen in front nor behind me, I hoped to make up some ground on Clive & increase the gap to Ian as much as I could. I reached the bottom of the hill & crossed the line in 2nd place in 18:08, just off my best 5K pace, although as the course was 400m short of 5K I wouldn't be classing it as a PB. I waited only a couple of minutes before Mark finished in 20:59 (2nd V55). Our 3rd & final runner Rob Nixon finished in a respectable 24:49, 3rd in the V60 category.


This course will be used again in Jim Smith's honour on 13th September, with a remeasured course, hopefully making it a full 5K. Let's see if RRR can outdo Middleton Harriers this time!  [Jarrod Gritt]

JACKROY MIDDLETON 10K - 4th SEPTEMBER 2016

After a gap of a couple of years, a welcome return to 10K racing in Middleton! The former Moonraker 10K was a popular event which had been part of the RRR club championship every year since 2004, but despite our support it disappeared from the calendar after 2013. Numbers had dropped steadily from a peak of 334 finishers in 2005, with only just over 100 taking part in each of its last 2 years.


The new course includes some sections of that old Moonraker route – including the tough climb, which is now tackled twice (although thankfully only halfway up on the 2nd lap). For those with experience of the old route, opinions seemed divided on whether this makes it a tougher race – the extra climb is offset by the removal of the narrow, twisting trail sections through Bowlee Country Park.


Attempts by some of our members to recce the route in advance were apparently not terribly successful, but that didn’t stop RRRs arriving on the start line in large numbers – 56 of a total 137 finishers (that’s more than 40%, stats fans!). We also did our bit to help the race organisers get rid of their large collection of wine, with several individual age category prize-winners as well as 1st team awards for our men through Chris Lowe (4th overall, 1st V45 in 37:40), Shane Reading (7th, 2nd V40, 38:45) & Michael Pickering (39:25) - & for the RRR women (of course) thanks to Jen Bloor (2nd female in 41:34), Janet Jobey (2nd FV40, 44:24) & Debbie Shaw (1st FV50, 44:35). Shane was the 2nd RRR home despite suffering from pain in his chest which I understand has subsequently been diagnosed as a muscular problem – it’s a little disheartening to realise that I finished a full 2 minutes behind someone who couldn’t breathe properly…


Two more RRR winners headed for home with a new addition to their wine cellars - Val Kilburn (1st FV45, 45:41) & Ian Dale (1st V50, 39:34) - while others ‘on the podium’ included Lisa Cummins (2nd FV45, 52:21), Natalie Fitzpatrick (2nd FV35, 46:34), Ronnie Quinn (2nd V60, 45:30), Richard Cummins (2nd V50, 39:59), Angela Rogowskyj (3rd FV50, 1:16:05), Margaret Bluer (3rd FV55, 52:59), Rochelle Evans (3rd FV40, 47:41), Mark Heaney (3rd V55, 47:32), Bernie Goodwin (3rd V45, 40:38), & me (3rd V50, 40:47).


All the other RRR finishers: Nefa Nessa (1:04:27), Anne Jones (1:03:40), Bernadette Ball (1:03:00), Joanne Webb (1:02:22), Jenny O’Callaghan (1:01:12), Emma Wall (59:55), Chloe Clegg (59:08), Rachael Kilburn (58:00), Ben Ruscillo (54:25), Sue Heaney (53:43), Stephen Jones (53:24), Steve Rogowskyj (50:33), Selina McLean (50:27), Paul Cooke (49:46), Adam Stirling (49:15), Simon Howard (49:01), Helen Radcliffe (48:43), Tony Kane (48:25), James Cashin (48:05), Garry Bower (47:11), Jason Keast (46:44), John Higgins (46:33), Brad Howard (46:32), David Freer (46:15), Lee Higginbottom (44:07), Andy Schofield (43:59), Rob Marsden (43:53), Matt Kilburn (43:44), Michael Wildbore (43:27), Carl O’Callaghan (42:26), Matt Kershaw (42:22), Dave Peart (41:48), Elliot Stone (41:44), Nick Cuff (41:00), Shaun Armstrong (40:29), Michael Fleming (40:13), Jarrod Gritt (40:00) & Rob Fairbanks (39:37).


Although the overall men’s & ladies prizes in the RRR Club Championship were decided before this race – Rob James & Jen Bloor have already secured the maximum points totals possible – there remain many awards still to be decided. With 3 races to go, one of the closest competitions is taking place in Group 6 – by my calculations (although I accept I could be wrong) 12 RRRs are still within a chance of finishing in the top 3 of this group, from current leader Anne Jones down to Carol Robinson in 12th place. It could be an interesting end to the season! [David Emanuel]

BOLLINGTON 10K - 28th AUGUST 2016

I tried to rally some interest in this one, but I guess on a Bank Holiday weekend people had better plans than travelling 50 minutes to Bollington (just outside Macclesfield). I am glad I made the effort, although not sure my partner & the kids were happy to get up early, I am lucky to have their support.


The weather forecast up until Sunday had been for torrential rain, but on the morning it had changed to cloudy & dry with a predicted temperature of 16 degrees. After about a mile I was wishing for rain; it felt a lot warmer.


When we arrived I thought I was going to be the only RRR, but then I remembered that Peter Boulton lives nearby & within minutes he was here. I had to edit my Facebook status & let Peter’s daughter Tansy know he was with me. After a 0.5 mile warm-up the sweat was already dripping off me - I should learn to take weather forecasts with a pinch of salt.


The race started bang on 10am after a quick race brief, everyone I think was a bit surprised it started with so little ceremony but that was soon forgotten. The 1st 2 miles pass through Bollington, which is a lovely village, then out onto country lanes. The 1st 5K is quite tough with a lot of hard climbs, but this effort is rewarded with some good long downhills followed by about 2 miles along the flat trail of the Middlewood Way.

Finally there’s a sting in the tail. With about half a mile to go we had a last hill to climb, tough at this stage of the race. A lady I had been following for the previous 3 miles (Catherine Wilson, who must have been local because everybody was cheering her on) started to walk up the hill, so in true RRR-style I began encouraging her to stay with me on the climb. She confessed it was her nemesis - we shook hands at the end so I hope she appreciated the encouragement; I should confess that without her I would have walked too. With about 300 meters to go the course flattens out to allow us to finish in style with a bit of a sprint back to Bollington Leisure Centre & the finish.


In a field of 279 runners I finished in 66th place with a chip time of 47:26.  Peter came home in 200th place in 1:00:23. I think the picture (above) shows how tough the last hill was, coupled with the heat.


I think both Peter & I were glad we took part in this race & I will probably be back next year. Hopefully a few more RRRs might join us - I will also be putting this one forward for the club championship.  [Garry Bower]

CANNONBALL 3 DAY EVENT – 12th – 14th AUGUST 2016

Once again there was great support from RRR for this event, now in its 3rd year. Overall numbers were disappointing – 52 runners took part in total across the 3 days, with just 17 completing all 3 races – but we certainly did our bit. More RRRs competed than any other club, with 10 involved at some point & 4 managing the full series (I would have made that 5, but for once I was sensible & withdrew after being frustratingly hampered by foot pain in Friday’s road race).


The fabulous four all acquitted themselves extremely well. Jarrod Gritt finished just behind Ian Dale in Friday evening’s 7K road race around Littleborough & Shore, then did the same again in Saturday lunchtime’s trail race around Watergrove Reservoir. However a fine run for 5th place in Sunday’s ‘up & back’ fell race saw him move ahead of Ian to an excellent 4th place in the overall standings (based on aggregate time). I suspect Ian wasn’t too disappointed, as he picked up individual V50 prizes in all 3 races as well as winning the overall V50 award. Sue Heaney was similarly successful, the top FV55 on all three days & 3rd female for the series overall. Mark Heaney, despite being hampered by cramp in Saturday’s race, returned to finish strongly on Sunday for 2nd V55 in the series.


Of the remaining RRRs, Lee Higginbottom ran impressively in the 1st two races, finishing in 10th place on both occasions. Paul Joyce was only able to run on Friday but continued his fine form with what I’m going to call – since we’re in the midst of the Olympics – a bronze medal performance. Neil Brock finished just behind Lee in 11th place on Saturday, despite arriving at the start (on his bike) with just minutes to spare – he was still attaching the number to his vest as he set off. Two RRRs saved themselves for the final fell race – James Cashin returned to run only slightly slower than in the inaugural event in 2014 (although he has pointed out that the finish is now in a different place, making the race a little longer), while last year’s overall series winner Rob James knocked 43 seconds off his winning 2015 fell race time. To put this into context, Rob’s 17:56 is just 26 seconds slower than Ian McBride ran for RRR in finishing 2nd to Andi Jones in 2014. As race winner, Rob deprived the overall series winner, the impressive young Tom McGuinness of East Cheshire Harriers, of a clean sweep of all 3 races – although Tom’s 2nd-place finish was also quicker than Rob’s run last year.


With the low numbers competing, there’s no guarantee that this enjoyable series will continue in its current format – although race director John Lloyd seems keen to return next year, possibly with a different structure to the event. I certainly hope to be back & involved a bit more next time!  [David Emanuel]

PRUDENT RIVERSIDE 10 MILE – 7th AUGUST 2016

Yet another memorable club trip to add to the collection! This was a return to a race which - as the 'Wagon & Horses 10' - was part of the RRR Club Championship in 2005 & 2006. It's a sign of how far the club has come that the combined total number of club members who ran in those 2 years was considerably less than the 48 who completed the race this year.

With the threatened gale-force winds staying north, to cause havoc across Scotland instead, race conditions were pretty good - although it was still quite blustery & the breeze never quite seemed to be behind us. The course is fast & flat while going out-&-back along the quiet, tree-lined Lune Estuary footpath, with an undulating road section in the middle. Given the difficulty in finding good, reasonably-local 10 mile races, I think this one met with general approval. If they promise to stop calling us 'Royston' I think we might be back next year...

For the 1st time in a while RRR didn't provide the individual race winners - in the absence of Rob James & with Jen Bloor up against a very speedy Rachel Jones (Salford Harriers) who finished 5th overall - but we made up for that by walking away with most of the other prizes. Shane Reading (1:02:09) was 1st RRR home & 1st V40, Jen (1:07:56) was 2nd female, Bernie Goodwin 1st V45 (1:07:04), Kirsty White 1st FV40 (1:10:15), Debbie Shaw 1st FV50 (1:13:54), & I was 1st V50 (1:05:10). We also claimed both team prizes, with Jen & Kirsty joined by Janet Jobey (an excellent 1:12:42) & Rob Fairbanks (1:04:45) completing the victorious men's trio.

Sadly, I have to report that, for the 1st time that I can recall, June Allingan (1:48:21) wasn't the leading FV70 finisher. Clearly someone hadn't briefed the lady from Preston Harriers that beating June simply isn't allowed. Think we'll have to send the boys round to have a quiet word...

All the other fine RRR performances: Amanda Lane (1:52:04), Sharon Dracup (1:47:27), Natalie Yates-Bolton (1:46:04 in her 1st club race of the year), Sarah Butler (1:43:13), Jenny O'Callaghan (1:42:03 in her 1st ever 10-miler), Paul Craddock (1:38:31), Jillian Heywood (1:35:49), Simon Howard ('fresh' from the Lakeland 50, 1:35:21), Adrian Bowcock (1:33:55), Chloe Clegg (1:30:40), Lisa Howarth (1:30:39), Sue Heaney (1:30:14), Margaret Bluer (2nd FV55, 1:27:24), David Watt (following up his RRR Cup Quarter Final victory the previous day in 1:27:01), Adam Stirling (1:23:18), Selina McLean (1:22:17), Becky Mercer (1:20:41), Vikki Smith (1:20:17), Stewart Jones (1:19:32), Damian Mercer (1:19:11), Garry Bower (1:19:06), Steve Shaw (1:18:31), Ronnie Quinn (3rd V60, 1:17:41), Neil Farrell (1:17:40), Rochelle Evans (1:17:38), Val Kilburn (3rd FV45, 1:15:32), Michael Wildbore (1:14:47), Lee Higginbottom (1:13:28), Rob Marsden (1:12:11), Matt Kilburn (3rd V45, 1:12:05), Andy Schofield (2nd V45, 1:11:29), Eamonn Nolan (1:11:11), Carl O'Callaghan (1:09:45 in his 25th club race), Elliot Stone (1:09:23), Mark Wilde (1:08:59, also on his 25th appearance), Ian Dale (1:07:35), Owen Flage (1:07:07), Nick Cuff (1:06:42) & Neil  Brock (2nd V50, 1:05:28). I suppose I should also mention that some chap from Salford Harriers, who somehow managed to sneak onto our coach & (shamelessly) into all of the team photos, crossed the line in 1:07:13.        
After the presentation in the George & Dragon we sampled a few of Lancaster's finest (& not so fine) hostelries before alighting on the Ring O'Bells with its 'Secret Beer Garden', which (as you can see) we quickly took over. With the sun now shining brightly, this was the perfect spot for some extended post-race refuelling. I'd like to be able to tell you more - but the 1st rule of Secret Beer Garden is that you don't talk about Secret Beer Garden...
[David Emanuel]     

TODMORDEN PARK SUMMER 5K (RACE 4/4) – 4th AUGUST 2016

The best turn-out yet in the last of this series, with 8 runners in RRR club colours taking part in what turned out to be a rather strange race. Each of us in turn crossed the line disappointed with our times & it gradually became clear that the course was long. Turned out that some youthful high-jinks had led to some cones being moved from their correct position - not by a huge amount, but in a five-lap race it soon adds up! A comparison of Garmins suggested we'd all run slightly over 200m too far.

An apologetic John Lloyd has attempted to adjust the results to account for this, not least to allow a fair comparison for the overall series prizes. This looks reasonably accurate if Lee 'Mr Consistent' Higginbottom's time is anything to go by - 20:33 in 27th place means that all 4 of his performances in the series were between 20:29 & 20:34.

Ronnie Quinn was the only other RRR to complete all 4 races & he finished in style in 21:50 - 4th V60 in this race but 2nd in his age category for the series. Meanwhile Val Kilburn picked up another FV45 prize (a big toblerone this time - "I've won enough wine!") with 21:18, her best performance yet. This placed her not only 1st FV45 for the series but 3rd female overall. Great running!

Mark Heaney (23:13) had a good run for 2nd V55, while RRR Cup Semi-Finalist James Cashin continued his impressive 5K form with 22:02. Ian Dale (19:28) was 1st RRR home as 2nd V50 (3rd V50 in the series), followed by me (19:36) & Richard Fiddling (20:02).

If you're disappointed to have missed out on these excellent races, don't despair - we'll be back in Todmorden later in the year for the Winter Headtorch 5K series. The 1st race takes place on 10th November.  [David Emanuel]                 

LAKELAND 50 - 30th JULY 2016

Many race directors will lay claim to having the greatest race or the most spectacular scenery, but having run the Lakeland 50 the whole event is definitely up there in my opinion. The 'Ultra Tour of the Lake District' events are run over one weekend in July. There are 2 choices of events – the Lakeland 50 or Lakeland 100 (which is actually 105 miles), although a qualifying time needs to be achieved to attempt the 100. The Lakeland 50 is a linear route with competitors starting at Dalemain Estate, just past Ullswater, before attempting to run back to Coniston in under 24 hours. Included in the entry fee is camping for 2 nights, so after a 5 hour drive to Coniston (which should normally take 2 hours) I arrived, pitched my tent & just about saw the start of the Lakeland 100, which sets off at 6pm on the Friday evening. After this was the long wait to have my kit checked. There is a lengthy kit list & every item needs checking, as this ultra expects runners to be self-sufficient apart from at the manned checkpoints.


