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The usual great turn-out for the annual "prove that you've not really been overdoing it over Christmas" event that is the Hot Toddy, organised by Todmorden Harriers. The race was won by our old friend & four-time Royton Trail winner Ian Grime, while 21 Royton Road Runners were amongst the 291 that completed the course. First club runner home was Chris Lowe, 31st in an impressive 34:58, closely followed by an in-form Dave Kershaw (35:13) - both proving how competitive the V40 category will be in 2012! Particularly notable performances included Trevor Grundy's 2nd V65 in 46:24 (more than 8mins quicker than last year), Dave Smith's 3rd V55 in 42:29 & Jen Hanson - first Royton lady home & 8th senior lady finisher in 43:55.

Other RRR finishers: David Emanuel (35:56), Bruce Whittam (36:49), Andy Schofield (39:40), Eamonn Nolan (39:45), Rob Kellett (39:49), John Sweeney (43:26), David Booth (45:05), John Lambe (45:14), Val Kilburn (45:54), Matt Kilburn (45:56), Steve Shaw (46:47), Stephen Jones (47:10), Ronnie Quinn (48:10), Paul Walters (49:17), Anne Jones (52:34) & Neil Barker (55:02). Full results available here

A fitting conclusion to one of the best RRR seasons ever - the annual invasion of Keswick saw 49 club runners complete the race, two others start but fail to finish & many more attend to offer their support. Ian McBride & Carole Madden duly clinched the Club Champion & Ladies Champion - both also won prizes in this final race - Ian as 5th finisher overall, Carole 3rd FV50 - as did Dave Phillips (1st V65), June Allingan (1st FV65) & Debbie Shaw (2nd FV45). 

As has previously been reported, the destination of several trophies came down to this final race. In addition to Ian & Carole claiming the big prizes, Carole also moved into 3rd place in Group 1 behind Dave Hall & Russell Ingram as well as edging out Barry Greaves & John Higgins for 3rd place in the V50s. Kirsty White edged ahead of John Lambe into 3rd place in Group 2 in her first season with the club, behind Shane Reading & John Sweeney - the latter becoming only the second RRR in the club's history to complete all 17 club races in the season. Diane Allingan clinched 3rd place in Group 3, Richard Fiddling likewise in the V40s, Alan Bodell 2nd in the V45s & Dave Phillips retained his V60 title ahead of June Allingan & the injured George Meynell. Stephen Jones, who had already clinched 2nd place in Group 2, knocked an incredible 28 minutes off his 2010 time as he finished in 1:24:56.

Many thanks to everyone who took part in the race or travelled north on Sunday. Full results & final Group Tables can be found on the '2011 Season Results' page, while the Photo Gallery contains many pictures taken before, during & after the race!

HOLMFIRTH 15 - 30th OCTOBER 2011
The penultimate race in the club championship season - but despite some great performances from the 23 Royton Road Runners taking part, there remains plenty up for grabs in the final race at Keswick next weekend! At least one trophy in every group & age category is yet to be decided, including the biggest prizes of all - Club Champion & Ladies Champion. Last year's winners Stuart Carroll & Carole Madden are both still in contention, but excellent running at Holmfirth by Ian McBride (4th overall in 1:27:24 behind runaway race winner Andi Jones of Salford Harriers) & Debbie Fiddling (1st FV45 in 1:56:20) gives them both a chance of taking the title for the first time.

Meanwhile Debbie Shaw (2nd V45 in 1:56:28) guaranteed herself a top three finish in the ladies championship - with Debbie Fiddling & Kirsty White (2:01:27) she was part of the third best ladies team in the race. The men's team fared even better - Ian McBride, Chris Lowe (1:38:11) & Dave McBride (1:39:20) beaten only by Barnsley AC. Dave Phillips (3rd V65 in 2:01:03) put himself in pole position to retain the club V60 Championship at Derwentwater, while Richard Fiddling (1:41:56) & Bernie Goodwin (1:46:55) will go head-to-head for 3rd prize in the V40s. Other RRR finishers: David Emanuel (1:40:48), Colin Green (1:41:04), Dave Hall (1:45:37), Bruce Whittam (1:47:57), Chris Eavers (1:48:12), Andy Schofield (1:48:57), Rob Kellett (1:51:39), Dave Smith (1:58:27), John Lambe (2:04:40), Shiela Waite (2:04:42), David Ellis (2:05:46), Val Kilburn (2:09:00), John Sweeney (2:10:09) & Tony Kane (2:14:10).

This year's Rowbotham's Round Rotherham 50-mile trail race was run on 15th October, with Ian Bishop flying the flag for Royton Road Runners. With over 300 entries & a very competitive field, warm weather conditions & clear skies, Ian got off to a good start & led the race for the first 40 miles - but with cramping issues & a bad patch from the 40-47 mile mark he lost over five minutes to the race leader. Despite this, Ian managed to pull back three minutes in the last three miles & finished in a time of 6hrs 50 mins - just over 2.5 minutes behind the winner & three minutes ahead of third place. Ian was delighted with his performance.  [Ian Bishop]


Despite the attractions of the Liverpool & Chester Marathons - which tempted away 17 of the finest Royton Road Runners - an impressive 23 club members ventured into deepest Cheshire & completed this latest race in the 2011 Club Championship. In a field of nearly 500 the RRR runners made light of a challenging half marathon course, with highlights including a 1st V55 prize for Barry Greaves (1:29:58) & Carole Madden (1:32:29) continuing her return from injury as she finished 2nd FV50 & 4th lady overall.

Other notable age-related performances came from Debbie Fiddling (2nd FV45), Dave Hall (3rd V50), Debbie Shaw (3rd FV45) & Kirsty White (3rd FV35). Russell Ingham was fourth RRR finisher, his great new PB of 1:29:56 breaking through the psychological 1:30 barrier, while Eileen Ingham battled through injury problems to finish as 127th lady. Stuart Carroll, using the race as a final training run for the Abingdon Marathon on 16th October, still finished 16th overall in 1:22:30. Other finishers: David Emanuel (1:28:09), Des Thorpe (1:30:23), Bruce Whittam (1:32:49), Eamonn Nolan (1:33:26), John Higgins (1:36:19), Dave Smith (1:40:54), John Lambe (1:43:33), David Ellis (1:45:52), John Sweeney (1:47:26), Ronnie Quinn (1:53:50), Stephen Jones (1:58:51), Kay Fitton (2:06:24), Diane Allingan (2:06:25) & Anne Jones (2:07:58).


Another opportunity to prove that you don't have to have been present at a race to write a report on an impressive 43 RRR members (23% of the total field) raced around Littleborough, I was sitting on a train slowly making its way towards Manchester Piccadilly, wishing that I was the 44th...

With many club members deep into their preparation for an October marathon, they could be excused for not being fully prepared for such a contrasting short distance race - but the finishing times certainly don't show it! This race was all about our star performers returning from injury - with Ian McBride, just back from a fantastic 48th place in the Great North Run on Sunday, finishing second to Ian Grime in a time of 16:19 in only his second club championship race since April, while Carole Madden apparently showed no ill-effects following her broken shoulder as she finished first FV50 & 6th lady overall in 20:08. These results put both Ian & Carole back in the running for the club champion trophies if they can complete two of the three remaining races - although with Ian scheduled to run in the Chester Marathon on 9th October, the same day as the Congleton Half, he'll have to complete both the Holmfirth 15 & Derwentwater 10 as first RRR finisher to claim his first title.

