Striders Ladies Crowned Queens of Merseyside
It was a historic week for St. Helens Striders as confirmation came that the ladies’ team had been crowned Merseyside Grand Prix Champions for 2019. The ten race series went down to the wire, as Striders entered the final race in 2nd place overall. A sensational performance in the final race, the Knowsley Safari 10 Miler, allowed the team to overhaul the leaders, Penny Lane Striders, to claim the title for the first time in the club’s history. The men also produced their best result in recent years as they ended the series in 4th place overall.
There was also individual glory, as Sue Heaps (V55) and Brenda Cahill (V60) were rewarded for their year long consistency with victory in their age categories. Rachael Fairclough and Chris Hazeldine can also look back on the season with immense pride as they finished 2nd and 4th respectively in the open age categories, featuring Merseyside’s finest distance running talent.
There was further recognition for the irrepressible Fairclough as she has been selected to represent England in the V35 category in the upcoming Masters International match between the home nations.
Back on the roads, a team of Striders were on home ground in the Rainford 10K. Star of the show was Dylan Thomas, who produced a fantastic performance to finish on the podium in 3rd place in a fleet-footed 37:09. Second Strider home was race addict John Williams in an electrifying 41:39, seemingly unaffected having also ran superbly in the previous morning’s Halewood 5K. Pushing Williams all the way was Kevin Brennan, whose 41:44 saw him emerge as winner in the V50 category, and take another step back to his best after a long term injury. Darren Eckersley’s warm up for the race comprised a frenzied dash from the airport after a week of bacchanalian revelry in Cyprus. Despite this, Eckersley still claimed an impressive top 25 finish in 42:40. Peter ‘Boom’ Bennett delighted his friends and family as he crossed the line in 50:18, while other strong performances came from Carol Foster (52:47), and Jo Heriott (56:53). Cherryl Orrick also ran well to finish in 52:55, after also finishing 1st V45 lady at Halewood a day earlier.
For an intrepid band of Striders, there was an expedition to Scotland in search of both PBs and a mythological behemoth of the deep at the Loch Ness Marathon. Unfortunately, no zoological breakthroughs were forthcoming, but the hunt for PBs was more fruitful. Karl Bowles achieved a monstrous new best of 3:36 on a tough course, with wife Sarah Bowles also excelled in her first ever marathon to finish in 4:54. Peter Teeling was 2nd home for Striders in an admirable 4:35, with Mark Carrier not far behind in 4:45 after a training period punctuated by regular warm weather ‘training’ trips Magaluf.
Closer to home, the Chester Marathon saw a remarkable performance in his first marathon by Tom Chadwick. After a strong start, Chadwick held his pace consistently to finish in a rapid 3:18. IronMan Paul Booth, after a gruelling year, started strongly in his bid to finish in under four hours, but his heavy training for the brutal triathlon in July took its toll as he faded in the final miles to finish in a still impressive 4:08.
Lynda Butchard posted her fastest time in three years at the Aintree 10K, galloping to a fantastic 1:02, while mud-lover Anita Hall had a great time over the hills and trails at the Rivington Half Marathon.
There was more off road action as a band of Striders headed to Coniston for the Lakeland Trails 15K race. Strider stars Kelly Hamilton and Rachael Fairclough once again made the podium, finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively in a tough race on a punishing course. The honours continue to stack up for the great friends and further successes are inevitable as they continue to push one another to new heights. Peter Fairclough made it a day to remember as he secured 7th place overall with another powerful performance, with Mark Hamilton completing the Strider marital double as he traversed the trails in style.
The following week brought one of the most anticipated events in the Striders’ calendar. The annual exodus to Palma de Mallorca sees athletes enter one of the many races at the city’s running festival, in a thinly veiled attempt to excuse a weekend of high jinks and debauchery.
In temperatures rising above 25°, Darren Eckersley conquered the heat to complete the half marathon in an outstanding 1:41. Others to make light of covering 13.1 miles after a weekend of San Miguel and sangria were Darren Eccles, John Williams, Kieran Allen, Aaron Scott and Anthony Ellis. The women were not to be outdone , with the delectable duo Wendy Davies and Sharon O’Connell (1:57) rounding off a fine weekend in style as they enjoyed pounding the pavement in the Spanish sunshine.
Janet Holmes skipped merrily through the sunny streets, finishing the 10K race in 1:08, with Striders socialites Jo Jackson and Mike Brunt also completing the event. Karen Harrison also defied the scorching temperatures to come home in 1:18. The determined David Brisco was not about to let a badly swollen ankle stop his running, and took his time to enjoy the sights, and protect his injury, in the 10K race after sensibly stepping down from the half marathon. Others hot footing it through the Mallorcan capital were Karen Mason, Libby Phillipson, Ian Spencer and John and Jackie Dobson. Performance of the day, however, came from the incomparable Pauline Horsfall. In another outstanding display, she once again claimed victory in the V60 category in a stunning 48:20, defeating rivals from across Europe.
Away from the sunny climes of the Balearics, a large squad of Striders took on the Manchester Half Marathon under the more familiar grey skies and autumnal temperatures. Following up his 3rd Place heroics at Rainford the previous weekend, Dylan Thomas tore around the course in a blistering 1:22 and first Strider home. There were huge PBs for Gary Eccleston (1:53) and Nicola Donovan (1:55), knocking eleven and nine minutes off their previous bests respectively. Sian Walsh also ripped up her own record book with a fantastic PB of 1:58, as did sister Kylie Barlow, who continued her excellent late season form in 1:39. Christine Humphrey also sliced two minutes from her previous best mark in 2:07. After a hiatus from racing, Colin Wilson returned in style to complete the course in 1:47, followed by Peter Teeling in 1:50. It was a superb effort from Teeling, coming only seven days after his marathon in Scotland. Rebecca McKenna once again battled to a strong finish, while Angela Cropper displayed her customary grit and determination to stop the clock on 2:53.
Ever the contrarian, Eric Ranson was the lone Strider at the Anderton Boat Lift Trail Half Marathon. His decision to sneak off to the strangely monikered race paid off in spades as he put in a tremendous effort to finish in 4th place overall in 1:31, and claiming a well deserved victory in his age category in the process. Pete Medlicott also ploughed a lone furrow at the Gin Pit 5 Mile Race, sandwiching the race in the middle of a long run in preparation for next week’s Brooklyn Marathon and completing in 40:00.
In the most bizarre event of this, or one suspects, any weekend, Carol Foster took part in the 9K ‘Route of the Vegetables’ in Spain. After spending some time considering whether the race title was a deliberate or accidental pun, Foster raced to a sensational victory in her age category. The surreal nature of the event did not end at the finish line, as she was presented with her well earned prize for the win. A cactus.
More about St Helens Striders Running Club
The St Helens Striders Train on a Monday and Wednesday Evening from the Ruskin Sports Village on Ruskin Drive in Denton’s Green. The warm up starts at 6:50pm and the prearranged training plans start from 7pm. All Abilities Welcome!