On Saturday morning I was driven up to the start at Dalemain by Paul Craddock, who unfortunately wasn’t fit to run this year. Paul had informed me that travelling on the organised coaches wasn’t a pleasurable experience, so a lift was gratefully accepted. He then ran most of the first loop at Dalemain with me - the only point non-runners are allowed to run with competitors. After that, you’re on your own for the 46 miles back to Coniston.


I settled into a comfortable rhythm & soon arrived at Pooley Bridge, before heading out to the first checkpoint at Howtown. The checkpoints are one of the major pluses of the whole event, with marshals on hand to top up your water, feed you, pamper you if you need it or even tell you that you’re not quitting. Luckily I never felt like giving up, although there were a couple of dark moments. After the checkpoint, I started the climb up Fusedale, a mind-numbing climb that seems to go on for ever. The race director calls it ‘the mother-in-law’ because it goes on and on and…! This part of the race is made tougher as just when you think you’ve reached the top it's a false summit & there’s still more to climb! The route then continues down to Haweswater & another section I want to forget, as I had a couple of minor falls due to the uneven ground. I was a bit worried at this point as my feet were behaving quite clumsily on rocks & I wasn’t yet at the 20-mile point. I know I’m not really selling the race here, but I will later. Upon reaching the checkpoint at Mardale Head I made a conscious decision to take a bit more of a rest & refuel properly, as it was teatime. I had a combination of flat coke (the ultra runner's dream drink), tea, sandwiches, crisps & cake. Ultras are really just picnics with a few miles of running thrown in.


After leaving Mardale Head I paired up with a '100' runner for a while (at this point he'd completed over 75 miles) & we had a good chat climbing up Gatescarth. Amazingly he actually knew a friend of mine who was also running the 100. One of the great things about long events like this is that along the way you end up chatting to people you’ve never met before & it’s unbelievable how the miles can disappear when you’re chatting away. Having a slightly longer stop at the previous checkpoint must have worked wonders, as I was suddenly feeling really strong & once at the top of Gatescarth I used the downhill section to pick up some speed, although you had to be careful due to the rocky nature of the path. The route then cuts through to Kentmere where the checkpoint had the most amazing fruit smoothies, which after just over 27 miles were extremely welcome. Moving through the next section there were great views of Windermere & some phone signal, so a couple of messages were sent to let people know where I was, as I wasn’t sure how well updated the tracker was. After this the race pushed through towards Ambleside where the atmosphere was fantastic, with plenty of tourists around cheering runners through the streets. This certainly gave you a boost after almost 35 miles & 9 hours on your feet. The next section was the only part of the race I was familiar with & as the light started to fade, this can be crucial. The Lakeland event is a totally unmarked route so runners have to find their way round the course, although a detailed roadbook makes this a much simpler task than it sounds.


Upon leaving Skelwith Bridge the woods were rather dark, so it was time to get out the headtorch. I was unaware that I had knocked my headtorch at some point, as it was turned on in my backpack, but more of that later. Moving towards Chapel Stile became a quick walk than a run, as my quads were starting to hate me, but my motto was that every footstep was one step nearer Coniston. The checkpoint at Chapel Stile was an amazing sight with tents, disco music, fires & comfy armchairs. The chairs were very tempting but I honestly think that if I had sat down my race was over. The route then continues through the Langdale valley with the ground becoming rather damp & slippy on rocks, so careful placing of the feet was necessary. The steep climb towards Blea Tarn was safely negotiated & at this point I had paired with a group of runners who actually won the female team prize so I must have been in a decent position, although I was unaware of this at the time. There was an unmanned checkpoint after surviving the bogs of Bleamoss & believe me it was extremely damp. By this point, I was running on my own again & was a little worried as my headtorch kept turning off, which was actually the battery failing! A rocky section of about 2 miles had to completed in the dark. Even more disturbing is that I was later informed that there was a herd of horned Highland cattle in this section, although I only saw one. Maybe when I was feeling my way with my feet, I wasn’t kicking rocks after all! I was quite relieved to reach the final checkpoint at Tilberthwaite, where I could swap my batteries for the final section.


After refuelling I had to climb the ‘Stairway to Heaven’, a set of steep steps made trickier by having nearly 47 miles (or 102 for the Lakeland 100) in your legs. I actually fell up the first step as it was too high for my weary legs. The final section is a definite ‘sting in the tail’ containing a steep uphill then steeply down to the end. Runners need to be confident of the route, as there is a quarry on one side & a steep drop on the other, so a working headtorch was a major advantage now. Upon reaching the summit I knew I’d just under 2 miles to go & about 18 minutes to achieve my pre-race goal of a sub-15 hour finish. I decided to go for it but this involved running rather quickly in the dark down a rocky section. Upon reaching the road I knew I had about 9 minutes for the last mile so pushed on. I couldn’t believe that after 49 miles I had the strength & actually managed my quickest mile. I arrived in Coniston village just before 2.30am & pushed onto the finish to record a time of 15 hours 13 seconds! OK it wasn’t a sub-15 finish, but 14 seconds over 50 miles will do for my first Lakeland 50. In fact, I started my watch on the line & was 5 seconds under, but due to the mass start the official time doesn’t agree. Having only started running ultras recently this is definitely my greatest triumph & the first time I feel I’ve done a long distance where my pre-race plans for time & nutrition have worked.


Looking back, this was the greatest race I’ve ever done due to the route, the scenery & the most amazing race marshals. I’ll definitely be back again - as long as I can get a place - although 'Race to the Stones' is also on my agenda for 2017 so it looks like a busy July next year. Also my crazy finish was due to thinking a sub-15 was needed to qualify for a 100-miler, when actually it is sub-16! I don’t feel strong enough to attempt the Lakeland 100 just yet, but hopefully in 2018 I will be on the start line for 105 miles.


The following morning Coniston village was quite a scene, with runners hobbling around, struggling to walk. In fact 2 days later walking is still quite a challenge for me, while shoes & socks can’t be worn due to swollen feet.


For anybody thinking of joining me next year, race entries usually open at 9am on 1st September. Laptops at the ready, as it will close about 5 minutes later!  [Simon Howard]

NORTHERN MASTERS 5K CHAMPIONSHIP – 27th JULY 2016

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Strictly speaking, running round a track isn’t really a ‘new trick’ for Ian Dale & I, as we’ve done it countless times under Brian Moore’s stern gaze at Kingsway on Monday & Wednesday evenings. However neither of us have actually raced on the track – not since our schooldays, anyway – or run a continuous 12.5 laps. So it was with a little apprehension that we set of for Leigh Sports Village, scene of many an enjoyable cross-country race, for our 1st foray into the world of masters track racing, on the same evening that a strong team of RRRs were picking up prizes at the Black Knight Charge in Ashton.


The race had been billed to start at 7.30pm, but we quickly discovered that there’s a certain amount of flexibility to these track meets. With the 5K split into 2 races – men up to 60 & women to set off 1st, men over 60 afterwards - we were told that we’d probably be racing around 7.20pm, “or as soon as we can get the 800m & 200m out of the way”. We almost started to feel like proper athletes as we were presented with 2 race numbers (one for the front, one for the back) plus an age category label to enable the other runners to see who they were competing against. We then joined some of the other competitors on the indoor track (the facilities at Leigh really are excellent) to go through what we pretended was our usual pre-race warm-up routine.


Having spotted a familiar face, Ian & I cheered on Ian Stainthorpe to an impressive 2nd V50 position in the 800m before we joined the assembled runners for the 5,000m. Despite saying that he was going to start cautiously, Ian set off with the leading group & quickly left me trailing in his wake. Ian really took to this new challenge like an (old) duck to water; or like an old dog doing a trick that it’s done loads of times before – standing on its hind legs & offering a paw to shake hands, perhaps – but doing it in a strange location with a child who’s a little bit scared of dogs, but is put at ease by the friendly doggy face he/she is confronted with. I’m not sure that simile really works, but I’m sticking with it...


Ian stayed with the front runners & opened up a lead over me of almost 200m by the halfway mark; I began to think that he might even lap me, but I managed to keep the gap about the same for the rest of the race. Somehow 5K seems a lot further on the track than when you’re racing on the road or trail & the bell came as a welcome relief. With one last push on the final lap Ian crossed the line in 18:38 for 3rd V50 & a nice medal; I followed him home in 5th place in 19:26, demonstrating once again my amazing ability to run at exactly the same pace whatever the surface or conditions. Some call it one-paced; I say consistent.


I don’t know why it’s taken us so long into our ‘vets’ careers to discover the delights of the Northern Masters. It only costs £12 to join (as a 2nd claim member), the races are cheap to enter (£5 for this one) & with the size of the field there’s definitely a good chance of a prize, especially in the women’s events. The next race we’re planning to attend is the 10K Championship, again to be held on the track at Leigh, on Sunday 9th October. The official report on last year's race says that there was "just one lady competitor & such was the spread of the age groups that every competitor went away with a medal". I know that there are already loads of other road, trail, cross-country & fell races to fit in, but if you fancy adding the track to your schedule I can thoroughly recommend it!  [David Emanuel]

TODMORDEN PARK SUMMER 5K (RACE 3/4) – 21st JULY 2016

Back to Centre Vale Park for the 3rd in this series, but on a slightly different course this time, with some major tree-cutting leaving the woodland section blocked. In reality this didn't make too much difference, the race remaining at 5 laps now all on the path, with just a couple of extra sharp turns. The hungry midges hanging around the start were much more of an issue...   

Ian Dale was absent for this race - having to work on his birthday, poor chap - but it was nice to see a few new faces making their way "across the border". James Cashin started the warm-up for his imminent RRR Cup Quarter Final with a fine 22:38 (6 seconds quicker than his Oldham parkrun PB, fact fans!), while Mark Heaney finished just ahead in 22:29. A late-arriving Neil Brock set off like a rocket & was the 1st RRR home in 19:30 (17th overall, 3rd V50).

Of those returning for another go, Val Kilburn & Ronnie Quinn once again ran together (in 22:13) & were rewarded with 1st FV45 & 3rd V60 finishes respectively. I don't know if they had taken note of my analysis of lap times in the previous race report, but this time they broke the mould & ran quickest on their final lap rather than the 1st. Not sure it made that much difference, though, as Val improved by precisely 3 seconds on her Race 2 time.

Lee Higginbottom continued his impressive consistency on this course, a time of 20:33 (in 24th place) meaning that his 3 performances have all been within 5 seconds of each other. I ran a disappointing 19:40, although I did close on Neil in the 2nd half of the race. For the 1st time at this event I suffered the ignominy of being lapped, race winner Max Wharton (Liverpool Harriers) charging past to cross the line in 15:42 as I finished my 4th lap. Finding out that he's a V45 didn't make it any better!  [David Emanuel] 

MOSSLEY 10K – 17th JULY 2016

Two little things that stuck in my mind after the finish of this year's excellent Mossley race: ace photographer Rachael Shuttleworth attempting to get a good RRR group picture by telling us, "You've got to do something different, you're all just standing there staring at me!" (a technique that I believe David Bailey employed to good effect) & Becky Mercer appearing to be genuinely upset that, unlike last year, her goody bag didn't contain another "really good" emery board for doing her nails.

On a more serious note, this race will always be remembered for the quiet, dignified presence of our wonderful president. I don't think I've ever heard a more spontaneous, heartfelt round of applause than that which greeted June when she came across the finish line. Rest in peace Michael Allingan.

It seems trivial under the circumstances to write about the race itself, but I guess that's the reason we were all gathered together & there were some remarkable RRR performances to report - not least June completing the course in 1:05:02 & Diane Allingan finishing in a wonderful 48:38.

For the 3rd club race in a row, Rob James & Jen Bloor both claimed race victories - Rob winning by more than a minute in a superb time of 34:01 (sub-34 next year?) & Jen (40:23) a similarly long way clear of Glossopdale's Kirsty Johnson, overturning the result from last year. It's a sign of the standards she's now setting herself that, despite this fine win, Jen was disappointed to have run slightly slower than in 2015. This was Rob's 9th club race victory of the season, thus guaranteeing that he is our well-deserved new club champion with 5 races still to go. It'll come as no surprise that Jen is almost guaranteed to retain the ladies trophy - 1 more win will give her an unassailable lead.   

Shane Reading was the 2nd RRR across the line in 38:34, 5th overall, a great way to celebrate becoming the latest member of the RRR 100 Club. Shane has reached this milestone with a remarkable run of 60 successive club races which shows no sign of stopping any time soon. The man is indestructible! By contrast, Fiona O'Sullivan (1:04:31) was making her debut appearance in RRR colours. Hopefully the 1st of many!

Mossley is I believe unique in awarding prizes to just a single vet category, for everyone over 45. That didn't stop Debbie Shaw - usually competing for FV50 honours - claiming the women's award for the 2nd successive year in a time of 44:59.

The 69 RRR finishers in a field on 314 was by far the biggest of any club (as usual) - but there's quality as well as quantity. This is clearly shown by the fact that we had 11 of the leading 20 finishers, 26 of the top 50, 45 of the 1st 100. That included excellent races for Kirsty White (3rd female, 41:53), Robert Fairbanks (8th overall, 39:13), Brad Howard (40:29) & the ever-improving Jarrod Gritt (42:02).

All the other RRR finishers: Gail Shaw (1:33:08), Carol Robinson (1:09:51), Amanda Richardson (1:04:29), Bernadette Ball (1:03:01), Jenny O'Callaghan (1:00:27), Liz Phillips (59:10), Adrian Bowcock (58:38), Jillian Heywood (56:48), Paul Craddock (56:43), Dave Watt (55:30), Sue Heaney (54:48), Rachel Wood (54:27), Lisa Cummins (54:03), Ben Ruscillo (53:32), Chloe Clegg (51:52), Tony Kane (51:26), Lisa Howarth (51:17), Simon Howard (estimated 50:02, as he managed to fool the chip timing!), Becky Mercer (49:34), Mark Heaney (49:18), Selina McLean (49:02), Damian Mercer (48:57), Helen Radcliffe (48:49), Vikki Smith (48:37), Neil Farrell (48:23), Steve Shaw (48:09), Paul Cooke (47:45), Garry Bower (47:14), Nick Mallon (47:13), Rochelle Evans (47:07), Val Kilburn (47:04), Lee Higginbottom (46:59), John Higgins (46:57), Natalie Fitzpatrick (46:20), Ronnie Quinn (46:18), Adrian Marshall (45:34), Stuart Hulme (45:03), Rob Marsden (44:46), Jason Keast (44:36), David Freer (44:26), Matt Kilburn (44:21), Andy Schofield (43:53), Mark Brynes (43:35), Bryan Lawton (43:26), Matt Kershaw (43:17), Michael Wildbore (43:13), Dave Peart (42:19), Carl O'Callaghan (42:18), Elliot Stone (41:52), Dave McBride (41:35), Eamonn Nolan (41:21), Michael Fleming (41:11), Mark Wilde (40:37), Bernie Goodwin (40:35), Neil Brock & Ian Dale (both given 40:26 in a great V50 battle), me (39:58) & Owen Flage (38:53).

Judging from the overwhelmingly positive post-race feedback I heard - apart from the missing emery boards - I'm sure that we'll be back here next year.  [David Emanuel]   

THE ROYTON TRAIL – 13th JULY 2016

Planning, organisation & attention to detail - all things that make for a successful event, never better demonstrated than by this 10th anniversary of The Royton Trail. From the marking of the course earlier in the day to the post-race clear-up, everything went like clockwork for a record 299 finishers. With so many people involved behind the scenes, I can't put it better than our Chairman & Race Director Bryan Lawton: "Thanks to everyone who supported the event from sponsors, food suppliers, lead bike, tail runner, marshals, drinks station, first aid, the grumpy results guy, course markers, race officials, finish helpers, etc, etc. All in all a real team effort!" Of course Bryan himself deserves much credit - he even celebrated a decade of the race by spraying vast amounts of champagne around the course earlier on race day. Sadly by the evening the bubbles had gone & it all just looked like (very large) muddy puddles, but it's the thought that counts...