The standard of RRR performances continues to improve, with 16 club members breaking the 20-minute barrier & an incredible 36 crossing the line inside 25 minutes. Chris Lowe showed yet more progress as the second RRR member home (14th overall, 3rd V40) in exactly 18 minutes, Russell Ingham demonstrated the benefits of recent track sessions with his excellent time of 19:05, new member Tony McAndrew ran an impressive 19:19 & Bruce Whittam (19:22) pipped fellow V45 competitor Des Thorpe (19:23) for the first time this season. There was the usual collection of fantastic age-related finishing positions in addition to Carole & Chris - Kirsty White 1st FV35 in 21:48, Lou Gilchrist 1st FV75 (27:46), Alan Bodell 2nd V45 (18:40), Bernie Cassidy 2nd V50 (19:07), Debbie Fiddling 2nd FV45 (21:24), Val Kilburn 2nd FV40 (22:08), June Allingan 2nd FV65 (29:08), Barry Greaves 3rd V55 (19:39) & Debbie Shaw 3rd FV45 (21:37).

In the race for end-of season trophies, Shane Reading (21:19) & Val Kilburn reinforced their unassailable positions in Groups 2 & 3 respectively, while Bill Balmer's performance (18th overall in 18:19) ensures that he cannot now be caught in the V40 battle.

On Sunday 11th September 10 Royton Road Runners met in Littleborough to travel to Haworth (Bronte Country) in Yorkshire to take part in a “value for money” half marathon. During the car journey I was wondering why I had packed a whistle, compass, emergency rations (Kendal Mint Cake), waterproof trousers & top. Surely this was just an off-road half marathon? John Lambe, travelling in the same car, agreed & made the comment that he had to get back for a christening & hoped to finish around the two-hour mark. Little did we know what we had let ourselves in for, especially John, who had taken George’s number because George was injured and couldn’t take part in the race.

The race had a tough uphill start which quickly split the group into two with Kirsty White, Bruce Whittam & John Lambe going ahead, leaving the second group walking & running up a ridiculously steep hill where all around us walked, until we came to a bottleneck with the runners squeezing through an opening to begin the climb to the highest point in West Yorkshire. At this point, looking ahead & seeing how high the hills were I questioned my sanity. The race went over moors, uphill to ridges of narrow paths & only slight downhill, which continued to surprise me after all the climbing. Because of the fantastic weather the views along the tops of the hills were spectacular & in our group we had Natalie, the ‘ever-romantic’, looking for Heathcliffe. Myself being more practical I kept my eyes to the ground, making sure I didn’t fall. We had Julie the photographer taking photos & our own 'Ghost Runner' who took a tumble on the uneven ground. Later Julie repeated the process & took her own tumble, leaving the pair of them with cuts & bruises.

The two groups all finished the race with Kirsty, Bruce & John (who missed the christening) finishing approximately one hour in front of the other group comprising Pete Stals, Tony Hunking, Julie Greenwood, Kay Fitton, Natalie Yates-Bolton, Vicky Bramley (Ghost Runner) & Eileen Ingham.

In summary, the race had a tough uphill start, tough brutal uphill cobbles to finish & lots of hills in the middle with superb scenery - but cakes & soup at the end made up for all the punishment of the race. It was certainly value for money! Our group managed to run 15 miles in total - a new milestone for Kay, John & myself who had never done that distance, although the official distance was over 14.5 miles. Everyone of us said we would do the race again. Incidentally, does anyone know why I carried a mug around the race with me? I was following the race instructions bur never used it.  [Eileen Ingham]


OK, it wasn't really a race...but I'm sure you'll enjoy this report from President Dave Phillips: "On 3rd September at 0800 hrs a bunch of intrepid Royton Road Runners attempted to scale the infamous climb up Cragg Vale [the longest continuous hill in England]. Despite the severity of the route, not a crampon or ice axe was in sight as we set off. A strong wind in our faces made the task even harder. By halfway most of the talking had stopped, as the incline increased, & the heavy breathing would have kept the local brass band going for months. With Sherpa Carroll leading the group, a quick summit was never in doubt & this was successfully achieved by all within 55mins. A quick handshake & we were off on a leisurely descent. The marathon runners fancied doing a few more miles - but a suggestion they did Cragg Vale again was given short shrift.To their credit they did do a few more miles on the canal. A competitively-priced bottle of bubbly was produced by Mr President to celebrate a fine achievement. A good time was had by all & positive vibes suggest this could become an annual event."

A couple of Saturdays ago saw myself & Des Thorpe flying the RRR flag at the Wardle ‘off road’ Triathlon staged by Rochdale Tri Club. The race was over the unusual distance of a 160m pool swim, 25K-ish bike leg & 10K-ish run. The swim was a bit chaotic, to say the least - with swimmers setting off every 15 seconds, it wasn’t long before swimmers of the ability of Des & I were caught & literally swam over. At one point it felt like I had been dumped into some kind of giant washing machine. Anyway, we both survived & it was from this point that Des shone with a tremendous show on the mountain bike. The course was a really tough & technical two laps which took us up & over the hills above Watergrove Reservoir, the descent was something else for a road biker like me & it wasn’t long into the first lap descent that I found myself flying through the air over the handlebars! Des completed the bike leg in the second fastest time of the day & approx 18 mins ahead of myself & he went on to put in a strong run (over another very tough two-lap course, which at times felt like the Krypton Factor assault course). At the end of the race I think we had done RRR proud, Des finished in 5th place with me in 14th. Given the short swim, this is an ideal race for anyone thinking about giving a Tri a go - all I would say is make sure that you have a decent mountain bike with suspension & that you put some miles in on it beforehand. [Bryan Lawton]

After a triumphant debut performance in 2010, Chris Eavers & David Emanuel returned to Heaton Park as the reigning national V50 & V40 backward running champions. It would be nice to be able to report that they'd given serious consideration to the training required to defend their titles...but Chris admitted to having run just three backward laps of the track in the intervening 12 months & David hadn't done much more than that. Rather worryingly, those gathering at the start line seemed to include several more serious-looking competitors than last year - and so it proved. Despite both improving our times by around a minute, I again finished in sixth place with Chris following close behind in eighth. Ahead of (behind?) us were three other vet runners, so we're going to have to go away & work hard to regain our titles in 2011! Still it was another thoroughly enjoyable event & great to see champion Garret Doherty smash his course record, completing the mile course in a phenomenal 7mins 6secs.

