Alex’s Newspaper Report.

This is what we’re all missing

These are very difficult times but the world of athletics in common with all other sports has been brought to its knees by the current health crisis. And yet it is almost busier behind the scenes than when it is in full swing. It is vital at present to keep club members engaged, while there are no events and no outdoor activity there is plenty of virtual community using social media and video conference technology.

Top of the list of activities is a growing league of virtual races and grand prix using online tools such as Strava, an application and hardware that allows tracking for runners and cyclists to record performance and routes using GPS data. Anyone can create a virtual event and individuals can record their performances against it. In these times of social distancing it is bob on to follow the government advice and stay safe while allowing athletic involvement. Wesham have run a 5-10k virtual event this week ending on Wednesday evening, the results will be available for next week.

Wesham have established an online leaderboard, with last week’s leader Daniel Shaw completing 62.9km and had the top time duration of 5:31:42. As a fell specialist he also came in with the highest amount of climb with 1617m. Mark Belfield was 2nd on the leaderboard with 59.4km in 4hr 15min and Lee Barlow 3rd with 56.8km in 4hr 23min. Steve Swarbrick, another fell runner, had the second highest amount of ascent with 940m but only 3hr 51min of running. James Mulvany, who has recently switched allegiance from Wesham to Kendal had 4:43:00 hours of training and 813m of ascent. This was all before Sunday’s announcement of lockdown with severe restrictions on outdoor activity. There is a general message from running clubs and all the umbrella organisations to athletes and club members to please continue to renew your membership when it become due as there is still a very supportive social network and everyone is still out there, planning for the day when events can resume and offering a social network in the meantime.

The fixtures list on the Power of 10 shows all events since 15th March have been cancelled or postponed. All dates are on hold now up until the end of June and those in July are currently pending.

One of the last events to go ahead and closing the winter season was the British Masters Cross Country Championships, staged in the Rhug Estate just east of Corwen in the picturesque Dee Valley in North Wales. Starting off fine the day closed in with some very atmospheric Welsh mist and drizzle, still forming a pleasing seasonal backdrop in a peaceful remote spot although right alongside the main A5 road to Holyhead.  Featuring 176 runners across 2 events, and all-women and men Over-65 6km and a men’s 35 to 64 age group there was serious competition over a testing 2.5k circuit through the fields of Lord Newborough’s estate together with a technical stream crossing. Masters’ athletics is a well-kept secret to all but the best well-informed, but the Federation is comprised of 11 Area Clubs with 8 serving England and the other 3 the Celtic nations. Local representation from the North West was virtually non-existent, with just Kevin Hesketh from Preston and representing Wales finishing 13th in the 6km race and earning himself bronze M65 medal. Eric Ranicar from Bolton Harriers was 7th M70. In the 8km race Lancaster and Morecambe had a team with Ray Edgar top scorer in 6th place supported by Mark Leadbeatter and Chris Coreless. There was also an England Inter-Area challenge between the 8 area Clubs, with Northern Masters wining both the Men’s and Women’s teams. Results are based on age-graded performances. Alex Rowe of Wesham was ever-present as results official and will present the Inter-Area certificates to the NMAC teams at a later date. Northern Masters Athletics Club provides regional masters competition for the Over-35s across Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Humberside, and northern parts of Lincolnshire and Derbyshire.

Some very sad news last week was the death of Nick Jones, Warrington AC, at the age of 45, having fought off cancer for some years. Nick was a former British International having competed in 5 IAAF Half marathons and then represented England in the British & Irish International and winning medals in the European and World Masters championships for the British Masters team.

The masters are particularly busy at present despite all events being called off, with the England Athletics Masters Annual General Meeting this month turned into a video conference and a British Masters athletes consultation in full swing with individual groups representing Road, Track and Field and Cross Country, and a Steering Group to co-ordinate ideas, with multiple video conference happening each week at present in the first round of discussions.