Early (Facebook) feedback from competitors was overwhelmingly positive. Amongst the RRRs who commented, Nefa Nessa (1:00:49) thanked the "super cheery marshals", Lee Higginbottom (39:18) appreciated "the guys who helped tidy the course & cut back some of the bushes on the path top of Tandle Hills" & Nicola O'Connor (1:01:48) "felt dead proud to be part of RRR", while Ronnie Garrod (40:35) showed his priorities by praising Neil Farrell for "the superb top class catering". Paul Taylor (Saddleworth Runners) wrote, "Fantastic race, thanks to all at Royton who helped put it on, lots of friendly supportive marshals all round the course." Bernie Boardman said that he "would like to say thanks for a great event last night (my first trail race), thoroughly enjoyed it & nice to see familiar faces (in addition to my fellow Prestwich AC runners). Would like to thank all the marshals & organisers, especially Fay Royle who helped Angela [Hanily] after she fell. Fay went beyond the call of duty, was kind, friendly & very funny." 
 
Before the start of the race, Bryan presented framed certificates to the 4 runners who have competed in all 10 editions of The Royton Trail. I had suggested that this might be tempting fate & that they may not all get to the finish, but I shouldn't have worried. So congratulations to Teresa Hollins of Middleton Harriers (2nd FV60, 49:41), Darren Mannings of Oldham & Royton Harriers (43:10) plus the 2 RRR Bernards Cassidy (43:28) & Goodwin (36:45). In addition to their certificates, all 4 have been granted free entry to The Royton Trail for life - so they'll have to keep coming back!

It's great to report that we celebrated the 10th anniversary with victory in both the men's & women's races, with Rob James (29:58) & Jen Bloor (37:08) repeating their successes at the Rochdale 10K a week earlier. Jen impressively retained the title she won in 2015, while Rob once again denied Salford Harriers a clean sweep as he was followed across the line by Adam Slodowicz, 4-time race winner Ian Grime & Billy McCartney. That gave Salford a comfortable victory in the men's team event, while Jen was joined by Kirsty White (2nd lady, 38:09) & Debbie Shaw (1st FV50, 40:51) to secure RRR the women's team prize for the 4th successive year. Only once since team prizes were introduced in 2010 have our ladies not claimed this award.

In addition to Debbie, age category prizes were claimed by RRRs Val Kilburn (1st FV45, 42:35), Chris Lowe (1st V45, 34:08) & Richard Cummins (1st V50, 35:28). Richard raced to victory on his 1st appearance for the club - not that I'm bothered in the slightest that we've recruited yet another fast V50 runner. There were also RRR debuts for Monica Allen (1:22:33), Jacqueline Eatough (58:14), Joanne Webb (58:07), Linda Isherwood (2nd FV50, 47:46) & Michael Pickering (35:25). Welcome to the RRR family!

Also amongst the 98 RRR finishers (just short of the record-breaking 2015 total, but still pretty amazing) were 6 members appearing in their 1st club race of the year. Welcome back to Nicola O'Connor, Sarah Butler (58:40), Cindy Carroll (54:19), Peter Boulton (53:51), Helen Knight (46:31) & David McBride (37:32). Hopefully we'll see you at a few more club races between now & the end of the season!

A special mention to the indestructible Sheila Phillips, who suffered a heavy fall but picked herself up to finish 3rd FV65 in 1:22:32. A very brave effort!  

All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (1:09:11), Brian Swindells (1:02:00), Karen Stuttard (1:01:32), Amanda Lane (1:00:44), Emma Bower (58:51), June Allingan (2nd FV65, 57:34), Bernadette Ball (57:20), Amanda Richardson (56:13), Stacey Andrew (56:09), Paul Craddock (55:29), John Sweeney (54:22), Tracey Hall (53:38), Chris Whiteman (53:20), Jenny O'Callaghan (53:15), Emma Wall (53:14), Jillian Heywood (53:10), Neil Barker (52:56), Liz Phillips (52:39), Gary Marshall (50:59), Adrian Bowcock (50:14), Ben Ruscillo (50:09), Stewart Jones (49:07), Lisa Cummins (48:44), Rachel Wood (48:23), Margaret Bluer (3rd FV55, 47:15), ace photographer Lisa Howarth (46:58), Dave Watt (46:52), Becky Mercer (46:32), Stephen Rogowskyj (46:24), Tony Kane (46:17), Martin Jones (45:54), Dave Phillips (3rd V65, 45:41), Simon Howard (45:21), Ray Williams (44:50), Clare Darraugh (44:49, nearly 12 minutes quicker than in 2015), Paul Cooke (44:46), Diane Allingan (2nd FV55, 44:27), Vikki Smith (44:13), David Crewe (43:45), Steve Shaw (42:34), Iain Dredge (42:33), Ronnie Quinn (42:31), Nick Mallon (42:30), Garry Bower (42:06), John Higgins (3rd V60, 41:54), Michael Harrison (41:51), Janet Jobey (3rd FV40, 41:22), Jason Keast (40:41), Matt Kilburn (40:33), Rob Marsden (40:19), Adrian Marshall (40:04), Stuart Hulme (39:28), Alan Reynolds (39:26), Dave Hall (3rd V55, 39:20), David Freer (39:19), Mark Brynes (39:15), Matt Kershaw (38:52), Michael Wildbore (38:27), me (37:46), Carl O'Callaghan (37:41), Elliot Stone (37:35), Jarrod Gritt (37:18), Eamonn Nolan (37:15), Brad Howard (36:59), Dave Peart (36:43), Alan Bodell (3rd V50, 36:35), Michael Fleming (36:26), Ian Dale (2nd V50, 36:20), Rob Battye (35:43), Robert Fairbanks (35:18), Shane Reading (3rd V40, 35:01), Shaun Armstrong (34:35) & Daniel McManus (34:10).

There's no rest for the wicked. Just a few days to recover before the Mossley 10K! [David Emanuel]                    

TODMORDEN PARK SUMMER 5K (RACE 2/4) – 7th JULY 2016

What a difference a fortnight makes! I missed the 1st of this 4-race series - held on EU referendum day, in the build-up to the England v Iceland game at Euro 2016 - because I was late back from a work trip. Instead I watched on proudly as Debbie Fiddling (21:37) won the FV50 prize & Ronnie Quinn (21:31) finished 2nd V50, while Ian Dale (19:34), Richard Fiddling (19:56) & Lee Higginbottom (20:30) finished 22nd, 26th & 31st respectively. Two weeks later & we're out of Europe twice over, but this time I'm on the start line to join in with 5 laps of Centre Vale Park, hosted impressively as always by Cannonball Events.

Ronnie was also back - overcoming the embarrassment of initially appearing in the Race 1 results as 'Ronnie Puinn' - as were Lee & Ian, with Val Kilburn making her debut in the race to get us up to 5 RRRs once again. Overall numbers were slightly down on a humid evening, despite this race being a Yorkshire Vets 5K Championship race, but there were still a healthy 117 runners on the start line.

As in the previous race, Ian set off quickly & ran an identical 3:32 1st lap - that was already 13 seconds ahead of me & the equivalent of a 17:40 5K (if only he could keep it going!). It's tough to maintain that pace, but although Ian slowed slightly he still crossed the line in 19:06, a 28-second improvement & good enough for 2nd V50. I managed to close slightly on the last 2 laps but the damage was already done & I finished 25 seconds back. Next home was Lee in 20:30, a 2-second improvement on Race 1 achieved largely thanks to a much quicker 1st lap (on my shoulder, so I'm claiming most of the credit). Meawhile Ronnie (22:17), name now correct, paced Val (22:16) round to a fine 2nd FV45 finish.

One of the great things about this series - for the obsessives amongst us - is that the combination of 5 equal 1K laps, chip timing & an excellent results service means that you can analyse race performances in minute detail. Across the 1st 2 races, for example, almost every RRR was quickest on the 1st lap (only Lee bucked the trend, marginally quicker on his final lap in Race 1), the 4th lap was nearly always our slowest, while I was the most consistent (one-paced?) with 14 seconds between my fastest & slowest laps (Ian by contrast had ranges of 32 & 29 seconds in each race). If you fancy some similar numbers to look at, why not come along & have a go at the next race on 21st July?  [David Emanuel] 
ROCHDALE 10K - 5th JULY 2016
Just another typical RRR midweek race day - 69 finishers, well over a quarter of the field, two fabulous race winners & a whole host of other prizes.

As we lined up on the start line on a breezy (but thankfully dry) evening, it looked as though Salford Harriers were out in force with a strong line-up. So it proved, as they provided 4 of the 1st 5 finishers to claim the men's team prize...but they couldn't get the race victory! That went to our own Rob James, continuing his excellent run of form to finish in 33:52 & win by almost half a minute.

We were even more dominant in the women's race, claiming a 1-2 finish for the 3rd club race in a row through Jen Bloor (a speedy 40:03) & Kirsty White (42:11). They were joined by Debbie Shaw (1st FV50, 44:12) to comfortably take the team victory, with Debbie closely followed by Janet Jobey (2nd FV40, 44:50).

With only a few of us staying for the presentation, Kirsty & I collected a big pile of age-category prizes (which we'll hand out at the Royton Trail if we don't see you earlier). These included well-deserved awards for Chris Lowe (celebrating his move to a new age category last month with 1st V45 in 37:56), Dave Hall (1st V55, 42:03), Val Kilburn (1st FV45, 46:16), Sheila Phillips (1st FV65, 1:13:03), Ian Dale (2nd V50, 39:48), Ronnie Quinn (2nd V60, 45:50), Natalie Fitzpatrick (2nd FV35, 47:27), Diane Allingan (2nd FV55, 48:20), Dave Phillips (2nd V70, 49:19), Rob Battye (3rd V40, 37:42), Bernie Goodwin (3rd V45, 40:17) & me (3rd V50, 40:22).

Another prize-winner was Debbie Fiddling (2nd FV50, 45:09), one of several RRRs producing fine performances here just 2 days after competing in the Southport Half Marathon. Congratulations to Rob Fairbanks (38:42), Richard Fiddling (42:48), Rob Marsden (43:45), Garry Bower (45:49), Margaret Bluer (52:17), Jillian Heywood (57:54) & Southport pacer 'Pacey Stacey' Andrew (1:02:07), all demonstrating most impressive powers of recovery! 

Since I missed the Milltown 10K last month, this is my 1st opportunity to welcome new member Gail Shaw to our club races. Gail improved on her Oldham time with an impressive 58:58 for 7th FV50 - no doubt there are more improvements to come!   

All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (1:16:39), Eloise Bartlett (1:09:18), Amanda Lane (1:07:36), Karen Stuttard (1:07:11), Bernadette Ball (1:03:31), Jenny O'Callaghan (smashing the 60-minute barrier for the 1st time in 59:07), Liz Phillips (56:56, also a new PB I believe), Teresa Hollins (54:55), Lisa Cummins (53:49), Adrian Bowcock (53:33), Dave Watt (53:17), Ben Ruscillo (52:33), Simon Howard (50:31), Ray Williams (49:48), Becky Mercer (48:40), Stephen Rogowskyj (48:38), Selina McLean (48:30), Vikki Smith (48:17), Paul Cooke (47:55), Steve Shaw (47:38), Damian Mercer (47:32), Rochelle Evans (47:12), Nick Mallon (47:11), Bernie Cassidy (45:32), Adrian Marshall (45:04), Andy Schofield (43:58), Matt Kilburn (43:54), Stuart Hulme (43:49), Jarrod Gritt (43:36), Mark Brynes (43:21), Michael Wildbore (43:18), Bryan Lawton (42:47), Carl O'Callaghan (42:16), Matt Kershaw (41:46), Elliot Stone (41:17), Eamonn Nolan (41:11), Michael Fleming (40:44), Brad Howard (40:33), Shaun Armstrong (39:28), Shane Reading (39:16, despite a calf problem - hopefully he'll recover in time to continue his record-breaking sequence of club races at The Royton Trail!), Danny McManus (38:54) & Nick Cuff (38:13).

Next up it's the big one - the 10th anniversary of The Royton Trail. We had an incredible 103 RRR finishers in a record field last year - can we beat that? Of course we can! Please enter now if you haven't done so already. [David Emanuel]           
TRAILBLASTER 12 HOUR ULTRA - 19th JUNE 2016
Well that was a bit different! 12 hours of running for Simon Howard & I around a 5K circuit in the delightful setting of Townley Park, Burnley. Looking back a week later it all seems a bit unreal - although the continuing aches & pains confirm that I definitely did it!

The course was mostly flat - but much more challenging than I'd expected. The 1st half was good running on grass & path, similar to the Burnley parkrun route. The 2nd half followed a winding trail cut through a farmer's field, but the grass was still long enough to make running quite difficult & it didn't help with Simon's hayfever. In the middle was a short climb onto a woodland trail which then dropped down to a river crossing - tricky enough in the earlier stages, but increasingly hazardous (on tired legs) once the rain started about 7 hours in.        
Having been advised to keep running rather than take long breaks, my race quickly settled into a steady slow-running rhythm. I tried to break the course down into the 3 sections described above, with quick refuelling stops at the start/finish line (discovering a previously unknown taste for flat coke). I had taken a selection of trainers & running kit but didn't actually change clothes once, apart from donning my RRR cap when it briefly got hot & a waterproof jacket once the rain got heavier.

The atmosphere was great throughout - with a number of teams taking part in 6- & 12-hour relays, there were always people overtaking & they all seemed to have an encouraging word. This included a large contingent from Oldham & Royton Harriers, who were very generous with their support for the two of us in green & yellow. Fellow RRR James Wright - ostensibly there to support Della in the team event - was incredibly supportive, appearing all over the course throughout the 12 hours.

At exactly 8pm, the (welcome) announcement came over the tannoy that the finish gate was closed. Those of us still out on a now-very-damp course plodded our way round to the finish for the final time. The results confirmed that Simon had completed an excellent 15 laps (75K, 46.6 miles) for 10th place in the men's race, while I'd managed to do 19 (95K, 59 miles) to finish 4th. The winner (Paul Brown) was a long way clear having run 23 laps. Unbelievable!

I'm sure that Simon would join me in recommending this event - he's already said that he intends to be back next year. The team event (for groups of 4 or 5) looked great fun. John Lloyd has said that he'll speak to Alan Keane to see if he can avoid a clash with the Milltown 10K next year...so that'll be one less excuse to use!  [David Emanuel]              
LAKELAND TRAILS MARATHON (CONISTON) - 5th JUNE 2016
Hot & humid was an understatement for the weather in Cumbria on Sunday. I was running my second marathon in 8 days, which was challenging enough, but the warm conditions seem to be following me around. This may be great for some, but not when suffering from hayfever & asthma.

The Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon is a totally off-road route, except for a section of about a mile just after the start. It is advertised as one of the toughest yet most scenic marathons in the UK. Many will argue the case for other marathons, but having completed it 3 times it is certainly up there on both counts. Any plans for a PB will disappear out of the window straight away due to the tough terrain.

The start was delayed for almost 10 minutes due to traffic on the road at the start & the sweat was pouring off me just standing still. This didn’t bode well for the day ahead. Despite a 9am start it still felt extremely warm. The start is a gentle, flat stroll round the village (don’t get excited as this doesn’t last for long!) & during this section I bumped into David Crewe, who was doing this race for the first time. I told him my plan for steady running & probably power-walking up the  hills (perfect training for the Lakeland 50 in July).