Whilst it was good that an alternative venue was found for this year's Saddleworth 6, the new start line came as a bit of a shock! It may have been OK if the weather had been better, but by the time all the runners had trooped up the track behind the Tame Valley Tennis & Squash Club it had become a thoroughly boggy mess. Still, once we were all safely out on the road it became the familar two-lap route & the usual RRR faces moved towards the front of the field. Bruce Whittam was sadly forced out of the race early on with a serious ankle injury that required a visit to casualty (get well soon, Bruce!) but Stuart Carroll (3rd V40 in 34:46) led home an impressive 38 RRR finishers in a field of 201. Those who ran at Sale on Sunday (or at Liverpool in Bill Balmer's case) seemed to show no ill-effects, with the first eight RRR finishers - including Des Thorpe (39:18), running very impressively on home territory - completing the course inside 40 minutes. Bill (38:06) achieved this despite apparently trying to swim home from the last bend. As usual there were many impressive age-category performances, including those from Debbie Shaw (2nd FV45), Barry Greaves (3rd V50), Debbie Fiddling (3rd FV45), Teresa Hollins (3rd FV55) & June Allingan (2nd FV65). Congratulations to everyone who turned up to race on such a filthy night!       

BIG HEART 5K - 7th AUGUST 2011
As their East Lancs rivals got ready to battle it out in that London, the reds & blues of Liverpool were competing on home turf in the rather smaller affair that is the Big Heart 5K. With all runners wearing either red or blue the event is a visual spectacle, but the footballing connection goes deeper. The race supports the Everton Foundation & the 23 Foundation, charities connected to the city’s clubs and dedicated to good causes on Merseyside. While there was respite from the weekend’s downpour, the wind was less merciful on this two-lap course around Walton Hall Park & I managed neither a PB nor the goal I had set of a sub-18 minute finish. At the back of my mind there’s a question - my prize for a lifetime spent training for the ifandbutathlon - would I have been quicker were it not for my lingering cold? That said, despite being beaten by a nose, a young blighter of a bluenose to be precise, I was absolutely chuffed to come second with a time of 18:10. The Big Heart 5K had equal measures of camaraderie & rivalry but as I crossed the finish line it really lacked something - the extra seven miles that my Royton clubmates were at that point completing in the Sale 10 mile race back in Greater Manchester. In theory, at least, this could keep me a little fresher for the Saddleworth 6, only three days later. [Bill Balmer]

SALE 10 - 7th AUGUST 2011
As I was in a different country at the time I can't really say a lot about this race! Results show victory & yet another great performance for Stuart Carroll (3rd V40 in 57:32) plus impressive runs from Dave McBride (62:12), the ever-improving Chris Lowe (62:58) & Dave Hall (65:12). Brian Moore reports that it was another higher turnout than last year, 25 compared to 22. Additionally everybody bar one person who ran last year improved their time. The one exception was Chris Eavers...but although he was about 30 seconds slower than in 2010, he has the consolation of a near 78% performance rating, his highest ever % performance rating according to club records (which Brian now has dating back to 2006).


MOONRAKER 10K - 24th JULY 2011
There were points to be had in them there hills at the Moonraker 10K, organised by our near neighbours Middleton Harriers. Some of our lot were not at their best on the day & others couldn't make it due to holidays or injury. Nevertheless it was another great RRR turnout, with the 38 club runners providing 22% of all finishers, many of whom can be seen on the excellent group photos by Ray McBride. Despite its name, the race was more solar than lunar, while a headwind on the straight past Bowlee made for challenging conditions. Some of us may regret not slapping on a bit of cream before the start, but even in the heat (which had Bruce Whittam doing his Tarzan impression within the first couple of km) there were some impressive finishes.  

Once again there were prizes galore for RRR members with Stuart Carroll (35:49, yet another PB) taking overall 7th place & 1st MV40, reinforcing the message that - thanks to his February birthday - everyone in that age bracket at RRR is on borrowed time until next year. Debbie Fiddling (44:09, also a PB & over two minutes faster than last year) was third lady & first FV45, just ahead of second placed Debbie Shaw (44:30). Dave Phillips bagged 1st V65 (45:59) while second team prizes went to Stuart Carroll, Chris Lowe (38:17) & Bill Balmer (38:22) in the men's race & Debbie Shaw, Debbie Fiddling & Kirsty White in the ladies event. Other age-related prizes went to Dave McBride & Russell Ingham (2nd & 3rd V35 respectively), Bernie Cassidy (2nd V50), Dave Hall (3rd V50), Barry Greaves (2nd V55), John Higgins (3rd V55), Kirsty White (2nd FV35), Anne Jones (3rd FV50), Teresa Hollins (3rd FV55) & June Allingan (1st FV60). Congratulations to everyone who took part in another excellent team performance!  [Bill Balmer/Richard Fiddling]

There were records galore at the Royton Trail this year - the biggest-ever field (189), more Royton Road Runners in a race (58) than ever before, a new ladies course record (33:51 by Bev Jenkins of Salford Harriers) & more slices of pie served by Bernie Goodwin than anyone in history has ever dished out. We really must get Bernie a chef's hat for next year...

Ian Grime (Newham & Essex Beagles) won the race for the fourth successive year in 29:45 - despite a long lay-off with injury, he was still a comfortable winner by 46 seconds from Andy Buttery (Rossendale Harriers). Our own Ian McBride, also recovering from injury, produced a fine run to finish third in 30:40. Stuart Carroll coped manfully with the pressure of wearing race number 1, finishing 10th in 32:28 - only one place higher than last year but a full 95 seconds faster. Finishing between Ian & Stuart was (I believe) the Royton Trail's first Olympic champion - Chris Newton (Oldham & Royton Harriers), who finished seventh in 32:21, won cycling medals at the last three Olympic Games in Sydney, Athens & Beijing.

Behind Bev Jenkins in the ladies race were two former Royton Trail winners - second place Jacqui Khoueiry (Holmfirth Harriers) won in 2008, whilst third place finisher Alison Sedman (Belle Vue Racers) has finished first lady in the last two years. Two age category prizes were picked up by Royton Road Runners - Debbie Fiddling (39:54) & Kirsty White (42:09) won the FV45 & FV35 prizes respectively.

Debbie, Kirsty & Debbie Shaw also picked up the prize for first ladies team, defending the title won by Royton Road Runners in 2010. Our first three men (Ian McBride, Stuart Carroll & Chris Lowe) were just pipped by Middleton Harriers, also retaining their position as best team.

Congratulations to everyone who took part in the race & many thanks to everyone involved in organising the event & assisting on the night - be it marshaling, officiating, registering, photography, timekeeping or producing the results. Another huge success & a great advert for the club!

ROCHDALE 10K - 5th JULY 2011
A high-quality field of 275 athletes completed the 2011 Rochdale 10K in typically humid conditions, with a fantastic 42 Royton Road Runners amongst them (up from 32 last year). The quality can be seen by the fact that 48 finishers broke the 40-minute barrier (with our very own Bernie Goodwin finishing on exactly that mark). Club champion Stuart Carroll continued his excellent recent form as first RRR finisher, 9th overall & 3rd V40 in a new personal best time of 36:00 - although he greedily insists that his watch said 35:59. David McBride, Bill Balmer & Chris Lowe all ran sub-39mins to produce impressive top-30 finishes. As usual there were plenty of great age-related performances - Val Kilburn 1st FV40, Bernie Cassidy 2nd V50, Debbie Fiddling 2nd FV45, June Allingan 2nd FV65, John Higgins 3rd V55, Debbie Shaw 3rd FV45 & Teresa Hollins 3rd FV55. Full details can be found on the 'Season Results' page. All good preparation for the challenge to come - next week's Royton Trail!