On this week 10 years ago the historic Coniston 14 road race in the Lake District was extended to 16.7 miles as the Bouthrey Bridge was washed away in heavy floods. Wesham’s Alex Rowe finished 10th in 1:45:01 to win the M50 category, after a battle with Karl Lee who came in 12th 1:45:15. Steve Myerscough finished strongly in 15th place with 1:46:32 to secure Wesham 2nd men’s team behind a strong Glaxo Hoad Hill. Carmel Sullivan placed 13th woman in 2:02:06 with Michaela Dempsey 57th in 2:15:48 and Jen Salt 77th in 2:19:37 to place the women 5th team. Wesham had a staggering 29 members running in this event and there was a real club sense of community on the day. Steve Littler clocked 1:08:38 in the Wilmslow Half Marathon (14th place) and Gary Pendlebury was 4th M50 in the Ribby Hall Triathlon (400m swim 11:05; 104-mile cycle in 35:34 and 9th in the 5k run with 20:02) for a total time of 1:06:41.

5 years ago saw the European Masters Indoor Championships take place in Torun, Poland and Alex Rowe took a mixed team from Preston and Fylde clubs for the week, Rowe himself narrowly missed a bronze medal in the 3000m by 0.01 sec, with Preston’s Alan Appleby winning the M65 Cross Country and Sharon Greenwood Silver in the 200m. The team included Lytham’s Graham webster and Greg Oulton, and Steve Hallas from Preston. Rob Danson was 27th in the Wilmslow Half Marathon in 1:11:55 with the winning time a top-class 1:04:57. The Wesham men were 3rd team in the Coniston 14 with Lee Barlow 28th (1:28:26); Steve Myerscough 44th (1:30:13) and Jason Barlow 52nd (1:31:14). Catherine Carrdus was 3rd woman in 1:33:39; Nicola Unsworth 26th with 1:45:53; and Helen Lawrenson was 32nd woman and 2nd W45 in (1:48:03) to collectively win the women’s team. Nicola Unsworth went on to run the Garstang Gallop on Sunday with George Kennedy and John Howorth, Nicky Omar and Clive Berry also ran. David Taylor ran 18:54 in Preston parkrun with Karl Lee 17:20 having gained his 50th run; Elliot Costello 20:17; Gemma Owen 23:00 and Phil Leaver 23:15.

This week last year saw the Northern Athletics Men’s 12-Stage and Women’s 6-Stage Road relays in Birkenhead Park on a glorious spring day where Wesham fielded two ladies and two men’s teams. Kay Twist (40:53); Carmel Sullivan (16:49); Sue Coulthurst (17:21); Louisa Denye (39:37); Alice Deacon (18:57); and Bernadette Dickinson (20:28) made up the women’s “A” team with a cumulative time of 2:34:05 to finish 49th. Tanya Barlow (41:48); Emma Davies (20:44); Julie Rooney (23:07); Sharlan Butcher (44:17); Heather Buckel (22:33); and Antionette Halton (21:14) were the Wesham Ladies “B” team in 53rd place with 2:53:43. Stages 1 and 4 were 8km and the shorter stages were 4k.  The Senior Men ran 8km on Stages 1,3,5 and 7, with the other stages 4km. Simon Denye took out the Wesham Men’s “A” team with 28:56 ; Steven Gore 14:18; Lee Barlow 28:56; Chris Hastwell 14:17; David Taylor 28:41; Martin Bates 16:54; Thomas Crabtree 31:01; Mark Renshall 14:41; Mick Edge 16:47; John Collier 17:18; Colin Smy 18:48; and Jason Parkinson 15:52, closing the team 59th in 4:06:29. The “B” team were 65th in 4:47:22, with Neil Gregson on the first stage (31:12);  Elliot Costello (15:40); Rob Wallace (33:54); Ben Wrigley (16:47); Ryan Azzopardi (37:24); Peter Bartlett (21:24); Peter Rooney (37:45); Dave Young (19:44); Graham Cunliffe (19:37); Stephen Twist (20:10); James Birchall (17:14); and Stuart Topping (16:31). This was the second great year for the club at this venue with good weather both years and a real outing for the club.