After the circuit of the village the route has a steep climb, before hitting an undulating bridle path away from Coniston. The first major climb of the day, which luckily has the first waterstop, starts the ascent through to Hodge Close, which has an excellent checkpoint manned with a multitude of goodies, including Kendal Mint Cake,
flapjack & a favourite of the day, flat coke. The climb continues before meeting one of the Lake District’s beauty sports – Tarn Hows. It’s lucky this is so beautiful, as the route is then almost a couple of laps of the tarn. Before anyone has any ideas about cutting it short, there’s a timing mat which makes this impossible. Apparently, this section is so wonderful that some runners have done 3 or 4 laps. Now I agree it’s gorgeous, but…

The section via Tarn Hows can be quite tricky on the brain, as by this point some
of the half marathon runners will have caught up as they have a shorter route to
this part of the race. Unbelievably as I started my 2nd lap, I bumped into Sue Heaney, who was running the half marathon, so we ran part of that lap together whilst
comparing hayfever symptoms. After climbing out of Tarns Hows, the half marathon drops back down to the finish at Coniston, but the full marathon route climbs to the other side of Coniston for the extremely undulating route through Grisedale Forest. By this point we were running in the midday heat - I’ve never run in such sultry conditions. Also, running through the forest, despite being absolutely gorgeous scenery, was a nightmare for hayfever, due to the pollen. I briefly contemplated packing in near half way, but decided to push on & suffer the heat.

After about 16 miles I bumped into David Crewe again, now suffering having found the dreaded wall. I suggested he had a big refuel at the next feed station, to hopefully find some energy, but days like this are extremely draining. I was still feeling reasonably strong, although my pace was definitely becoming slower & slower. By the time I reached the water station at the far end of Coniston Water I was feeling virtually empty but knew I was still well inside the cut off, so used the time to refuel. Any thoughts of "just 10K to go" are useless now, as the terrain for this last section is extremely tricky, especially with tired legs. The route climbs to Beacon Tarn, another beauty spot. Having run the race previously I was hoping the downhill section would get me to the final cut-off in time, but I was so drained that just walking down was quite a challenge. I
reached the final checkpoint past the cut-off time, but they were prepared to let
runners continue if they felt strong enough to complete the final 5K along the side of the lake.

Even this was tricky, as every little hill felt like a major mountain. Despite almost shuffling the last section, I still continued knowing I was recording my slowest
marathon ever, but a combination of conditions & terrain still made it feel like a triumph. I managed to move my legs sufficiently to run the last 800 metres & I’m so glad I did, as it meant I just managed a sub-6:30. I finished in 6:29, over an hour slower than my time last year, yet still feeling a sense of achievement at completing another marathon in extreme heat. David Crewe was unfortunately timed out at the final checkpoint & Sue Heaney completed the half marathon in a fantastic time of 2:23.

I would highly recommend this race, but it is certainly tough. There is the option of a challenge race, which gives you a couple of hours longer to complete, but this does set off at 7am! For those wanting a shorter route, there is the half marathon & also a 10K. As the scenery advertises it is a fabulous race & the real positive is that the time on my feet is excellent Lakeland 50 training. Will I be there again? Maybe, although I do have another plan for next year, if race dates are the same in 2017. However, I will certainly run the race again at some point!  [Simon Howard]

HUDDERSFIELD HALF MARATHON – 5th JUNE 2016

At around the 6-7 mile mark in this race, a spectator  – having already seen a few RRR vests go by – asked me if this was one of our club events. When I confirmed this to be the case he shouted, in sarcastic fashion, “You need to have a word with whoever chooses which races you do!” Since I was going uphill at the time & unable to speak, I gave him a knowing nod & smile with which I attempted to convey the message, “I know, those guys, fancy picking one of the toughest half marathons in the country, you wouldn’t catch me being involved in a decision like that...”


A straw poll of RRRs at the finish suggested that this race probably isn’t going to get a lot of votes to remain in the club championship next year (especially when you consider all the people who chose to stay away – there were just 36 RRR finishers). That’s mainly because of the hills – those many, many hills – but there were a few other issues on the day that didn’t help. It became uncomfortably warm as the morning progressed (not something the organisers could control), some of the water stations could have been more handily positioned & the route could certainly have been signposted better in places – although it was apparently an inconveniently-parked van obscuring a sign which led some of us to add extra distance by missing a major turn at 10.5 miles.


To be fair, there are also many positive things to say about the Huddersfield Half. It’s local & easy to get to off the M62, with an impressive race HQ at the YMCA. The organisers were friendly & gave us a nice discount on the entry fee. Some of the scenery around the course is wonderful & once the aches & pains have worn off I’m sure we’ll all look back with a real sense of achievement at having completed such a tough circuit. Not to mention that at least we could stop when we got back to race HQ & not have to do another lap, like those poor people running the full marathon.


However, the absolute highlight was a string of excellent RRR performances. Rob James, running on home soil & with previous experience of the course (he was 4th in the full marathon in 2014), cruised to victory in 1:20:40, an incredible 7 minutes 20 seconds clear of the field. Debbie Fiddling (1:49:07) ran superbly to win the women’s race by more than 5 minutes, with Debbie Shaw (1:54:44) coming home 2nd. I can’t think of any previous occasion when we’ve had the 1st two woman finishers in a race – for both of them to be in the FV50 category is truly remarkable.


Behind Rob we had 4 other top 10 finishers – Owen Flage in 5th (1:31:31), Shane Reading 7th (1:32:54), Nick Cuff 9th (1:37:54) & me 10th (1:38:43). A little further back there was a great battle between 5 RRRs finishing within a minute, with Robert Fairbanks (1:39:52) closely followed across the line by Dave Peart (1:40:01), Mark Wilde (1:40:07), Neil Brock (1:40:27) & Dave Hall (1:40:51). Richard Fiddling (1:45:28) just managed to beat Eamonn Nolan (1:45:32), while a lung-bursting sprint finish between Dave Freer & Jason Keast saw them both given a time of 1:53:20.


Selina McLean (2:03:18) celebrated her 25th club race with a fine 8th place in the women’s race, while Lee Higginbottom (1:50:15) also joined the ‘25 Club’ as he finished just ahead of Stuart Hulme (1:50:57). The degree of difficulty of this course is shown by the fact that only 3 other RRRs completed it in under 2 hours – Carl O’Callaghan (1:46:10), Matthew Kilburn (1:47:10) & Rob Marsden (1:47:20).


All the other brave RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (3:16:13), Carol Robinson (3:15:58), Mary Freer & Nefa Nessa (both 2:44:18), Anne Jones (2:29:19), Jillian Heywood (2:28:50), Lisa Howarth (2:28:45), Dave Watt (2:25:32), Martin Jones (2:09:11), Margaret Bluer (2:08:08), Vikki Smith (2:07:14), Garry Bower (2:03:46), Stephen Rogowskyj (2:02:10) & Paul Cooke (2:01:42).


Well done everyone who completed this really challenging event. The Oldham Half will seem like a doddle after that!   [David Emanuel]

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K – 1st JUNE 2016

A third visit to Littleborough for a fine end to another enjoyable series of races. Disappointingly, this was the lowest attendance of the three races – probably not helped by it being a breezy night in the middle of half-term – but the 50 RRR finishers still made up 56% of the field & we once again dominated the prize-giving.


With the series results to cover as well as this individual race, I’ve got more stats than ever to shoehorn into this report. If you don’t like looking at long lists of names & numbers it’s probably best to stop reading now…


A number of RRRs waited until this final race to make their 1st appearance of the series & they all made quite an impact. Jarrod Gritt (19:51) finished in an excellent 21st place on his debut in club colours, with Gary Marshall (27:02) also running well in his first race as an RRR. The total number of club members competing in the series reached an impressive 91 with the appearances of Brian Swindells (2nd V65, 31:20), Carol Robinson (3rd FV40, 30:33), Dave Watt (24:54), Ray Williams (24:04), Dave Hall (1st V55, 20:50), Brad Howard (20th, 19:47) & Chris Lowe (4th overall, 2nd V40, 18:17).


Chris was part of yet another winning RRR men’s team - the only difference this time being that it contained only one ‘Rob’. No surprise that this was Rob James, race winner once again in a remarkable 16:23, just 5 seconds outside the course record he set in the previous race in considerably calmer conditions. The 3rd member of the triumphant team was the ever-present Shane Reading (6th overall, 3rd V40 in 18:20), who just caught Rob Battye (7th, 18:22) on the line. I know from (bitter) experience that Shane makes a habit of this sort of thing – although it’s a few years now since I was in front of him at any point in a race, let alone within sight of a finish line. Not to be outdone, the RRR ladies also romped to victory, led by Debbie Shaw (1st FV50, 21:40) with excellent support from Val Kilburn (1st FV45, 21:43) & Natalie Fitzpatrick (2nd FV35, 22:12).


Just 34 runners completed all 3 races in the series – 24 of them from RRR. Not bad when you think of all those who have run a marathon (or several) since the series started in early April. The top three overall performers were all from our club & it was an extremely close finish – Shane Reading just came out on top with an aggregate time of 55:24 (that’s an average of 18:28 per race), followed by Rob Battye (55:52, average 18:37) & Robert Fairbanks (55:59, average 18:39, having finished 9th in the final race just days after running a very hot Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half Marathon). The ladies competition was somewhat more clear-cut, with Rochelle Evans (69:44, average 23:14, after claiming the 1st FV40 prize in the final race) finishing ahead of Becky Mercer (71:07, average 23:42).


A nice feature of these events is the ‘improver’ award category. John ‘Cannonball’ Lloyd gives prizes to those who make the biggest percentage improvement across the 3 races & RRR runners came out on top here too. The well-deserved winner was Ronnie Garrod, who was starting out on the road to recovery from illness back in April; by this final race he was faster by 2mins 59secs, a huge 12.6% improvement. Not far behind was June Allingan, who picked up another FV70 award after running 30:22 in the final race, her quickest by 12.1%. Nick Mallon won 3rd prize with another big improvement of 11.6%, finishing with a speedy 22:16.


Others who completed the full series were Angela Rogowskyj (1st FV50 with an average time of 35:02), Karen Stuttard (2nd FV45, average 29:56), Anne Jones (1st FV55, 29:19), Stephen Jones (3rd V60, 26:04), Ben Ruscillo (25:30), Stephen Rogowskyj (2nd V55, 23:31), Martin Jones (23:29), Paul Cooke (23:28), Simon Lake (1st V55, 22:55), Garry Bower (1st V45, 22:16), Adrian Marshall (21:51), Bob Marsden (20:52), Bryan Lawton (2nd V50, 20:43), Matt Kershaw (20:28), Michael Fleming (19:20) & me (1st V50, 19:27). Well done all!


All the other RRR finishers in the final race: Jillian Heywood (3rd FV45, 29:11), Margaret Bluer (3rd FV55, 25:37), Adrian Bowcock (25:03), Diane Allingan (2nd FV55, 24:48), Simon Howard (23:52, crazily racing in the middle of marathons on successive weekends; we had a debate about whether he was ‘recovering’ or ‘tapering’, when clearly he was doing neither), John Higgins (3rd V60, 21:38), Ronnie Quinn (2nd V60, 21:29), Michael Wildbore (20:53), Mark Brynes (20:42), Matt Kilburn (2nd V45, 20:24), Elliot Stone (20:07), Ian Dale (1st V50, 19:16) & Owen Flage (19:03).


So that’s it for Littleborough for another year. If you’ve enjoyed testing yourself over this series you might want to have a look at John’s Todmorden Park summer series – 4 fortnightly 5K races (over 5 laps!) starting on Thursday 23rd June. It's a potential PB course, although I'm yet to prove it!  [David Emanuel]

BRATHAY WINDERMERE MARATHON – 22nd MAY 2016

This is starting to get a little bit annoying. In my previous marathon, at Chester last October, I had a fight with a speed bump at 9.5 miles from which the traffic-calming device emerged a clear winner. This time I managed to get a mile further before finding myself on the floor after another heavy fall, which I suppose is some sort of progress. No speed bumps to blame this time however - I did think about claiming that an invisible Lakeland rabbit ran across my path, but I have no evidence that this actually happened. So no idea how I managed to trip on a completely flat road, with no other runners near me, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as a tactic for anyone planning to run a marathon.


Still, nothing to do but pick myself up & carry on chasing the two runners I’d been trying to catch for a few miles. In the 2nd half of the race after Newby Bridge, where the course turns to head on an undulating route up the eastern side of the lake towards Ambleside, there’s very little tree cover & the temperature started to creep up. I managed to steadily pick off runners who seemed to be struggling in the heat more than I was (surprisingly only one person passed me in the whole race, charging by at about 14 miles). I started to stiffen up & slow down in the last 3-4 miles, which may have been the (delayed) effect of the fall, or just what you would expect for an old man trying to run 26.2 miles.


The final, tortuous climb up the drive to Brathay Hall was as painful as ever & I crossed the line in a slightly disappointing 3:13:14, nearly 7 minutes slower than last year. However this was still good enough for 22nd place & I collected a nice little trophy as 2nd V50 – so either the field was quite a lot weaker or the conditions were more challenging than I thought.


After the excitement of having 4 other RRRs for company at Windermere last year, normal service was resumed with me the sole club representative. Might be worth mentioning that there is now a half marathon on offer – so if you fancy experiencing the delights of the ‘beautiful marathon’ but don't want to run the full distance, that might be the race for you!  [David Emanuel]

MILLTOWN 7K - 15th MAY 2016

It was a bit of a calculated risk to include two races so close together in the club championship...but the Milltown series is very popular amongst our members & there's no way we'd leave out the Ian Casey race (see report below), so there wasn't really much of a choice to make.


As if we needed to worry - this is RRR we're talking about! Only The Royton Trail in 2015 has had more club finishers than the 85 at this race. Remarkably, there were 105 members competing here or in the Ian Casey event on Thursday, with 59 running in both. What a club...


There was an excited buzz at the Lion's Den in Alexandra Park before the race, possibly as word spread that Brian Moore was actually taking part in a club race. The event attracted an impressive 312 runners on a sunny but chilly morning - cold enough for Bryan Lawton to bemoan the fact that he'd picked up a pair of socks on his way out of the house, mistaking them for his gloves. The fast downhill start meant that the 1st 2K seemed to pass very quickly - but then the climbs started & the field began to spread out. Apparently there were some idiots out on the course throwing eggs & other (harder) objects, but they must have run out by the time I got to them. Hopefully this didn't spoil anyone's enjoyment of this excellent race.


The shock news at the head of the race was that there is someone quicker than Rob James (over this distance, at least). Rob had to settle for 2nd - in a remarkably speedy 24:52 - but this was only a minor blip in our usual domination of the prize-giving ceremony. Jen Bloor (28:06) was 1st female home (an amazing 23rd overall), while we also claimed both team prizes. Rob James, Nick Cuff (26:36) & Paul Joyce (26:52) were victorious for the men, while Jen Bloor, Kirsty White (30:48) & Debbie Shaw (31:05) romped home for the women.


Paul Joyce produced this impressive run on first club run of the year & he was one of a number making their season debut, including the aforementioned Brian Moore (31:41), Candise Moore (44:29), Emma Wall (41:12), Sally Wood (41:09), Mike Bundy (39:52) & Sarah Collins (37:03). There was also a fine club debut for Chris Whiteman, who crossed the line in a time of 39:33.


To the disappointment of some there were no age-category prizes presented at this race - so I'm going to give out some 'virtual' awards instead. Congratulations to 1st FV65 Sheila Phillips (50:00), 1st FV70 June Allingan (46:26), 1st FV60 Teresa Hollins (37:05), 1st FV55 Margaret Bluer (36:45), 1st V70 Dave Phillips (34:41), 1st FV45 Val Kilburn (32:16), 1st V55 Dave Hall (29:23), 1st V45 Chris Lowe (27:03), 2nd FV60 Bernadette Ball (44:31), 2nd FV55 Susan Heaney (37:22), 2nd V60 John Higgins (31:29), 2nd V50 Ian Dale (28:29), 2nd V40 Owen Flage (27;02), 3rd SF Lisa Howarth (35:56), 3rd FV35 Natalie Fitzpatrick (32:50), 3rd V55 Bernie Cassidy (32:17), 3rd V50 Neil Brock (28:31), 3rd V45 Bernie Goodwin (28:04) & 3rd V40 Shane Reading (27:11). I surprised myself by coming home as 1st V50 (27:33), so I'll give myself an imaginary trophy too.