An impressive bevy of 17 Royton Road Runners took part in this latest club championship race - the oldest half marathon in the UK. A combination of strong headwinds & high temperatures made it a tough day to race, but that didn't prevent some typically impressive performances from the RRR contingent. Six of us recorded a sub-1:30 time, led by Stuart Carroll with an impressive 8th place finish (3rd V40) in 1:19:23. Carole Madden was 2nd FV50 in 1:34:10 (but didn't receive a prize - shame!), while Dave McBride ran 1:23:38 which was good enough for 3rd place in the rarely-used V35 category. Other finishers were Ian Bishop (1:24:25), Colin Green (a new PB of 1:26:42), Bill Balmer (1:27:33), David Emanuel (1:28:40), Dave Hall (1:31:16), Rob Kellett (1:32:30), Mike Harrison (1:34:04), Dave Smith (1:42:11), Russell Ingham (1:43:33), John Sweeney (1:48:15), Val Kilburn (1:50:42), Dave Ellis (1:53:20 in his first half marathon), David Booth (1:55:26) & Neil Barker (2:11:43). All finishers received a Freckleton Half Marathon umbrella, presumably an indication of what the race organisers expect for the rest of the summer? Point of interest - the race results show nine disqualifications amongst the 557 finishers. Apparently this was due to them folding their race numbers so that they didn't show the sponsors name (although, according to Brian Porter on the Runner's World forums, "it seems people were warned about folding numbers initially...they were disqualified for the abuse they gave the referee in response to the warning"). Pleased to say that this didn't apply to anyone from RRR!

ROCHDALE 3 DAY EVENT - 10th to 12th JUNE 2011
Tired of tarmac? Frazzled by footpaths? Stressed by sidewalks? Pooped by pavements? [That's enough annoying alliteration - Ed] If you're looking for a new challenge, you could do a lot worse than make a note in your diary to enter next year's Rochdale 3 Day Event. This excellent race series, organised by Rochdale Harriers, consists of three tough 6-mile races in successive days on varying terrain, all starting & finishing in Norden. Each race can be entered individually - Rob Kellett just ran Friday's road race, while Sunday's fell race attracted the biggest field of the weekend - but for a real challenge you have to take part in all three!

The event starts on Friday evening with a 6 mile road race...but this is no gentle introduction, as for the first two miles you climb directly up Edenfield Road until you reach the windmills at the top. The race website amusingly reports that "the views are well worth the tough climb". Anyone who knows this road will appreciate that you'd normally require breathing apparatus at this point, but instead you're expected to charge down Ashworth Valley Road at top speed before encountering another tough climb. Your legs will still be feeling the effects of all this when you line up on Saturday morning for a true 'multi-terrain' race featuring three laps of road, tracks, trails, fields, steps, bridges, occasional muddy bogs & this year (just to make it especially interesting) a deluge of hailstones. Then on Sunday morning you're joined by the best of the local fell-running community, released into the wild for the day (they're easy to spot, with hooves instead of feet & the scars from many years of throwing themselves down hills at ridiculous speeds) for the 'Category B' Knowl Hill Fell Race, which includes one climb that should only really be attempted wearing crampons & using a rope (or a "scramble" according to that witty website).          

Four intrepid Royton Road Runners completed the event this year, led home by Barry 'Mountain Goat' Greaves (combined time 2hrs 24mins 42secs), who comfortably won the overall V55 race. There were also great performances from Bruce Whittam & Russell Ingham, particularly on Saturday & Sunday as they proved themselves particularly adept at handling the challenging terrain (remarkably, both finished in an identical 2:27:40). I wish I could say the same...but I peaked in Friday's road race & fell further behind over the weekend, with no confidence at all on the difficult descents. So far behind did I finish that I was quite relieved to initially be left off the overall results, so it's slightly concerning that the race website now says that "results are being finalised".

Special thanks to the support team of George Meynell & Eileen Ingham, who put up with the changeable weather conditions & also carried out photography & key-holding duties. See you there next year?  [David Emanuel]

10 runners made the journey north of the border in search of PBs in the Edinburgh Marathon, which has seen many RRRs perform well over the past few years. The overall downhill profile of the course usually makes for a fast run & this is the second most popular marathon in the UK (after London). Despite the favourable course the very strong head-wind over the last eight miles caused many problems throughout the field. Opinion was that it could have added up to five minutes to finish times, but this has to be balanced against the course profile & the fact that there was a tail-wind for 18 miles!

Ian McBride continued to impress & achieved 14th place out of a field of 9,660 marathon runners, with a new club record time of 2:40:00. I feel that this is not the last time the record is going to be broken by a McBride in the next few years.

Personally I was very pleased with my time of 3:07:58 (307th place) as it qualifies me for an automatic entry in the 2012 London Marathon (sub 3.10 for under-41s). At 18 miles I was on target for a (very optimistic) sub three-hour marathon but suffered in the howling head-wind. Des Thorpe also achieved his ambition of a sub-3:15 marathon to qualify him for London by 12 seconds (506th place in 3:14:48)!

There were many decent times recorded from the rest of the RRR contingent: Matt Oldham (877th in 3:23:49), Steve Shaw (1260th, 3:29:31), Andy Schofield (1261st, 3:29:33), John Kane (1619th, 3:35:36), Dave Smith (1986th, 3:40:43), Matt Kilburn (2268th, 3:44:24), Dean Burgess (2749th, 3:49:37) & Val Kilburn (3744th, 3:59:01). I would certainly recommend this for a fast, if windy, PB-busting marathon.  [Colin Green]

See Jane Tonge's great Edinburgh video on our YouTube channel.

After a Saturday evening mealtime at Brathay Hall, in the humbling company of some of the '10 in 10' runners (all looking ridiculously well as they prepared for their 10th successive day running this tough 26.2 mile course), I woke on Sunday morning to the sound of torrential rain. I was therefore a little confused to pull back the curtains & see a clear blue sky...until I realised that the shower in the next room must be right next to my bed. Although there were a few short showers before the race started (real ones this time, from the sky; I don't mean that the person next door kept getting in & out, although I've no evidence that he didn't do this) it remained mainly dry & the strong winds that battered most of the north of England - affecting our competitors in the Edinburgh Marathon on the same day - mercifully seemed to by-pass the Lake District completely.

Having posted a new marathon PB at London last month I felt I had nothing to lose & decided to 'go for broke' in this race. So off I went at a pretty consistent 7-minute mile pace, losing a little on the steep climb at seven miles but making it back up by the halfway mark. After getting through the short, sharp climbs on the road up to Bowness without a problem (apart from pouring a sports drink into my eye at a water station), I reached 18 miles feeling pretty good & regularly overtaking other runners. Time for my third & final energy gel, which I removed from its belt but decided to wait until the top of a short which point it flew out of my hand & skidded across to the other side of the road. Terrified of losing momentum if I stopped to go back for it, I decided to carry on & rely instead on sports drinks at the remaining two water stations.