The many other RRR finishers: Jillian Heywood & Angela Rogowskyj (both 52:43), Mark Heaney (gently returning from injury in 50:32), Carol Robinson (47:24), Karen Stuttard (45:43), Jenny O'Callaghan (45:07), Stacey Andrew (45:01), Adrian Bowcock (44:33), Amanda Richardson (44:10), Anne Jones (42:18), Liz Phillips (42:07), Lisa Cummins (40:52), Rachael Shuttleworth (39:31), Dave Watt (39:09), Chloe Clegg (37:45), Martin Jones (37:26), Ben Ruscillo (37:02), Stephen Jones (37:01), Clare Darraugh (36:18), Nick Mallon (35:33), Stephen Rogowskyj (35:04), Ray Williams (34:35), Simon Howard (34:09), Iain Dredge (34:05),Rebecca Mercer (33:55), Rochelle Evans (33:45), Selina McLean (33:46), Michael Wildbore (33:21), Paul Cooke (33:07), Simon Lake (32:38), James Wright (33:01), Ronnie Garrod (32:47), Garry Bower (32:19), Janet Jobey (32:10), Adrian Marshall (32:02), Dave Peart (31:54), Mark Brynes (31:22), John Williamson (30:46), Matt Kilburn (30:39), Carl O'Callaghan (30:37), Stuart Hulme (30:33), Jason Keast (30:03), Lee Higginbottom (29:42), Bryan Lawton (29:41), Elliot Stone (29:34), Eamonn Nolan (29:29), Matt Kershaw (29:18), Mark Wilde (28:22), Michael Fleming (27:53), Daniel McManus (27:36), Shaun Armstrong (27:18) & Michael Harrison (27:05).


Chance for a bit of a rest now after the recent flurry of races - next up is the final Littleborough 5K on 1st June.  [David Emanuel]                         

IAN CASEY MEMORIAL COWM RESERVOIR RACE - 12th MAY 2016
I know I repeat this every year...but we have new people joining all the time & there are now many club members who never knew Ian Casey. It's now seven years since Ian, our friend & fellow RRR, collapsed & died whilst taking part in the Gloucester Marathon. Andy O'Sullivan kindly puts on this race in his memory each year & it will be always be an integral part of the club championship. Ian was one of our most enthusiastic & popular members...wonderful as our club is today, it would be so much better if Ian were still with us.

After a very slight dip in numbers last year, it's great to report that a new record 79 RRRs completed the two laps of Cowm Reservoir this time around. Apart from The Royton Trail, only the 2015 Mad Dog 10K has previously attracted more of our runners. Despite this being a Middleton Harriers club race, we still made up 56% of the field. It was also good to see many club members turning out to support, including old friends of Ian such as Bruce Whittam & Colin Green. Even Chris Nicholson hobbled up the hill in his protective boot to watch the action.      

For this event, the numbers taking part are more important than the results...but a win is a win, so many congratulations to Rob James (16:36) for another fine victory & to Kirsty White (also 1st FV40 in 20:46) for her triumph in the women's race. Kirsty was followed home by Debbie Shaw (1st FV50, 21:08) & Janet Jobey (2nd FV40, 21:12) for an excellent RRR 1-2-3. For the men, Rob Battye (2nd V40, 18:15) & Rob Fairbanks (18:19) were once again prominent at the head of the field in 7th & 8th respectively, but the 'Robs' were separated this time by Nick Cuff (5th, 17:59) & Chris Lowe (6th, 1st V40, 18:10). I could just about get away with claiming that 'nick' means the same as 'rob' (they're both stealing, after all), but Chris has managed to spoil that running gag...

Despite that, it was good to see Chris running so well in his first club race of the season. He wasn't the only one - we also saw great 1st appearances in 2016 from Lou Gilchrist (1st FV80, 33:12), Dave Watt (25:31), Debbie Fiddling (2nd FV50, 21:52), John Williamson (20:23), Dave Hall (1st V55, 20:11), Stuart Hulme (19:58), Brad Howard (19:29) & Alan Bodell (1st V50, 18:37). A warm welcome too for new member Iain Dredge (22:38), making his 1st appearance in club colours.

Bryan Lawton (who finished in 20:19) has speculated that this race produced a record haul of sub-20 minute RRR finishers - 20 of us in total (of the 1st 26 finishers), including Stuart Hulme (19:58), Richard Fiddling (3rd V45, 19:48), Elliot Stone (19:43), Eamonn Nolan (19:37), Matt Kershaw (19:28), Bernie Goodwin (2nd V45, 19:19), Michael Fleming (19:06), Owen Flage (19:00) Ian Dale (2nd V50, 18:51), Shaun Armstrong (18:42), Michael Harrison (18:32), Shane Reading (3rd V40, 18:22) & me (3rd V50, 18:55). Sadly that statistic isn't true - we had (for example) more sub-20s at the same race in 2015, which Bryan should remember as he was one of them - but it's a still a pretty impressive number.             

All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (33:45), Sheila Phillips (1st FV65, 32:09), Amanda Lane (30:52), June Allingan (1st FV70, 30:50), Sharon Dracup (30:25), Nefa Nessa (30:16), Amanda Richardson (29:56), Anne Jones (29:38), Jenny O'Callaghan (3rd FV35, 29:29), Jillian Heywood (28:37), Neil Barker (26:45 before heading off for the daunting Cape Wrath Challenge), Steve Jones (26:42), Margaret Bluer (3rd FV55, 25:30), Ben Ruscillo (25:16), Clare Darraugh (24:50), Ben Lawton (24:39), Chloe Clegg (24:23), Susan Heaney (1st FV55, 24:15), David Phillips (1st V70, 23:54), Ray Williams (23:51), Lisa Howarth (23:49), Stephen Rogowskyj (23:47), Paul Cooke (23:08), Rochelle Evans (22:59), Rebecca Mercer (2nd SF, 22:58), Damian Mercer (22:53), Simon Howard (22:47), Selina McLean (22:45), Simon Lake (3rd V55, 22:37), Bernie Cassidy (2nd V55, 22:33), Nick Mallon (22:28), Neil Farrell (22:27), James Cashin (22:19), Garry Bower (22:01), Chris Eavers (21:51), Natalie Fitzpatrick (1st FV35, 21:41), Michael Wildbore (21:35), Adrian Marshall (21:33), Ronnie Quinn (3rd V60, 21:20), John Higgins (2nd V60, 21:16), Ronnie Garrod (20:58), Mark Brynes (20:53), Alan Reynolds (20:32), Carl O'Callaghan (20:28), Rob Marsden (20:19), Lee Higginbottom (20:09), David Freer (20:07) & Matt Kilburn (20:01).   

Thanks to everyone who supported this race - a great tribute to Ian.  [David Emanuel]   

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K (RACE 2/3) – 4th MAY 2016

Regular readers of the RRR Facebook page will know that I got very excited by the fact that we won the men’s team event at Littleborough. Not because we won – that’s to be expected now at these events – but because our 1st three finishers were all called Rob.  That’s Rob James (1st in 16:18), Rob Battye (5th, 2nd V40 in 18:28) & Rob Fairbanks (6th, 18:29). I still haven’t managed to come up with a better headline than “Daylight Rob-bery”, although someone did suggest it should be “Daylight Rob-a-three”…


With all that focus on our winning team, it almost got overlooked that Rob James didn’t just win the race, he totally destroyed the field, finishing almost a minute in front of Jason Parker (Preston Harriers) & smashing the course record (which had stood at 16:31) in the process. If Rob is planning to run the final race in June, then no doubt his next target will be the big prize on offer if he can run 15:45. I wouldn’t bet against it!


As in the 1st of this series there were 60 RRR finishers, in a slightly smaller field of exactly 100, despite the much-improved conditions. I’m not sure why these races don’t attract more runners from other clubs, but of the 18 complete men’s & women’s teams listed in the results (I’m not counting ‘unattached’ as a team!) all bar one was from RRR – the 3rd-placed Rochdale Harries ladies being the exception. The women's team prize was claimed by the speedy RRR trio of Jen Bloor (1st lady & 16th overall, 19:34), Kirsty White (3rd lady, 1st FV40, 21:33) & Janet Jobey (5th lady, 2nd FV40, 22:02). Surprisingly, not one of them is called ‘Rob’…

The most notable results amongst many fine RRR age-category performances were a trio of prizes for the Phillips family, with Dave 1st V70 (24:17), Liz 1st FV35 (27:34) & Sheila 1st FV65 (33:12). Judging by Liz’s excitement when collecting her award I think it’s safe to say that this is a unique achievement & it’s difficult to imagine any other family doing the same (although the Kilburns might fancy their chances?). As you can see, Sheila & Liz went home with a bottle of wine each - Dave let the side down by choosing to take a pair of socks. 


Other winners on the night were June Allingan (1st FV70, 35:19), Emma Bower (1st FU23, 33:10), Becky Mercer (1st SF, 23:27), Simon Lake (1st V55, 22:50), Bernie Goodwin (1st V45, 19:27) & Ian Dale (1st V50, 19:02). Bernie & Ian were amongst 11 RRRs to break the 20-minute barrier including Eamonn Nolan, returning to form in 18th position (3rd V50) with an excellent time of 19:46.


All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (3rd FV50, 35:19), Amanda Lane (30:55), Sharon Dracup (2nd FV50, 30:49), Mary Freer (29:52), Amanda Richardson (29:44), Karen Stuttard (29:35), Jenny O’Callaghan (3rd FV35, breaking 30 minutes for the 1st time in 29:15), Anne Jones (29:09), Jillian Heywood (2nd FV45, 28:58), Adam Stirling (27:18), Margaret Bluer (26:45), Rachel Wood (26:16), Diane Allingan (3rd FV55, 26:14), Ben Ruscillo (25:37), Stephen Jones (25:30), Clare Darraugh (25:12), Gary Smith (24:53), Sue Heaney (2nd FV55, 24:42), Ben Lawton (2nd U23, 24:27), Lisa Howarth (2nd SF, 24:12), Martin Jones (23:43), Damian Mercer (23:28), Stephen Rogowskyj (2nd V55, 23:26), Nick Mallon (23:23), Selina McLean (23:20), Simon Howard (23:13), Rochelle Evans (23:06), Paul Cooke (22:48), Michael Wildbore (22:20), Garry Bower (22:13), Adrian Marshall (21:37), Ronnie Garrod (21:36 – more than 2 minutes quicker than the 1st race in the series), Jason Keast (20:59), Carl O’Callaghan (20:39), Alan Reynolds (20:38), Bob Marsden (20:37), Bryan Lawton (20:32), Lee Higginbottom (20:28), Matt Kershaw (20:20), David Freer (3rd V45, 20:10), Michael Fleming (19:20), Shaun Armstrong (8th overall, 18:38), Shane Reading (7th, 3rd V40, 18:31) & me (2nd V50, 19:17).

 

Next up is another 5K, at Whitworth on 12th May. This is a big race in the club calendar as it is held in memory of the late Ian Casey, a much-loved former RRR.  [David Emanuel]

RAY SHAW & JUNE ALLINGAN TRAIL 5K RACE - 19th APRIL 2016
After the success of last September's Bryan Lawton Brownhouse Reservoir Race, it was no surprise to find Andy O'Sullivan naming another race after more RRR stalwarts - in this case our current & original presidents. Once again Andy was rewarded with a sizeable RRR turnout (60 of 103 finishers), while all runners again enjoyed a warm & sunny evening - possibly the 1st of 2016?

The improved weather meant that the trail up to Brownhouse Reservoir was considerably less boggy than it had reportedly been earlier in the week, although a swamp at the bottom of the hill meant a change to the finish, moved to the road near the start. All of which resulted in some fast times & many impressive RRR performances.   

June Allingan did of course compete in her own race & was rewarded with a 1st FV70 finish in 33:41, before taking on the role of presenting the (many) prizes. Amongst the recipients were race winner Rob James (well clear of the field in 16:12 in his 1st club race of the season) & ladies winner Kirsty White (20:53). In fact we provided a remarkable 12 of the 1st 15 to cross the line, with Rob followed home by Shane Reading (supposedly 'taking it easy' ahead of the London Marathon, 4th overall & 2nd V40 in 17:41), Nick Cuff (5th, 17:59), Robert Fairbanks (7th, 18:05), Shaun Armstrong (8th, 18:09), Ian Dale (9th, 1st V50, 18:12), Michael Harrison (10th, 18:27), Michael Fleming (11th in 18:32, a great performance on his club debut), Owen Flage (12th, 18:45), Neil Brock (13th, 2nd V50, 18:59), Dave Freer (14th, 19:06) & Lee Higginbottom (15th, 19:25).

Lisa Cummins (3rd FV45, 26:24) was another RRR making her long-awaited club championship debut, having already competed in the RRR Cup, while there were 1st appearances of the season for Jillian Heywood (29:31), Margaret Bluer (1st FV55, 26:11), Dave Phillips (1st V70, 24:20), Ray Williams (23:47) & Eamonn Nolan (21:40 in his 50th club race).

The age categories were once again dominated by RRR members, with Sheila Phillips 1st FV65 in 37:05 (although Andy O'Sullivan shockingly tried to award her a FV70 prize), Sharon Dracup 1st FV50 (29:48), Lisa Howarth 1st SF (24:27), Natalie Fitzpatrick 1st FV35 (21:56), Val Kilburn 1st FV45 (21:09), John Higgins 1st V60 (20:45), Bernadette Ball 2nd FV60 (30:21), Mary Freer 2nd FV35 (30:02), Anne Jones 2nd FV55 (28:56), George Meynell 2nd V70 (25:20), Chloe Clegg 2nd SF (24:47), Helen Radcliffe 2nd FV40 (23:43), Ronnie Quinn 2nd V60 (21:07), Angela Rogowskyj 3rd FV50 (37:06), Rachael Shuttleworth 3rd SF (25:08), Clare Darraugh 3rd FV40 (24:06), Steve Shaw 3rd V55 (22:08) & Matt Kilburn 3rd V45 (19:53). I managed to sneak home as 3rd V50 (19:47), just ahead of Bryan Lawton (19:55). Val & Natalie were also the 2nd & 3rd ladies to finish, behind Kirsty. If there had been a team prize it would have been theirs!

All the other RRR finishers: Carol Robinson (34:40), Eloise Bartlett (32:46), Amanda Lane (32:44), Brian Swindells (31:38), Nefa Nessa (29:10), Adrian Bowcock (25:10), Stephen Jones (24:34), James Wright (24:01), Paul Cooke (23:20), Stephen Rogowskyj (23:16), Nick Mallon (23:12), James Cashin (23:00), Damian Mercer (22:53), Simon Howard (22:42), Adrian Marshall (21:36), Garry Bower (21:31), Jason Keast (20:26), Rob Marsden (20:21), Elliot Stone (finishing like a train in 19:46) & Matt Kershaw (19:40).

Most runners seemed to agree that the race was slightly short of a 'true' 5K. Fortunately that doesn't have the same implications as a short marathon...  [David Emanuel]            

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K (RACE 1/3) - 6th APRIL 2016

It's been a while since I've written a stat-loaded race report - I'm trying to wean myself off them - but I'm afraid on this occasion I really can't resist. For example, how can I not mention the fact that RRR provided 60 of the 106 finishers on a cold & wet Wednesday night - that's 57% of the field. Or that the official team results show 14 men's teams & 6 ladies teams, of which only Barlick Fell Runners (5th men's team) & Halifax Harriers (9th) were not RRR. Yes, you read that right - we provided ALL of the ladies teams & 18 of the 20 completed teams overall. What a club.