Did the missing gel make a difference? Impossible to say, but I continued to feel good until reaching the 23-mile point, when my legs suddenly started to feel like they belonged to somebody else (not Haile Gebrselassie, unfortunately). Every step was a struggle over the last three miles & the climb up the drive to the finish outside Brathay Hall seemed to go on forever. From what looked likely to be a comfortable sub-3:10 finish I had faded to 3:12:03, about 45 seconds slower than last year. Still, I've learnt a lot from this & I'll be back in 2012 - I've now run five Windermere Marathons in a row & I'm not getting bored of this fantastic race yet!  [David Emanuel]

Given that I was away working as the race happened, this report may not give a true flavour of the event - I'm basing it purely on the results! Despite several absences with the Edinburgh, White Peak & Windermere marathons taking place a few days later, we still managed to beat last year's RRR turnout in memory of much-missed club member Ian Casey. 47 Royton runners gathered on the start line - which turned into 46 of the 105 finishers, unfortunately, as Chris Eavers' unreliable calf gave way again.

It's not just the number of runners taking part - I'm sure that 44% of the total field is a new record - but the quality is improving all the time. Even in the absence of the likes of Ian McBride, Mark Kelly, Richard Fiddling & Colin Green, 19 club members completed the two-lap 5K course in less than 20 minutes (compared to 15 last year) & we had two of the first five finishers - Stuart Carroll 3rd (2nd V40) in 17:38 & the ever-improving David McBride 5th in 17:59. With eight Royton runners finishing in the 48 seconds between Bill Balmer in 9th & Des Thorpe in 18th, I'm guessing there were some pretty exciting sprint finishes!

Carole Madden dominated the ladies race, first home in 19:23, which also made her the third V50 finisher (male or female). Other impressive age category performances came from Debbie Fiddling (1st FV45), Bernie Cassidy (1st V50), Dave Phillips (1st V65), Kirsty White (1st FV35 on her club championship debut), Val Kilburn (1st FV40), Alan Bodell (2nd V45), Debbie Shaw (2nd FV45), George Meynell (2nd V65), Teresa Hollins (2nd FV55), June Allingan (2nd FV65), Laura Walters (3rd Senior Female in her first club race), Des Thorpe (3rd V45), Shiela Waite (3rd FV45), Diane Allingan (3rd FV50), Barry Greaves (3rd V55) & Dave Hall (3rd V50 in his first club race of the year).

The morning started cold & wet, but by the time we set off for conditions were almost perfect for racing - certainly judging by the number of 'personal bests' recorded. The outstanding performance was provided by Dave McBride, who smashed his previous best with a time of 1:20:07 & finished 24th, splitting the pre-race favourites Stuart Carroll & Ian Bishop. Stuart continued his fantastic recent form with yet another PB, making the most of Ian McBride's absence (resting ahead of next weekend's Edinburgh Marathon) to pick up maximum points in the club championship, finishing 19th in 1:18:50. Ian Bishop was 28th to finish, less than a minute behind Dave McBride.

The ladies race was as competitive as ever. Carole Madden won second FV50 prize in 1:30:41, but in a very strong field her position as 10th lady overall is even more impressive. Debbie Fiddling won the 'battle of the Debbies' this time, her 1:36:55 putting her more than two minutes ahead of Debbie Shaw (1:39:30). Teresa Hollins was third F55 in 1:48:52, followed by Kay Fitton (2:01:55), Diane Allingan (2:10:57), Anne Jones (2:12:40) & June Allingan (2:15:22).

Michael Harrison was another to record a PB, his time of 1:28:16 making him the fifth Royton finisher just ahead of the vet contingent of Richard Fiddling (1:28:52), Bernie Goodwin (1:29:17), John Higgins (1:30:02) & Rob Kellett (1:30:31).

Meanwhile George Meynell was our 'age category' star in this race, his impressive time of 1:45:25 giving him top prize in the V65 category.

Other finishers: David Emanuel (1:26:40), James Trollope (1:31:44), Bruce Whittam (1:35:47), Dave Smith (1:39:24), Dean Burgess (1:40:09), Ged Navesey (1:40:48), John Sweeney (1:44:59), Stephen Jones (1:58:14) & Neil Barker (1:59:49). 

BOLTON 5K - 8th MAY 2011
For an event with 301 finishers there was a lot of razzmatazz to the new Bolton 5K, including a communal warm up, a mayor, a massage tent, a funfair, some premiership footie players & one of them inflatable arches at the finish line. The route set out from the Reebok Stadium before quickly leaving the tarmac to loop around Red Moss Nature Reserve on stony tracks beset by puddles. Without the recent dry weather it would have been a total mudfest but the course was very flat, which made a refreshing change from the 5K races we usually run.

Andy O’Sullivan was on the mic at the finish line but the race was organised by Legacy Events, who have a series of races coming up in the north west - click here for more details. As it was a well-organised event with good facilities, a family atmosphere & a fun run for children, the other events might be of particular interest to runners with kids.

The winner was Anthony Valentine of Bolton United Harriers with a time of 16:02. Wearing bib number 1, Bolton Wanderers’ goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen finished on 26:16, over eight minutes behind Royton’s only representative, Bill Balmer. Nearing his goal of a sub-18 finish & making a big improvement in his PB, Bill came in 4th at 18:06. The Wanderers’ captain, Kevin Davies, complained of a headache & cried off at the last minute, unlike Bill’s partner, Su Goldthorpe, who is made of sterner stuff. This was Su’s first ‘proper’ race (the Liverpool Santa Dash doesn’t count as she was pushing Bill’s mum in her wheelchair) & her time of 30:56 is particularly impressive considering her ongoing resistance to Coach Balmer’s training regime. [Bill Balmer]

It’s becoming clear there is a small break-away group at RRR who would be more suited to being called Royton Trail Runners! Whatever they are called they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves. Myself & Colin Green decided to do this race twice as a final ‘long run’ training session ahead of the Edinburgh marathon on 22nd May…a certain Bruce Whittam told me it would be a ‘killer’. He was right & anybody who has done this race before will know why…Trooper Lane! Although I did manage to run it all (honestly) it took its toll on me. We completed the race together, Colin generously giving me the line. We then did another seven miles until we got lost in the forest! A great event though, very well organised, friendly, great goody bag & (apart from Trooper Lane) over fantastic countryside. I’ll be back next year!  [Des Thorpe]

Finishing times/positions
73rd Des Thorpe (1:26:47)
74th Colin Green (1:26:51)
79th Russell Ingham (1:27:18)
82nd Barry Greaves (1:27:52)
110th Bruce Whittam (1:30:38)
200th George Meynell (1:41:34)
214th Kirsty White (1:42:57)
269th David Ellis (1:52:03)
344th Julie Greenwood (2:03:16)
345th Tony Hunking (2:03:16)
352nd Kay Fitton (2:04:17)
364th Diane Allingan (2:06:34)
384th Jenny Wood (2:16:00)
389th Natalie Yates-Bolton (2:19:20)
391st Eileen Ingham (2:23:27)


Conditions were just right for this race - it was a fraction warm, but the slight breeze off the sea made it perfect running conditions. The course was flat, with a small loop & then a big loop, with the start and finish at the leisure centre on the Esplande. The race was run on the sea front walkways & back on the path on the main road in Fleetwood. There were three Royton Road Runners taking part in this event & all had great runs. Ian McBride finished 2nd overall in a time of 53:44, knocking a minute of his PB, beaten only by a class Ben Fish from Blackburn. David McBride had an excellent run, combined with a strong finish, & finished 8th overall with a cracking time of 01:01 in his first attempt over the 10 mile distance. His recent times reflect an improvement in fitness & show that he could make an impact in the club championship. Trevor Grundy was the 3rd Royton Road Runner on show & did himself & the club proud with an impressive 01:38. All in all a great run which I would definitely do again & can recommend to anyone hunting down a PB at the 10 mile distance.  [Ian McBride]

Nine Royton Road Runners were amongst the 35,000 taking part in this year's London Marathon - and a great time was had by all! Bryan Lawton, Colin Green, Jane Tonge & various members of the Eavers family were on hand to offer great support as our athletes produced some wonderful performances in very warm conditions. Star performer was Stuart Carroll, who regained his club marathon record with a fantastic 2hrs 50mins 5secs, beating Ian Bishop's Gloucester Marathon time from January by just three seconds. Ian himself was not far behind, finishing in 2:52:25. Debbie Shaw responded to Debbie Fiddling's performance at Lochaber in impressive style, her time of 3:34:25 putting her ahead in the Ladies Marathon Championship by nearly four minutes. There were marathon personal bests for David Emanuel (3:05:09) & Mark Kelly (3:09:08), while Dave Kershaw returned to marathon running after a break of more than a year to record a time of 3:06:47. Chris Eavers was next home in 3:32:18, followed by Ged Navesey (3:58:31) & Teresa Hollins (4:08:91).

Once Stuart had fully recovered from his exertions (we'll spare you the graphic details), the Royton team spent Sunday night in an Indian restaurant & various London hostelries, replenishing carbohydrates in the only way we know how. Photos & video interviews will hopefully be available on the website in the near future. Congratulations to all who ran & many thanks to our brilliant supporters!

Yet another stunning result for the club! Despite the absence of several top runners - keeping their powder dry for the Virgin London Marathon at the weekend - there was a grand total of 39 Royton vests (once again more than 20% of the field) on show for this four-miler, the latest race in the club championship. Even better, Ian McBride came home first, 31 seconds ahead of the rest of the field, with brother David also producing a great run for a top-10 finish. Carole Madden returned after missing the Vera Hirst 5K to win the FV50 race, finishing as third lady overall, while John Higgins & Dave Phillips were similarly victorious in the V55 & V65 categories respectively. There was a clutch of other top-three finishes in different age categories achieved by Debbie Shaw (2nd FV45), Val Kilburn (2nd FV40), David Emanuel (2nd V45), Sheila Waite (3rd FV45), Bill Balmer (3rd V40), Bernie Cassidy (3rd V50), Alan Bodell (3rd V45), Ronnie Quinn (3rd V55) & June Allingan (3rd FV65). Elsewhere there were impressive first races of the season from Barry Greaves & James Trollope in Group 1. RRR again dominated the top of the field - not only with Ian McBride's victory, but also more than 31% of the sub-28 minute (7-minute mile) finishers.

Five Royton Road Runners made the trip over to Soyland, near Halifax, to take part in an LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) event on Saturday. The weather was perfect for this three-loop "walk", sunny, dry & with a cooling breeze. Tony Hunking, Julie Greenwood,  George Meynell, Kirsty White & I were planning to do two of the loops, 18 miles in total, staying together as much as possible. We set off at a steady pace on the first 11-mile loop which took us to the Scammonden Dam wall (it's enormous!) & the first feeding station of the day, where there were cakes, water, squash & even beer on offer. The route then followed the M62 back towards Ainley Top - considering we were so near the motorway a lot of the time, the countryside was lovely & only the noise of the traffic reminded us of its presence. We returned to the event HQ for the next feeding station where sandwiches, cakes, hot & cold drinks were on offer. After a leisurely pit-stop we set-off on the second 6.5-mile loop. This was Kirsty's first run above 7 miles - an impressive start in what is going to be an eventful running career! George gamely continued with us despite carrying a hamstring injury. Loop 2 took in some very pretty farm & woodland scenery & included an impressive but now defunct viaduct. The highlight of this loop was standing 20 feet from a woodpecker having its lunch - it was totally unfazed & hopefully Julie has managed to get some footage of this. The loop incorporated a lot of uphill work, which took its toll on George's leg, so he decided to sit-out Loop 3, leaving four of us - unexpectedly for Kirsty & I - to complete all three loops. This final section, at only four miles long, had some good views of our earlier outward journey & finished (as did the other two loops) with an uphill slog back to HQ. On completion of the event we were presented with a certificate & cloth badge, plus a meal of tuna pasta followed by bananas & custard. All-in-all it was a lovely day, with some impressive achievements & all for just £7 pre-entry, well worth it & fantastic value for money. If you're intereseted in looking at the route I've uploaded it to garmin connect. I'm hoping to do one of these events a month, if anyone is interested in joining me they'd be more than welcome! The next one I'm planning is the 22-mile Todmorden Boundary Walk on Sunday 1st May, start time 8am.  [Shiela Waite]

'Hot off the press' news from Lochaber, courtesy of Richard was a baking 21 degrees, with "loads of men running bare-chested" (taking their lead from Bruce, no doubt). The heat didn't stop our intrepid athletes, as Richard came home in 3hrs 34mins, Bruce Whittam in 3:48, Dave Smith 3:59 & Jeff Cordwell 4:16. But pride of place goes to Debbie Fiddling - a fantastic 3hrs 38mins giving her 2nd FV45 prize in her debut marathon. Congratulations to all - I'm sure I'm not the only one hoping for much cooler conditions in London next weekend!

VERA HIRST 5K - 30th MARCH 2011
Just when you think it can't get any better...there were an incredible 46 Royton Road Runners in the field for the first midweek race of the 2011 club championship - that's double the 23 who took part last year & more than 22% of the total field. Even more impressive, we had 15 runners breaking the 20-minute barrier, representing 30% of the first 50 finishers. Ian McBride produced another fantastic run to finish second overall in 16:16, there were numerous PBs from the likes of Stuart Carroll (by a full 30 seconds) & Colin Green, plus some great performances by several of Mark Kelly's 'Run in England' group. Ian Bishop & Alan Bodell both produced impressive runs in their first club championship appearances of the season, third & sixth RRR finishers respectively. Debbie Fiddling was, for the first time, the leading Royton lady finisher in a time of 21:45, good enough for third FV45, while Bernie Cassidy was second V50, George Meynell second V65, Val Kilburn second FV40, John Higgins third V55 & June Allingan third FV65. Congratulations to everyone who took part!


The '[email protected] Physio Matters' group (see 'News' - 13th February) continues to go from strength to strength, with the distances covered in sessions increasing and PBs tumbling. On 19th March the group used the Oldham Parkrun, under the expert guidance of Mark Kelly, as their first race. 12 of the group completed the 5K Alexandra Park course in times varying from 25:58 to 38:04. All the members of the group enjoyed their first taste of racing on this ‘undulating’ course.