What's particularly pleasing is that it's not just the same familiar names appearing from earlier races this season (nice as it is to see them!). Four new members made impressive club championship debuts in this race - welcome aboard Nick Mallon (25:12), Helen Radcliffe (24:22), Rob Marsden (21:10) & Nick Cuff (18:17). Nick Cuff's time was good enough for 8th place overall & made him the 1st Royton athlete home. I'm sure there's more to come from Nick when he's fully recovered from the injury which delayed his 1st club race. Incidentally, this is the 1st time that Shane Reading (10th overall, 2nd V40, 18:32) has not been the 1st RRR to cross the line in a club race this season - although he does still have the two remaining races in this 5K series to put that right...

In addition to the debutants, a number of club members were making their 1st appearance of the season at Littleborough, including June Allingan (34:32) & Barry Greaves (23:04) picking up prizes as 1st FV70 & 1st V55 respectively. It was also great to welcome back Jenny O'Callaghan (31:03), Rachael Shuttleworth (25:45), Paul Cooke (23:53), James Cashin (23:09), Bernie Cassidy (a medical miracle, or so he told me, 3rd V55 in 23:06), Natalie Fitzpatrick (2nd FV35, 22:34), John Higgins (3rd V60, 22:03), Matt Kershaw (21:19) & Rob Battye (15th overall in 19:00). Ronnie Garrod wasn't running his 1st race of the season but it was good to see him running again after illness & finishing in a very decent 23:47.

The age category winners didn't stop with June & Barry! Emma Bower (30:53) was 1st under 23 female, Bernie Ball (30:36) 1st FV60, Anne Jones (30:04) 1st FV55, George Meynell (25:01) 1st V70, Becky Mercer (24:18) 1st SF, Val Kilburn (21:48) 1st FV45, Debbie Shaw (21:46) 1st FV50, Ronnie Quinn (21:34) 1st V60, Bernie Goodwin (19:32) 1st V45 & I was 1st V50 in 19:20. With most of the winners having left for home before the presentation it was left to Garry Bower (22:29) to collect an enormous pile of prizes which he'll no doubt be distributing over the next few weeks. Add a number of 'podium finishes' - Simon Lake (23:04, 2nd V55), Janet Jobey (22:12, 2nd FV40), Dave Freer (20:16, 2nd V45), Sharon Dracup (32:14, 3rd FV50), Rochelle Evans (23:57, 3rd FV40) & Bryan Lawton (20:58, 3rd V50) - & I think we can consider this a pretty successful evening. So many awards were coming our way that Elliot Stone (20:25) was even announced as winner of the ladies race, which didn't cause any amusement whatsoever...

All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (35:06), Mary Freer (30:52), Amanda Lane (30:23), Karen Stuttard (30:10), Eloise Bartlett (29:27), Stephen Jones (26:32), Ben Ruscillo (25:22), Ben Lawton (25:14), Adrian Bowcock (24:57), Adam Stirling (24:12), Stephen Rogowskyj (23:59), Martin Jones (23:48), Gary Smith (23:25), Damian Mercer (23:14), Chris Eavers (23:03), Adrian Marshall (22:24), Andy Hayhurst (21:57), Jason Keast (21:31), Mark Brynes (21:30), Matt Kilburn (20:47), Lee Higginbottom (20:19), Owen Flage (19:17), Mike Harrison (19:09), Robert Fairbanks (18:50) & Shaun Armstrong (18:44).

Next up it's another short race, perfect for the speed merchants - the Ray Shaw & June Allingan Trail 5K(ish) on 19th April. See you there!  [David Emanuel]                          

RED ROSE ULTRA - 20th MARCH 2016

After many weeks of hard training, the controversially-titled Red Rose Ultra (which runs through parts of Yorkshire, according to diehards) finally arrived. Most of the training had been done wading through deep mud, some snow & torrential downpours. Many would have quit but it was perfect kit preparation.


Amazingly, Sunday morning arrived with almost perfect running conditions at the start as myself, John Sweeney, Jillian Heywood & Colin Green left Castleshaw at 7.30. It was quite tricky judging what to wear & after setting off with base layer, running top & waterproof coat, by the first checkpoint at the quarry in Shaw I was peeling layers off as I was far too warm, despite it still being before 8am in the morning. The route then continued down to Dunwood Park, including the steep steps to the top of the park, before cutting across to the top of High Crompton where Clare Darraugh met up with me & joined me for the next leg to the bottom of Tandle Hill. During this journey I am positive she mentioned running the race next year but this seems to have been denied later (watch this space!). The route then leaves Tandle Hill on a very familiar route before cutting down to Chadderton Hall Park. Fantastic support was evident again, as Samantha Davis was already on her second set of cheerleading duties. Her sterling efforts deserve a finishing medal as she drove round the whole route with all our spare kit & spare food, with her satnav apparently taking her to parts of Oldham she never knew existed.


The route next moves onto the canal, where Angela Rogowskyj was supporting runners. This was to be a feature of the day, with unbelievable support throughout the route. The race continues along the canal all the way to Failsworth. Along this route Garry Bower & his running crew passed me en route to run with Jillian for a stretch. Personally I found this stage of the race rather drab, as I got bored running along the canal. Maybe mentioning this to Mary Freer a week before she runs the Canalathon, as she marshaled at Morrisons looking after a superb feed station, wasn’t my wisest move. After leaving the canal, the least scenic part of the race takes you through the delightful back streets of Failsworth. The route then meanders to the halfway point at Daisy Nook. I was delighted to have completed this part in about 4 hours, but this is where an ultra can become a battle of mind over matter. Having recce'd the whole route in different length runs, I knew that the second half was much tougher & was expecting to be out for at least another 6 hours. The race was well supported at checkpoints but with the weather being much warmer than anticipated, taking half a litre of water was proving fruitless as within 4-5 miles you were out of fluid. I was determined to take as few walk breaks as possible but decided to take a short walk through Daisy Nook, only to be shouted at by Nefa to get running. Revenge will be planned carefully!


Moving up through Park Bridge the advantage of recce runs proved such an advantage, as there is quite a tricky navigation where I found a runner saying he was giving up, as he hadn’t a clue where he was. This wasn’t the first set of runners myself or John navigated round sections of the course. In fact we should get cheaper entry next year for reducing the work of the Oldham Mountain Rescue team in the latter part of the race. The next part of the route was the climb towards Hartshead Pike, which is quite gruelling as it just seems to continuously climb, but at least the ground was much drier than on recces where it just seemed like you were wading through mud. In fact at one point, just before the main road, there was such a big landslide over winter that you needed pallets to provide a path, but at least they weren’t sliding down the hill like they were a couple of months ago. The final climb up to Hartshead Pike gives you a great vista of Saddleworth, although this can be a horror show as you remember that most of the big hills in front of you need running up in the latter part of the race. From Hartshead Pike there is quite a meandering route, cutting through fields & back onto the canal, before arriving at the boundary of Greenfield & Mossley. There is then another lung-busting climb which takes you out above Dovestones Reservoir, very familiar ground for RRR runners as you come out on the Dovestone Diamond route. So just bear in mind next time you think how tough that race is - we had already got close on 30 miles in our legs climbing up towards the forest.


Possibly as a result of this tiredness there is now a tree containing traces of mine & John’s blood, as we both slipped avoiding one tree into another. Now I know we had trained together but how on earth do we run separately & seem to have an injury caused by the same tree? John cut his head & I managed to gain a nasty cut just above my eye. Luckily, being a sensible ultra runner (that sounds good!), I was carrying a first aid kit. Being such a lovely sunny day the run around Dovestones became a game of dodge the dog & child although by this point my legs were starting to feel the miles. After running (or shuffling) around the reservoir you reach the final checkpoint & Binn Green steps. Now those steps have always seemed quite steep & challenging, but at 33 miles pain isn’t the word. I did manage a grimace at the top for a photo & tried to make it look like a smile!


The next stage is the tough climb over Pots & Pans, which on recce runs had been so slippy it wasn’t a section I was looking forward to it. On the final night recce it took myself & John over 2 hours for the final 7 miles & that was with fresh legs. Luckily the weather in the week before the race had been decent, so the muddy track before the climb was considerably drier. Despite having no intention of running this section I was really pleased that I was managing to power-walk the hills. I was still navigating a few runners who didn’t know the route & in fact it was only at the end that I realised I had navigated the last 20 miles without a map as I’d forgotten to pick them up at checkpoints!


Upon reaching Pots & Pans you then have to drop back down the valley & by this point the downhills were causing a lot more pain than uphills - I felt like my quads & glutes were on fire. The route cuts through a few fields before eventually dropping into Diggle & there was excellent RRR support at Diggle Hotel. Colin was so quick that he was sat at Diggle Hotel having completed the race. Comments were made that I looked fairly fresh but my legs certainly disagreed with that. I did have mad plans to grab a cider here but just decided to crack on for the climb up Standedge. After reaching the top, all you have to do is drag your feet down the hills back to Castleshaw but my quads were misbehaving by this point, so it was more of a shuffle than a run.


Finally, I reached Castleshaw where John & Samantha were there to cheer me home. Jillian, supported by former RRR Mark Oliver throughout the route (or maybe the other way round), also finished her first ultra, vowing to never to do another one - although this comment was retracted days later when she wanted to know what crazy run is next. Completing this ultra marathon was an amazing triumph for her after injuring her knee only 3 weeks before the event during our final training weekend.


The whole event was an amazing experience & though obviously extremely tough I feel it is a matter of mind over matter. There will be dark moments questioning your sanity (mine were actually on the canal where it was flat!) but you learn so much about yourself. Support during the event was unbelievable, with runners supporting each other, while the number of RRR supporters was incredible. Plenty of them ran parts of the route with us or just kept appearing in various places to cheer us on or feed us. I’m not going to name everybody, as I’ll miss somebody out, but it means so much that people support in this way & shows the true spirit of the club. It was a day for us to be proud of completing our first ultras (myself, Jillian & John) but also to be proud of everybody. I would thoroughly recommend doing this event but if not I’ll see you round the route next year handing out food & cheering the mad but crazy ultra runners.  [Simon Howard]

TRIMPELL 20 - 20th MARCH 2016

A change of venue (due to "serious issues with the main race HQ") means the Trimpell 20 has little to do with Trimpell any more. However, reassured by the promise of a "very similar" route which would be "as flat as the original" (with the exception of a hill at the end), a large group of RRRs set off for Lancaster on a perfect morning for running. The really tough guys may have been staying at home to take on the Oldham Way, but for those planning a Spring marathon this race is generally seen as the perfect preparation.

Registration was inside Lancaster Castle - the 1st time I've ever collected my race number from a prison cell - but we were initially delayed from entering by a religious procession which Brian Moore quickly & astutely identified as "something to do with Easter". However most runners weren't thinking about JC on the cross, as they were too busy getting cross about the WCs, or lack of them (see what I did there? Can't tell you how pleased I am with that last sentence).

The new start was a little way off near the Giant Axe playing field, where we all gathered whilst someone said something unintelligible through a megaphone. The pre-race e-mails indicated that "the race start will be quite narrow...we will walk you round to the start line", but this didn't seem to happen. By the time we realised that people had set off along the very narrow path most of us were near the back of the pack, with limited opportunity for overtaking resulting in a very slow start - I ran my 1st mile in 8:30, which rather scuppered my pacing plan but did mean that I was overtaking other runners throughout the remaining 19 miles.

Once we were out onto the road things got much better & the course seemed very similar to previous years, with several loops out & back into Lancaster. The big difference came at the finish, with a steep road climb up to the castle followed by a further sharp incline on cobbles into the courtyard to cross the line. A real sting in the tail!

Finishing positions & times aren't really relevant for this event, as everyone has their own pre-marathon strategy & some were pacing others through the run. Most RRRs I spoke to at the finish seemed pretty happy that they'd achieved their objectives - even Selina McLean, who after completing her longest ever run "definitely know I am never doing a marathon!", which we will remind her of when she does. For the record here are those times in full: Paul Leech (4:15:52), Wendy Leech (4:15:50), Stacey Andrew (3:35:34), Chris Prince (3:25:12), Eileen Ingham (3:22:33), Rachel Wood (3:19:49), Martin Jones (3:16:32), Annabella Gloster (3:10:45), Paul Craddock (3:10:00), Rebecca Mercer (2:58:23), Selina McLean (2:56:50), Neil Brock (2:53:50), James Wright (2:49:18), David Freer (2:44:13), Brian Moore (2:41:06), Carl O'Callaghan (2:40:53), Robert Fairbanks (2:22:07), me (2:21:34) & Daniel McManus (2:21:07).

The highlight of the day came after the finish, when Becky Mercer was presented with a 'friendliest runner' award, as voted by the race marshals. Becky received a bottle of wine & the biggest trophy you've ever seen. Makes you wonder what the race winner got...  [David Emanuel] 

DENTDALE RUN - 12th MARCH 2016

A coach packed to the rafters (including a number of supporters & ace photographers), perfect running weather, a record-equalling number of RRR finishers ("I couldn't believe how many runners from Royton there were! You just seemed to keep coming," said Scott Thornley, a very happy race director) & a clean sweep of the team prizes. We've had some memorable trips to Dent over the years & this must rank up there with the best of them.

Those team prizes were particularly impressive, given the number of top RRRs who weren't present. I probably use the expression 'strength in depth' a bit too often but it's never been more appropriate. Debbie Shaw (2nd FV45 in 1:49:33) led the women's team home, ably supported by Val Kilburn (4th FV45, 1:52:26) & Julie Greenwood (7th FV45, 1:55:42 in her 1st club race since 2014), while team captain Shane Reading (13th overall, 7th V40, 1:32:59) was again the 1st RRR across the line, with Dave Peart (15th, 9th V40, 1:33:23) & me (22nd, 6th V50, 1:34:47) making up the winning team. Our leading finishers are also quite an advert for racing regularly - this was Debbie's 156th club race & Shane's 51st in a row!

When it came to the individual age category prizes, this was a race for our 'unsung heroes'. Eileen Ingham - like Julie running a championship race for the 1st time since 2014 - claimed the FV65 prize in 2:28:08 despite (according to Facebook) having time to stop for selfies, while George Meynell (2:00:06) claimed a great victory in the V70 race.

One of the RRRs tackling Dentdale for the 1st time was David Crewe, who chose this challenging course to make his club championship debut & finished in a fine 1:56:55. David had a race-long battle with Garry Bower (1:57:01) who, by contrast, was moving up the Roll of Honour with his 25th race for the club.

Amanda Lane (2:52:14) crossed the line hand-in-hand with Jo Mitchell (2:52:15) & Stacey Andrew (2:52:17) & said afterwards, "It was great to be part of RRR. It was never about time but about the hills & distance, Chuffed I got round - dare I say I think Dentdale might be my favourite run!" Hopefully this might encourage a few more to make the trip next year, especially if they introduce an alternative 7-miler.

The one element of controversy in the race came when the (provisional) results were published. These revealed that Neil Brock's timing chip apparently finished around 6 minutes ahead of him. A computer error, or did he remove it & attach it to an escaped alpaca, or a homing pigeon he'd been carrying for the purpose? The issue has been raised with the race organisers, but fortunately  we have enough photographic evidence (plus Neil's own watch) to assign an estimated finish time of 1:42:45. And to confirm that no alpacas were involved...       

All the other RRR finishers: Paul Leech (2:41:48), Wendy Leech (2:41:47), Nefa Nessa (2:37:05), Anne Jones (2:30:43), Neil Barker (2:24:48), Stephen Jones (2:24:46), Adrian Bowcock (2:21:19), Martin Jones (2:19:09), Clare Darraugh (2:17:48), Stuart Brown (2:15:22 less than a month ahead of the daunting Marathon des Sables), Sue Heaney (2:11:24), Paul Craddock (2:11:19), Chris Prince (2:09:41), Simon Howard (2:09:09 as he gets ready for the Red Rose Ultra on 20th March), Tony Kane (2:07:09), Steve Shaw (2:05:58), John Sweeney (1:59:28 also in final preparations for the Red Rose Ultra), James Wright (1:58:13), Neil Farrell (1:55:42), Jason Keast (1:53:33), Chris Eavers (4th V60, 1:51:55), Andy Hayhurst (1:50:54), Andy Schofield (1:50:22), Lee Higginbottom (1:47:47), Carl O'Callaghan (1:47:13), Bryan Lawton (1:46:58), Matt Kilburn (1:46:29), Rob Fairbanks (1:41:11), Shaun Armstrong (1:38:41), Mark Wilde (1:37:46), Bernie Goodwin (1:37:23) & Ian Dale (1:36:54).

Sadly (for me), that's the last of the long-distance club races for a while - it's all 5Ks & 7Ks until June!  [David Emanuel]     

OULTON PARK HALF MARATHON - 28th FEBRUARY 2016

Well I think it's fair to say there was a bit of a mixed reaction to this race! Having asked for feedback on Facebook, the positive comments seem to (just about) outweigh the negative - but then we also have to bear in mind that numbers were (in the context of recent RRR history) pretty low. I'm not sure it was solely due to the prospect of a 6-lap half marathon, but the 30 RRR finishers here was the lowest for a club race since the Congleton Half in 2014. The Great North West Half Marathon, for all the criticism it tended to receive, still attracted 50 RRRs last year (some of whom, I suspect, still haven't stopped shivering).

Still, one thing that a multi-lap race did was allow our runners to do what they do best: "You guys were so friendly and supportive even to us non club members," said Sarah Matthews (one of the 'plodders at the back', in her own words) in a post on our Facebook page. We may have been fewer in number than usual, but I think we still made an impression!

Another thing that RRRs do pretty well is beat their previous best race times. There were PBs here for Chris Nicholson (1:58:14), Selina McLean (1:45:43), Ronnie Quinn (1:43:18), Carl O'Callaghan (1:42:37 despite carrying a knee injury), Lee Higginbottom (1:40:54), Jen Bloor (1:28:51 for a fantastic 2nd place finish in the ladies race) & Shane Reading (1:22:39) - plus no doubt a few others I'm not aware of!

Shane's performance really was something special. Not only was he by some distance the 1st RRR home (I'm not counting Bryan Lawton, since he was on the lead bike & had an unfair advantage), but Shane's new PB was good enough for 12th place overall & 3rd V40. Quite a way to mark his 50th consecutive club championship race, a remarkable record-breaking run which started way back in 2013. If he continues the sequence then Shane is set to become the next member of the 100 Club at the Mossley 10K in July - I can't think of anyone who deserves it more.

Jen Bloor's 2nd place was just one of several impressive podium finishes for RRR women. Kirsty White (1:37:20) & Debbie Shaw (1:39:02) picked up trophies for winning the FV40 & FV50 races respectively, Teresa Hollins (2:01:22) was 1st FV60 & Janet Jobey (1:41:37) an excellent 3rd FV40. To add to the celebrations Jen, Kirsty & Debbie also won the ladies team prize. The men chipped in a little too - in addition to Shane's V40 bronze we had Chris Eavers (1:39:59) 3rd in the V60s, Bernie Goodwin (1:26:54) 3rd V45 & I managed to sneak into 2nd in the V50s with a 1:24:35.    

All the other RRR finishers: Niparun Nessa (2:27:49), Adrian Bowcock (2:04:03), Vikki Smith (1:51:16), Garry Bower (1:49:27), James Wright (1:47:38), Stewart Jones (2nd best-ever half marathon time of 1:46:03), Rochelle Evans (1:45:05), Andy Hayhurst (1:41:49), Neil Farrell (1:40:00), David Freer (1:38:21), Richard Fiddling (1:32:10), Neil Brock (1:28:21), Ian Dale (1:27:53), Dave Peart (1:27:34), Danny McManus (1:26:54) & Robert Fairbanks (1:26:19).

It remains to be seen whether Oulton Park will remain in the club championship calendar next year - but even if it doesn't, I suspect that some of us might return to give it another go. After all, we know the circuit pretty well now...  [David Emanuel] 

RHYL 10 - 21st FEBRUARY 2016

God damn. No, that isn’t a condemnation of what turned out to be a surprisingly good little race. It alludes to the weather conditions, which were very similar to this year’s first club race but with the wind in the exact opposite direction of Mad Dog!


10 mile races are few & far between (as discovered when trying to find alternatives to the defunct Great Warford race), but the Rhyl 10 is well-established. As with most ‘along the prom’ type races, the view of the sea isn’t really inspiring once the novelty has worn off & Rhyl has little to offer in terms of tourist attractions when running 10 miles up & down the prom – although I’m sure there is lots to see & do if you are on holiday here.


As is customary for the 3rd Sunday in February, gale force winds & freezing rain were forecast. Fortunately I have a direct line to the weather fairies & persuaded them to take the inclement conditions back up the coast to Blackpool where they belong. Rhyl's resultant blue sky & 13 degrees were marred only slightly by the breezy conditions. At Southport all the hard work was in the first half of the race, with the turnaround point forcing the wind onto the backs of the athlete – perfect for the negative-split style of racing - but it seems someone built Rhyl facing the wrong way. That meant a nice easy wind-assisted 5 miles followed by a gruelling test of stamina on the way back as the breeze strengthened significantly in the early afternoon.


The course is a straightforward ‘out & back’ with a couple of gently sloping ramps (certainly nothing to inconvenience most runners) & a ‘loop’ that acts as a turnaround, but there are a few narrow sections where the quicker runners came hurtling back towards the startled slower ones - if there were overtakers on both sides of the path, there would be the potential for a pile of bodies! The marshals were only at ‘key points’ such as road crossings, quiet cul-de-sacs & car park entrances, plus a section with a couple of steps up/down onto the prom pathway. The rest of the course was marked with a mix of orange spray on the paths & signs. Did I mention the breeze? Signs don’t fare well in gale-force winds & I almost ran off course at a Y-shaped path where the sign was pointing to a small sand dune. I stuck to the ‘main path’ & was rewarded with the sight of the next runner off in the distance as we straightened out.


On a good day, this race has great potential for a fast time. When the wind is whipping up stinging sand & throwing it in your direction, it’s not quite so quick! The finish is up a slight slope & around a sweeping bend down the other side. If you have anything left in the tank you can grab half a dozen places on the ‘sprint’. Announcer mats mean that you get a shout-out as you cross the line & you are then filtered through the funnel to grab some water & a little snack pack. Avoiding the inevitable race leaflet distributors you then pick up your T-shirt & medal, conveniently located next to the baggage area. The T-shirts are standard cotton but quite decent. You can pre-order a tech shirt (in addition to the standard one) for a small extra charge or buy one on the day, subject to availability.


All in all a good little race - appreciated all the more having seen social media coverage of the alternative in Blackpool!  [Simon Lake - 1st RRR finisher!]

SOUTH EAST LANCS X-COUNTRY (BOGGART HOLE) – 20th FEBRUARY 2016

Well that was quite a way to end the cross-country season! Boggart Hole is always a tough course, but I can't remember it ever being as bad as this. Becky Mercer (36th of 60 in the ladies race) & Adam Stirling (87th of 98 senior men) both bravely chose this day of all days to run their first South East Lancs race. I hope the experience won't put them off for good...

We went into this final race with a chance of unprecedented top-three finishes in several of the SEL team competitions, but it was going to take something special to achieve them. Fortunately that's exactly what our fantastic teams delivered!

In the ladies race, excellent performances from Jen Bloor (7th overall, despite running a flying PB at Oldham parkrun just a few hours earlier for RRR Cup victory) & team captain Kirsty White (9th, 2nd FV40) set things up nicely - but we needed a strong 3rd finisher to make those performances count. Step forward Selina McLean. In only her 2nd-ever cross-country race & wearing much of the mud from the course after an early fall, Selina crossed the line in an incredible 20th place (5th FV40) to ensure 2nd place in the ladies team competition on the day. This provided sufficient points to beat Burnden Road Runners to 2nd in the series overall. To put this performance into context, the RRR trio finished just 10 points behind the all-conquering East Cheshire Harriers in this race - only at Leigh in November, when Jen, Kirsty & Jane Augsburger got within 6 points, has the gap been smaller.

Fine support was provided by Clare Darraugh (just behind Becky in 37th, 10th FV40) & Margaret Bluer (43rd, 3rd FV55). This was Margaret's 3rd race in the series & her best finish to date, putting her 4th in the overall series FV55 category. Kirsty, meanwhile, had done exactly what she needed to secure a marvellous 2nd place in the FV40 competition behind Radcliffe's Fiona Lynch.

So quite a performance for the men to live up to! With 6 to count in the team event & Danny McManus injured (although still present cheering us on), we also needed runners to step up to the plate. Shane Reading (21st, 4th V40), Rob Fairbanks (25th) & Neil Brock (39th, 7th V50) were each as consistent as ever, Ian Dale (32nd, 5th V50) ran superbly in his 1st cross-country race of the winter & Lee Higginbottom (33rd) produced his best performance of the series by far. With me (42nd, 8th V50) as 6th counter, pushed all the way by Jason Keast (46th, 9th V45), that made us 3rd team on the day & joint 2nd for the series. This really is reward for our strength-in-depth as a team - over the series we've had 10 RRRs contributing to our points totals (the 6 here plus Danny, Nick Cuff, Mo Butt & Dave Peart), with the gap between our 1st & 6th finishers never more than 28 places (21st - 46th at Leigh & Tandle Hills, 22nd - 50th at Heaton Park & 21st - 42nd at Boggart Hole). As an added bonus we also finished 2nd in the series V50 competition (behind East Cheshire Harriers again, although we did beat them in winning the V50 category race at Boggart Hole)  

The performances by Shane & Jason were good enough to give them 3rd & 4th places in the V40 & V45 series respectively. Barry Greaves, next home in 53rd (2nd V55), also placed an excellent 3rd in the V55s. Also completing (surviving?) the Boggart Hole experience were Paul Craddock (92nd, 9th V40) & Kevin Kennedy (95th, 19th V45). Only an injured ankle, which kept Kevin out of the Tandle Hills race, stopped him being the only RRR to complete all 8 cross-country races over the winter - but he can be deservedly proud of the 7 that he did take part in.

So the spikes can now be put away (once they've been thoroughly cleaned, obviously) until we return to cross-country in October. Hopefully a few more people have now got a taste for these events & we'll be challenging for honours once again!  [David Emanuel]
MAD DOG 10K - 7th FEBRUARY 2016
To say it was blowing a gale is a bit of an understatement. The only Mad Dog we were likely to see was Toto, flying past with Dorothy on the way to Oz. This was the ultimate 'race of two halves', with a fierce headwind for the outward 5K blowing us back home after the turn. Unfortunately the effort required to get to halfway had a real impact on everyone's race times.

OK, I confess...that paragraph is a direct lift from my race report on Mad Dog 2014, still available on this very website (I quite like the Wizard of Oz reference; seems I was much wittier back then). Then again, if the gods are going to give us the same nasty conditions every other year, then I  think it's only fair that I should get to write the same report too.

Having said that, I don't think conditions were quite as bad this year. For example, although Shane Reading has undoubtedly improved a lot since 2014, I don't think he's quite 1min 24secs quicker over 10K. That's not to say this wasn't a superb run from our men's captain - a time of 38:37 gave him 15th place overall (8th V40) & the honour of being the 1st RRR to cross the line.

Behind Shane came 69 more brave RRRs, all ignoring the weather to kick-off their club championship season. Not as many as in the last couple of years, but still pretty impressive. Amongst that number were 4 new members making fine debuts in club colours - Chloe Clegg (52:52), Brian Swindells (1:01:04), Bernie Ball (1:02:45) & Sharon Dracup (1:09:23). Rest assured , race conditions aren't always like this...sometimes it gets really bad. We also had very welcome returns for Becki Robinson (8th SF, 42:23), Janet Jobey (8th FV35, 46:10) & Zoe McMunn (1:16:35) in their 1st club races since last summer, while Diana Hand (1:04:07) hadn't competed since this same race in 2015. In contrast, this was the last race as an RRR for Mo Butt (40:27) before he moves to pastures new. I've enjoyed some good battles with Mo over the last couple of years & will always have the memory of watching him trying (& failing) to peel a banana with frozen fingers after last year's Great North West Half Marathon. I'm sure he'll go on to achieve great things with his new club, although I'm sure their colours won't suit him... 

Almost a minute ahead of Mo was Jen Bloor, continuing where she left off last season with an excellent 39:28 - good enough not only for 3rd prize in the women's race but also 40th position overall & with just 7 other RRRs ahead of her. Also breaking the 40-minute barrier were Ian Dale (5th V50, 39:38), Neil Brock (4th V50, 39:27), Mike Harrison (39:21), Rob Fairbanks (39:14), Owen Flage (39:06), Danny McManus (8th SM, 38:37) & me (2nd V50, 38:45).                      

All the other RRR finishers: Angela Rogowskyj (1:11:16), Paul & Wendy Leech (both 1:10:50), Sheila Phillips (1:10:07), Carol Robinson (1:07:38), Emma Bower (1:04:58), Jimmy Beadman (1:04:39), Mary Freer (1:03:35), Karen Stuttard (1:01:59), Amanda Lane (1:00:50), Tracey Hall (1:00:37), Eloise Bartlett (59:42, continuing her long unbroken sequence of club races), Nefa Nessa (59:11), Anne Jones (58:28), Liz Phillips (56:12), Adrian Bowcock (55:47), Stephen Jones (55:30), Ben Ruscillo (54:51), Adam Stirling (53:17), Sue Heaney (53:06), Stephen Rogowskyj (52:45), Ben Lawton (52:37), Lisa Howarth (50:57), Clare Darraugh (50:41), Chris Prince (49:44), Rebecca Mercer (49:25), Gary Smith (48:36), Selina McLean (48:24), Martin Jones (48:16), Damian Mercer (47:54), Tony Kane (9th V60, 47:54), Rochelle Evans (47:46), Chris Nicholson (47:38), Garry Bower (47:31), Mark Heaney (47:26), Simon Lake (47:06), Stewart Jones (46:33), Ronnie Quinn (5th V60, 45:14), Jason Keast (45:00), Debbie Shaw (5th FV45, 44:53), Mark Brynes (44:19), Lee Higginbottom (44:02), Bryan Lawton (43:49), Ronnie Garrod (43:40), Carl O'Callaghan (43:39), Elliot Stone (43:34), Dave Freer (43:26), Bernie Goodwin (41:19), Dan Yarwood (41:02), Shaun Armstrong (40:52), Mark Wilde (40:45) & Dave Peart (40:25). 

Next up is our 1st trip to Oulton Park for a multi-lap half marathon - although before that, some of us have the small matter of the final cross-country race of the winter at Boggart Hole Clough. Should be (muddy) fun!  [David Emanuel]        
DEWSBURY 10K - 7th FEBRUARY 2016
Having missed the deadline to enter Mad Dog, we returned to a former club championship race & another potential PB course - the Dewsbury 10K. The benefits of this race are that it is half the price of Mad Dog (always a winner for a Yorkshireman), you get a Technical T-shirt that you are not embarrassed to wear & with an early start it doesn't disrupt your whole day.
 
The race takes place on an out-&-back course, running through Dewsbury Town Centre & up to the great metropolis of Batley. Perhaps this is why the race starts so early. It is a gradual climb up to the 5K turnaround, then a fast finish downhill back into Dewsbury. On a calm day it would offer PB potential. With over 1,000 finishers & incorporating the Northern 10K Championships it was certainly a strong field, with the winning time just over 30 minutes. We felt a little intimidated by all the 'Yorkshire' club runners, being the only 2 from RRR - we certainly missed the usual vocal support during the race.