Undaunted by the experience, most of the group have signed up for the Great Manchester Run on 15th May 2011 & this is the next group goal. I have had a great time taking this group & seeing their vast improvement in fitness. It has become a very supportive environment to progress. The group is large enough to allow three different-paced groups with six people in each group. For more information email or look at the facebook page which is proving a valuable resource for members to plan ‘homework’ runs between formal training nights on Tuesdays at 7pm from Greenfield Conservative Club.  [Colin Green] 

A few Royton Road Runners made their way to Cheshire last weekend to take part in the 2011 Wilmslow Half Marathon. A crowded street (full of 4,800 runners) made a decent warm-up impossible, so jogging on the spot was all that could be done. A few cheeky people had pushed forward to places they shouldn’t have been, so this made for a difficult first quarter of a mile - but from there it was clear country lanes with perfect weather conditions. For the upcoming Edinburgh Marathon I've set myself the target of getting under 3:10 (so I can maybe get into the London Marathon next time), so for Wilmslow I had set my sights on a personal best performance, after hitting the wall in last year’s event at 10 miles. Having forgot my digital watch I was running with no idea of my pace, so I was just relying on how my body felt - & managed to use every bit of energy I had to run a new PB of 1:25:12. The next Royton Road Runner home was Russell Ingham in a new personal best of 1:32:43, followed by James Trollope in 1:33:21.  [Matt Oldham]


As part of my Edinburgh training schedule, I needed to fit in a half marathon. This would be a good gauge as to whether my target time of 3:15 was do-able, so I made the decision to aim for sub-1:30 at Liverpool. I decided to use a ‘Runner’s World Pacer’ to aid me as I knew they were available at Liverpool. After 10 miles & a constant 6:52 mins/mile I decided to push on & did 6:42, 6:41 & the last mile at 6:29. I’m glad I did, as I only got under 1:30 with 27 seconds to spare. I’m not sure whether the pacer achieved 1:30!!! I finished strong & it was good to achieve a negative split…oh & a PB of 1:29:33. Click here to see the reading from my Garmin, including a summary of the route.  [Des Thorpe]

EAST HULL 20 - 20th MARCH 2011

This 20-miler is described by East Hull Harriers as a "good warm-up race for London Marathon competitors" - Mark Kelly & David Emanuel can certainly vouch for that! We made the long trip east, admiring the Humber Bridge on the way, with a (cunning) plan to test our readiness for London by running round at 7-minute/mile pace. Conditions were nearly perfect - cool & dry, a little breezy on some of the more exposed parts of the course. The course itself is fast & mostly flat, with the few small climbs coming as a bit of a surprise (not least the one that appeared in the last half mile). Mark, full of energy from the start, found it extremely difficult to restrict himself to the planned pace throughout, eventually crossing the line in an impressive (unconfirmed) time of 2hrs 17mins 45secs. David followed him round (at an increasing distance) to finish almost exactly on schedule in approx 2hrs 19mins 31secs. This is a well-organised, well-marshaled & enjoyable race...we'd certainly recommend it as part of the preparation for anyone's spring marathon in future years.

Another marvellous day out in Dent for the green invaders from Royton Road Runners. Difficult to single out a highlight, as everyone will have their own personal favourite. For some, it was watching Chris Eavers shrug off his calf injury, which forced him to drop out of the race, to achieve an impressive personal best in demolishing The Sun's 'Cumberland sausage & double egg' combo. For others, seeing the look on Stuart Carroll's face as he opened his 2nd V40 prize envelope to reveal a voucher for a meal in the George & Dragon, immediately after finishing his lunch (although Ian McBride's 'man bag' prize for 5th place in the race runs it pretty close). Then there was Bruce Whittam's remarkable balance, standing in the aisle pouring wine perfectly as the coach driver negotiated the twists & turns on the road out of Dent.

The run itself was pretty good too! Near-perfect conditions helped the Royton team (34 finishers, up from 26 last year) to some impressive times, including several PBs for the course & a number of really good debut performances. Ian McBride's excellent 5th place (1:20:41) was only slightly tainted by seeing Altrincham runners dressed as Superman & Spiderman finish in 1st & 3rd. Stuart Carroll improved by nearly three minutes on his 2010 time to finish 11th in 1:27:41 & claim a vets prize in his first race in the UK since he reached the ripe old age of 40. Dave McBride produced a superb run to finish 30th in 1:33:59. George Meynell (4th V60, 1:51:49) improved on his previous best on the course by a full nine minutes, while Neil Barker (2:18:19) knocked an incredible 20 minutes of his time from last year. Carole Madden was 4th lady finisher & 2nd V45 in an impressive 1:41:45, while Shiela Waite ruined many pre-race predictions as she came home 2nd lady for the club (5th FV45, 1:52:47). Full results can be found on the 'Seasons Results' page.

Overall, yet another excellent club trip. Worth noting that despite the very visible presence of a large contingent of runners from Dumfries AC, the official results show that their 27 finishers fell some way short of our total!

OK, it's not a real race...but the Saturday morning training run around the traditional Oldham Half Marathon route looks like it's going to become an annual event! Last year's inaugural run attracted a good turnout, including Des Thorpe & Paul McHugh, now well-established & valued members of the club. This time around, at Bruce Whittam's suggestion, the 13.1 miles formed the middle section of a testing 20-miler starting at Middleton Junction which attracted 10 runners - including Stuart Carroll, fresh from his PB marathon in Cyprus (where, contrary to previous reports based on the apparently misleading official results, he was first V40 finisher & came home with a very impressive trophy) & Chris Hill, a Rochdale Harrier looking for some company during his London Marathon preparations. Others joining in the fun were Bruce, Chris Eavers (happily recovering well from a recent calf injury), Colin Green, Dave Kershaw, Bernie Goodwin, Dave McBride, Richard Fiddling & David Emanuel. Rather carelessly, nobody thought to record the actual time it took us to run the half marathon route - so I'm officially reporting that all of us ran it in 1:29:59.    

Yet another great RRR turn-out - 35 club members made the trip to run at Blackpool, up from 29 last year. Windy conditions made it tough for everyone, but didn't stop Ian McBride completing the two-lap course in 1hr 13mins 13 seconds for a magnificent third place finish in a quality field. After his race-winning performance at last year's Fleetwood Marathon in even tougher conditions, Ian obviously has a liking for running on the Fylde coast. There were plenty of other impressive performances, including PBs for Mark Kelly (1:25:03) & Colin Green (1:25:45), while Bernie Cassidy (1:26:10) & Dave Phillips (1:42:28) picked up third prizes in the V50 & V65 age categories respectively. It was also great to see club stalwarts Jeff Cordwell & Trevor Grundy taking part in the race. See the 'Season Results' page for full race results.

Barry Greaves was the sole RRR representative competing in the final race of the South East Lancs league at Boggart Hole Clough. Barry had a fine run & came in 39th overall, finishing as eighth Vet 50 in a time of 47mins 31secs.

A magnificent effort by Stuart Carroll to regain his club marathon record was foiled by tough conditions in Cyprus. After a bad storm the night before the race it remained very windy for the event itself, with the race winner's time of 2hrs 27mins a full 14 minutes slower than in 2010. Stuart, however, still managed to produce a new PB of 2hrs 52mins 51secs, almost two minutes better than his time at London last year & good enough for 10th place overall in the men's race - pretty impressive when you consider that the top four places were taken by Kenyan athletes. Stuart was the second British runner to cross the line...and although the official results appear not to recognise his new 'veteran' status, his performance made him the third best V40 finisher. With Stuart due to line up alongside Ian Bishop at London in April & Ian McBride tackling Edinburgh in May, it seems unlikely that the new club record - set by Ian Bishop at Gloucester in January - will remain in place for long!