Debbie [Fiddling] showed a great return to form, coming in 3rd V50 in an impressive time of 44.30, while I managed my quickest 10K for a few years in 40.37. Definitely a great alternative to Mad Dog, worth considering for next year!  [Richard Fiddling]
MELTHAM (TOUGH) 10K - 31st JANUARY 2016
When I first saw the Meltham 10K in the calendar for 2016, I immediately thought this would be a great preparation race for our first club championship event the following weekend. The fact that they advertised it as a 'tough' 10K made my mind up, knowing that anything after this would surely be a breeze, especially the nice flat Mad Dog course in sunny Southport! Sunny - who am I trying to kid? But let's hope the weather will be kind to us, as it was last year. 

The race really did live up to expectations, although as I approached Meltham Community Sports Centre I did hear a few runners saying that the course had changed & was slightly easier this year. I dread to think what the old course was like - I'm glad I wasn't here to find out!

I wasn't aware of any other RRRs taking part, so as I walked in to register it was a pleasant surprise to see Paul Craddock, closely followed by Barry Greaves. Then outside whilst warming up we met Rob James, who used to run for Meltham Athletic Club. So there were 4 RRRs on the start line.

We started with a very small descent which preceded 2 miles of constant climbing. Even though there were a few downhills between miles 2 & 4 it still felt like the race was all uphill to that point - very energy sapping! Thankfully it then levelled out & there was just enough time to get your breath back before a great 1.5 mile downhill towards the finish, where you could really pick the pace up. There was just one small hill left, but momentum carried you over it to the finish.

Rob James ran a great race, crossing the line 5th overall in 37:15, though even he said he found it tough. Next home was Barry Greaves (44:25, 45th, 4th V55), followed by myself (58th in 46:15, 13th V35) & Paul Craddock (164th in 55:22, 15th V40).

Overall a very challenging but enjoyable race & I'll certainly be back again next year. Just a shame it comes so early in the calendar, otherwise I'd be recommending this as a club race, with all finishers receiving a nice pair of fleece running gloves instead of the customary medal.  [Lee Higginbottom]

SOUTH EAST LANCS X-COUNTRY (TANDLE HILLS) – 23rd JANUARY 2016

Well on the positive side...the weather was considerably better than the biblical conditions in Heaton Park in the last SEL race in December, plus the Air Ambulance wasn't required like it was here last year. However this was a really, really tough course - lots of heavy, sticky mud (Neil Brock lost a shoe within the 1st 100 yards) & some challenging climbs which made it feel more like a fell race than cross-country. Some considered it tougher than Marl Pits, which is saying something.

Obviously knowing what to expect from seeing the course last year, quite a number of runners decided to stay away - the 200 senior men/women finishers was considerably less than at the previous 2 SEL races at Leigh & Heaton Park. Under those circumstances a total of 16 RRRs was pretty impressive (it would have been more if Rochelle Evans hadn't suffered a tight hamstring & sensibly withdrawn at the end of the 1st lap). Amongst that number were Selina McLean & Paul Craddock, both choosing one of the more challenging events in which to make their cross-country debuts. Both acquitted themselves extremely well - Paul coming home 99th overall (13th V40) & Selina a remarkable 23rd (5th FV40) to be 2nd counter for our 7th-placed ladies team. Selina sounded terrified before the start, worrying about wearing spikes for the 1st time & the risk of getting left behind by the rest of the field. Clearly nothing to worry about - I think she may be a natural...

In the absence of Kirsty White & Jen Bloor it fell to Jane Augsburger to lead the RRR ladies team, which she did in fine style with a strong 11th place finish. Margaret Bluer was 3rd counter in an excellent 49th (4th FV55), closely followed by Lisa Howarth (51st) & Nefa Nessa (69th). All of which leaves the ladies team in joint 2nd place in the overall team competition, alongside Burnden Road Runners, with one race to go. East Cheshire Harriers have already secured the title - but if our team can beat Burnden at Boggart Hole next month & finish in 4th place or better, then they will claim 2nd!


In the men's race, team captain Shane Reading produced a superb performance, leading by example as he crossed the line in 20th (3rd V40). Rob Fairbanks produced another excellent run to come home 30th, with 3rd place in the team event secured by valuable contributions from Neil Brock (40th, 6th V50, despite having to rescue that lost shoe & then work his way back through the field), Lee Higginbottom (44th), Dave Peart (45th, 10th V45) & myself (36th, 5th V50). Also bravely battling their way around the course were Ronnie Garrod (58th, 8th V40), Chris Nicholson (94th), Ray Williams (97th, 14th V50) & Jason Keast (missing from the provisional results, so position TBC). Shane, Neil & I earned sufficient points for 3rd place in the V40 rankings (behind East Cheshire & Salford), with Neil, Ray & myself finishing a very satisfying 2nd in the V50s.


With the men's team currently sitting 2nd in the overall team competition, 4th in the V40s & 3rd in the V50s, we also have plenty to race for at Boggart Hole. Hopefully we'll field strong men & women's teams at that final race on 20th February & really give it a go!  [David Emanuel]      

SPINE CHALLENGER - 9th JANUARY 2016
Go & get a cup of coffee, this is going to be a long one...

What is the Spine Race? It is a 268-mile foot race along the Pennine Way, England’s oldest & toughest National Trail, which wiggles along the tops of the Pennines all the way from the Peak District to Scotland. It calls itself ‘Britain’s most brutal race’ while co-race director Scott Gilmour has also labelled it ‘almost perfect in its cruelty’. It also has an evil younger sister called the Spine Challenger, which starts in Edale & finishes 108 miles further along the Pennine Way in Hawes, in the North Yorkshire Dales. Since this is a winter ultra-marathon where you are expected to be in exposed areas for hours or even days at a time, you are required to carry full mountain marathon kit of around 4-8kg, including sleeping bag, shelter & food. Most of the race is spent in the dark, while floods, ice, snow & absurdly strong winds – water bottles & hydration bladder hoses freeze up – are all common. Potentially fatal hypothermia is a regular 'DNF' cause & less than half the field normally finish. Grown men cry. Bones get broken. Some ‘Spiners’ have discovered trench foot isn’t just something that happened in France during World War I.

In the months building up to the race I was excited, getting out in all-weather, at all times of the day & night, carrying most of my kit (which was around 6.5kg without water). However in the week before the race I started to get disturbed sleep, which is not what you need when you are expecting to be on the move for 60 hours.
The race starts in Edale & I’d managed to book a private room at the Edale YHA, which would be a godsend with other racers having to share with up to 8 others. I headed down to Edale by train so that I could register & carry out a kit check. In view of the amount of kit racers carry, they have developed a lottery system. You are given a raffle ticket & you will be either given a full kit check or asked to produce 3 random items. Fortunately I only had to show my rucksack, hat & 2 days rations, which meant I didn’t have to spend time repacking my bag. You also have a drop bag which is taken to each check point (CP), which allows you to re-supply & get changed into clean warm clothes. There was only one CP for me which was at Hebden Bridge (47 miles away). I then wouldn’t see the bag again until I reached Hawes, a further 61 miles along the route. Once I’d completed kit check I went back to the hostel before heading out for the race briefing & my final cooked meal for a few days.

I’d set my alarm for 4:30am as the race was due to start at 7:00 & we were being collected from the hostel from 5:30 onwards. Surprisingly I’d had the best night’s sleep of the whole week. We had one final visit to the registration area, so we could be fitted with our GPS trackers, before heading to the start line. The GPS trackers allow the race organiser to keep an eye on us, but we can also be tracked online & this has become a spectator sport in it’s own right.


In ultras I normally disappear into the background whilst I gather my thoughts, but I was very relaxed, laughing & joking with other racers about what was ahead of us. There are so many miles ahead that there’s no point in worrying about it now. My plan was to walk/yomp the rough/hilly terrain whilst running slowly on the flagstones/hard pack trails so to keep as much of my energy as possible whilst trying not to finish off my legs.


At 7:10 we were off, heading towards Barbour Booth & eventually Jacob's Ladder. The climb up Jacob's Ladder is long & steep. As the climb started the sun began to rise & it was apparent that Kinder was shrouded in thick fog, with visibility down to around 20 meters or so & you soon lost track of the person in front of you. I’ve been up on Kinder in all weathers including the hours of darkness & I knew that when I got to the top I needed to head North towards Kinder Downfall. By this time I’d just lost sight of the runner in front of me, so drifted slightly & missed the trig point - it’s easy from there as you just need to navigate through the rocks. I quickly fired up my GPS & eventually got myself back on track, catching up runners just before Kinder Downfall. It’s at this point a song pops into my head that I’d heard earlier in the week. It was Copacabana by Barry Manilow & could I get rid of it, NO! This song eventually followed me for 30 miles!
I’m now heading towards Mill Hill. The wind picked up & the fog cleared but only to produce rain & sleet. I turned right at Mill Hill & the terrain changed to the Yorkshire flagstones that cover some sections of the Pennine Way. This was the time to do some catching up & I could see fellow runners in the distance heading towards Snake Pass. I’ve run along this section many times before & the path goes on for what seems like miles but in reality is a little over 2. It looks just like the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ from the Wizard of Oz as it stretches over Featherbed Moss.

As I approach the Snake Pass crossing I overtake 2 runners, which gives me a little boost. I say a quick hello to the Mountain Rescue Team manning the crossing, give them my race number & off I go towards Bleaklow. In the distance I spot another 3 runners. The first section of Bleaklow is runnable but slightly uphill so I decide to yomp this section, but this path soon runs out & you start to switch from one side of the stream to another. I’ve done this in summer & it’s wet then, but with the weather we’ve had it’s swamped in places so you have no choice other than to get your feet wet, knee-deep wet in places. It’s still in my head, ‘her name was Lola, she was a show girl’ Argh! Just as I get to Bleaklow Head I catch the other 3 runners who aren’t sure which way to go. I give them a shout to follow me & we are now heading down towards Crowden which is a narrow, rocky path with a steep drop down one side.

I knew as we dropped down to Torside I was going to be met by a couple of friends (Andy & Guy) who are also ultra-runners & had been keeping an eye on my tracker online so knew exactly when to set off & where to meet me. I was around 14 miles in at this point & was looking forward to meeting them. They were going to come with me up Black Hill before heading off again. As we cross Torside reservoir I hand them my poles so I can get something to eat. This consisted of a mini pork pie & Babybel cheese (yes that’s right, I eat pies on ultra-marathons!). We head up the first section of Black Hill towards Laddow Rocks. I’ve run this section more times than I can remember but never in this direction & my pace is slowing whilst they try to lift my spirits.

Just before the climb to Laddow Rocks we look back down the hill & can see people moving towards us. There are 3 of them & they are moving fast, so can only be the leaders of the Spine Race - Eion Keith, Pavel Paloncy & Eugeni Rosello Sole. Not long after this I say goodbye to Andy & Guy before making the final climb up Black Hill on my own.


As part of the kit list you must have capacity for 2 litres of water. My 2 front bottles can carry 1.5 & I had a bladder in my pack which I decided not to fill as it was my expectation that I could refill in the stream as I normally would. However most of the streams were overflowing & had become contaminated with peat & mud. Even though I was carrying chlorine tablets I really didn’t fancy chewing on soil so carried on, but I had now run out of water & was feeling dehydrated by the time I’d got to the top of Black Hill. The next section was an easy downhill to Wessenden Head & I was expecting to be able to get some water, which thankfully I did from a supporter who was waiting on another runner. It was here I was greeted by my friend Sally, who used to be my running coach at Trafford. She’s also an ultra-runner, having completed the Lakeland 100 & 50 a few times & she was wearing her 'short shorts' as we call them. Sally has invested a lot of time in me & we often train & race together in the Lakes. She knew I was struggling & pulled me away from a marshal as she thought I was going to drop out. She gave me a hug & then proceeded to give me a rollicking, making sure I didn’t do anything silly.

I was tired, dehydrated, moving slowly over rough ground. It was just getting dark, the weather had turned into heavy rain & the temperature was dropping. It’s at this point the demons start to play with my mind. I start to doubt myself at the first hurdle, when it gets tough for the first time. I knew this would come, but I didn’t expect it to come so soon. I was expecting this on day 2, not 11 hours into the race. I descended down the Pennine Way towards Marsden, where you take a left turn at a finger post to drop into a cutting before climbing up to the weather station. At this time I was still running but found the climb up incredibly hard. I looked back over the valley & all you could see was a line of head torches moving in the distance. I was slow over the rough ground & getting cold. Sally now tells me it would be good to buddy up with a fellow runner so we support each other through the night. If Sally is worried, when she knows I know the next section is fairly easy, then this isn’t good.


The next sections towards the White House & on to Stoodley Pike are relatively easy going, but then the climb out of Charlestown to CP1 is hard. I did it on fresh legs before Christmas & found it hard, what will it be like when I’m at my lowest? The demons in my head are again telling me it’s not a good idea to carry on. I’m really cold & I’m worried about hypothermia, I know I have extra warm layers that I can put on, but is it enough? I don’t want to have to press the SOS on my tracker or have to call for Mountain Rescue as per the advice given at the race briefing.

I make my way up the final climb before we get to Harrop Dale but my mind is made up, I don’t want to carry on. I haven’t said this to Sally but I think she knows. I knew I’d be greeted by my wife Joanne, friends Kate & Steve but I wasn’t expecting Simon Howard & John Sweeney, who have been waiting for me in awful conditions although I didn’t notice them as I made my way into the car park. I was greeted by a most welcome sight - the Holme Valley Mountain Rescue tent was serving hot drinks & soup. I didn’t stop to talk to my friends, I just made my way straight in & sat down exhausted. They’ll have been out for hours & were probably out for many hours afterwards.


This is my easy way out, rather than carrying on or having to wait out in the cold to be picked up. I’m given a hot drink & without hesitation I tell them I want to drop out. Kate comes over & I tell her the same. I think I sat there for about 10 minutes taking it all in. I then made my way outside to tell the rest & it’s only then I notice Simon & John. I made my way to a van the Mountain Rescue Team have on site & tell them I’m dropping out. However I also need to let race HQ know. I phone them up, give them my race number & grid reference (OS location) & let them know I’m safe & well & that they don’t need to collect me. I’m then taken to the New Inn at Marsden to get warm & the realisation starts to hit about what I’ve done - bailed at the first hurdle.


During the first few days after the race, I was thinking about why I’d withdrawn. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Did I bottle it when it got tough? At first I thought yes & that the race was just too much for me, even though I’ve done a fair number of ultras. However you have to push yourself & live outside your comfort zone sometimes. The one thing I got wrong was not taking time to recover at the mini CP at Harrop Dale. I should have eaten, got warm, rested up for 30 minutes before making that decision & that is what I got wrong. There are positives I can take from this, including the fact I have great friends. However if I go back again I do not want friends to meet me on the route, as sometimes the temptation can be too much when you have the easy option & I mean that in a nice way. I've already booked a room in Edale just in case...


The Spine Race was won by Eion Keith in 95 hours 17 minutes, just under 4 days, knocking 15 hours off the previous record set by Pavel in 2014. The leading ladies Zoe Thornburgh & Anna Buckingham are still running/walking/crawling together 6 & a half days in with 14 hours to go, but they are not too far away now. The Spine Challenger was won by Tom Hollins in 29 hours 37 minutes & the leading lady was Beth Pascall in 30 hours 32 minutes. Beth also won the Spine Race last year so has the full set. If you want to see what it’s all about then watch this short trailer for a documentary made about last year's race. It gives you some idea of what the conditions can be like. [Paul Craddock]


Click here for 2015 race reports archive.
Click here for 2014 race reports archive.
Click here for 2013 race reports archive
Click here for 2012 race reports archive.
Click here for 2011 race reports archive.
Click here for 2010 race reports archive.