To West Yorkshire for the first club championship race of the season...and if the number of RRR members in the field is any indication, we have a great year in prospect! An incredible 40 runners completed the race (up from 24 last year) & despite a strong wind making the course more challenging than usual, 31 of these finished inside 50 minutes (with 19 under 45mins, 9 sub-40).

Ian McBride justified his status as hot favourite, with an excellent chip time of 33mins 53secs good enough for 24th position overall (of 970 finishers). Ian finished more than two minutes ahead of Club Champion Stuart Carroll, who was delighted to record a 10K PB of 36:17 just two weeks ahead of his '40th birthday marathon' in Cyprus. Mark Kelly, in his first race in the top group, was fourth club finisher in an impressive 38:49, just behind Owen Flage.  

If last week's Pennine Bridleway Relay performance was dominated by the gnarled RRR veterans, this was the race where the (somewhat less gnarled) ladies made their mark. Ladies Champion Carole Madden started where she left off in 2010, winning first prize in the FV50 category with a time of 41:28. It looks like the battle for the ladies trophies is going to be really hard-fought this year, as Debbie Shaw (45:23), Jill Grime (46:01) & Debbie Fiddling (46:15) all finished within a minute of each other. Carole, Debbie Shaw & Jill were ranked an excellent fifth in a really competitive ladies team race behind Hallamshire, Holmfirth, Valley Striders & Ilkley. Also recording impressive performances were Val Kilburn (51:15), Jennifer Tonge (56:23 in her debut race for RRR), Diane Allingan (56:29), Anne Jones (57:32), Kay Fitton (60:01), Eileen Ingham (60:34) & June Allingan (61:24).

In the men's veteran categories, Dave Phillips was 3rd V65 (46:30), while Bernie Cassidy just missed out on the V50 prizes (4th in 38:51).

All results can be found via the 'Season Results' page. A special mention to John Sweeney (48:21) - great to see him start the season well after serious injury last year; also for the ongoing battle between John Lambe & Ronnie Quinn, who both gained promotion from Group 3 in 2010. On this occasion it was Ronnie who came out on top, with his time of 48:40 putting him 15 seconds ahead of John - compared to last year, the gap is definitely closing!        

After several months of preparation, team changes, recces in sub-zero temperatures, hundreds of e-mails & (for Des in particular) many sleepless's really happened! Two teams of Royton Road Runners - that's 20 runners in total - competed for the first time in this tough off-road relay, alongside the cream of northern fell running clubs. And despite the 'Road' in our name, we didn't do at all badly! Our 'A' team finished a creditable 23rd out of the 109 teams entered, whilst the 'oldies' team was seventh best in the 'vets' category (39th overall). After two such fantastic team efforts it would be wrong to single out individual performances - full details are available on the race website if you're interested - so congratulations to everyone who took part: Alan Bodell & Owen Flage, Bruce Whittam & Dave Hall, Ian McBride & Ian Bishop, Colin Green & David Emanuel, Stuart Carroll & Dave Kershaw, Des Thorpe & Chris Eavers, Dave McBride & Bill Balmer, Barry Greaves & John Higgins, Mark Kelly & Mike Harrison, Richard Fiddling & Bryan Lawton.

However, a few people do deserve a special mention - Eamonn Nolan for his excellent taxi service for the Leg 1&2 runners, the supporters who popped up at various points on the course to spur us on (Ray Shaw, George Meynell, Debbie Fiddling), Richard Fiddling for the VIP parking arrangements at Menzolit...and, above all, Des Thorpe. Some of us may have initially thought that Des was being quite ambitious trying to get a team together from a group of dedicated road runners...and positively foolhardy when he suggested entering two teams. But his enthusiasm & organisational skills, together with an absolute bombardment of e-mails, texts & forum updates, ensured that we got two full (properly-equipped) teams to the start line & completed the race with barely a hitch. Many thanks, Des - take a rest now, but we look forward to hearing about your next scheme!

With the influx of new members in the latter part of 2010, it always seemed likely that the standard this year would be higher than ever - and it's certainly started out that way! In the first qualifying race of 2011, Ian Bishop has smashed the club marathon record, his time of 2:50:08 knocking more than four minutes of Stuart Carroll's time at London last year. Ian's performance was good enough for eighth place overall & earned him third prize in the V40 category.

Bernie Cassidy, Steve Shaw & John Kane also made the long trip to Gloucester. Bernie produced an excellent run, suggesting that the injury problems that disrupted his marathon performances in 2010 are well behind him as he finished the race in 35th place in 3:10:36, winning second prize in the V50s. Steve & John completed the three-lap course together in an impressive 3:48:55.

Club Champion Stuart Carroll has an early opportunity to regain his marathon record when he travels to Limassol in Cyprus on 20th February. It looks like it's going to be an interesting year!

Leigh Sports Village was a new venue & the reports from the course were that it was well-organised although a bit too flat for the tougher runners.

Barry Greaves made his cross-country comeback & came in 52nd out of 121 men (9th V50). The weather was favourable despite the previous day's weather reports. It only began to rain at the start of the men's race but at least it wasn't too cold.  [Marilyn Guest]

Thankfully all the snow & ice from the last few weeks have disappeared in time for the first race of 2011. A great turn out from Royton (eight - beaten by only three other clubs) helped boost numbers of this festive race to 120, which Andy O’Sullivan certainly seemed pleased to see! The race HQ is the Red Lion in Whitworth - of which the only remotely interesting fact is that 'Red Lion' is the most popular name of pubs in our fair land.

The start is bit of a walk from the pub (regulars to Andy's races in the Cowm area will not be surprised about that!). An uphill start gets the quads warmed up & then the long straight of Cowm Way South (parking area for the race & for the Cowm 5K) is the easy part of the course. Another left heads up the hill to the reservoir & you do one lap of the ‘resi’ (as in the Cowm 5K), on your second lap you don’t go through the horse gate, instead you head on & turn left a few metres along.This is where the true part of the 'multi-terrain' description takes place on muddy quarry tracks…traction is not your ally here! You head up the hill, where at the top a marshal tells white lies about the distance to go (rant over) & you descend back to the start. I took the early lead in the 'Royton' race but Alan Bodell overtook me as we went around the water (mud hunter that he is!) & lost sight of him as we headed up the hill at three miles.

The finishing Roytoners were: Alan Bodell (9th & 1st V45 in 26:39), Mark Kelly (17th, 27:18), Bruce Whittam (31st, 29:38), Chris Eavers (41st, 30:45), Barry Greaves (64th, 32:35), Neil Barker (106th, 39:18), Natalie Yates-Bolton (117th, 48:20) & Vicky Bramley (118th, same time).

The great turn-out by RRR members last year continues into 2011 - well done to all! I am grateful that I will be doing a physio course the day after this leg-punishing race, both for the rest & maybe a leg massage from the tutor!  [Mark Kelly]