Alex’s Newspaper Report.

Remember last January? Stuart Clayton in the Inskip Half Marathon

As the country locked down in both terms of the pandemic restrictions and the post-New Year blues, the actual Blues (Wesham Road Runners) were all action with the January Move Every Day (MED) Virtual Challenge, and a resumption of the Virtual Monthly Handicap. The latter saw 22 members take on the 4.9-mile event either on the actual course through Treales for those local, although this route is currently flooded again along Spen Lane, or an equivalent distance to the runner’s personal choice. In this month’s run, being the first of the year and a return to a virtual event was not handicapped but used to provide the weightings for February’s run.  Thus, on actual time run Lee Barlow ran the fastest time of 53:13. Alan Hudson was second with in 37:20, an excellent run for the over-70-year-old. Nigel Shepherd placed third in 37:29 with Paul Eccles fourth with 37:38. Rob Wallace was fifth in 37:49 with Peter Rooney sixth in 41:15. Michelle Tickle was first woman in 7th place overall in 41:59; Claire-Marie Axel second with 45:14 (11th overall).  Julie Kinsey was third woman (12th overall) in 45:36, and Karen Cook was fourth woman and 14th in 47:03. Pauline Eccleston was fifth and 15th overall in 47:48. Robert Danson was eight in 43:30; Sean Murray ninth with 43:40; Dave Young 10th in 45:10; Troy Watson 11th in 47:03; Phil Leaver 16th with 47:58; Andy Moore was 18th in 49:16; Kerry Eccles sixth woman and 19th in 49:57; Liz Sharrocks seventh and 18th with 52:05; Dawn Biggs eight and 21st in 53:50; and Sharlan Butcher ninth 22nd with 54:11. This was a good result for the first event in three months and sets 2021 off to a good start.

Wesham’s Move Every Day January Challenge is now well underway with 22 days completed, and over 60 members are taking part and keeping up with the daily activity. Outdoor activity can be running, walking or cycling, at least a mile. Any indoor activity can be tracked for 30 minutes or more so if the weather is particularly bad or it is dark members do not have to venture out!  Although once out, if wrapped up well it proves well worth the effort. The club is already planning the challenge for February, with a different theme.

Although there is little for athletes to do at present except train and try to keep fit, it is proving a very busy time for those with interests in athletics administration, with many committee and planning meetings taking place as the year tries to get into swing. While there is little prospect of any domestic athletic events going ahead before April at the earliest there is likely to be some international competition the month before so that UK Athletics can engage its podium athletes. While concert and theatre bookings are opening up from the end of March offering some hope it looks like it will be summer before athletics can really return to former levels and many events are postponing their dates into the autumn, which might get quite busy!

Seemingly the only event in the UK was an indoor meeting at Loughborough, which was a small indoor event for jumps and throws at the national training centre.

Ugis Datavs again topped the Wesham Strava training leader-board last week, with 66.3 miles clocked in 8:05:45. Leading woman was Sue Coulthurst with 37.9 miles in a cumulative time of 6:06:22. Looking at the other end of the table for a change, Andrew Wilkinson had one run of 1.8 miles in 16:46, with Ian Nichols Hogg two short runs totalling 2.1 miles in 31:19. Graham Cunliffe nipped out for one run of 3 miles in 37:51, and Nathan Green also 3 miles in 25:45. Vron Walker ran a 5km in 26:37 and Suzanne Leonard 3.7 miles in 30:39. Lee Lawrenson clocked 4 miles in 35:36; James Birchall 4.1 miles in 40:31; Jim Solan 4.2 miles over 32:33 and Ryan Azzopardi 5.2 miles in 41:00. These are difficult times with the public health crisis and the post-Christmas period which itself was quite unlike any previous year, and the onset of the winter weather. After a week or two of reasonably benign conditions the last week has been tough, but this is the thinking behind the Wesham January Challenge to Move Every Day to foster activity to maintain good physical and mental health. It is good to see so many members getting out at least once a week and the club is keeping very active at present. On elevation gain, Tony Leach was last week’s Monarch of the Mountains with 3445ft climbed over 30.3 miles in a time of 3:56:51, with Lynn Brown topping the women’s leader-board with the serial 1234ft over 36.8 miles in 9:25:30. Simon Denye was second man climbing 1883ft over 55.8 miles in 6:33:23 with Sue Coulthurst uphill 1025ft over her 37.9 miles. Matty Holton was third with 1818ft in 40 miles run in a time of 5:26:00 with Michelle Tickle climbing 919ft in 22.5 miles. Daniel Shaw was fourth up 1798ft in 8:15:31 over 65.2 miles, second overall on the leader-board, and Steve Swarbrick fifth with 1581ft across 37.4 miles in 4:39:15.  The speed merchants were Rob Danson averaging 6:30 per mile over 58.1 miles in 6:17:39, with Suzanne Leonard fastest woman with 8:17 pace for 3.7 miles. Garry Barnett was second overall with 6:50 pace on 20.5 miles in 2:20:05, with Lee Barlow third with 6:53 over a distance of 25.1 miles in 2:52:46. James Green was joint third on 6:53 over his 36.6 miles, and Simon Denye fifth on pace 7:03. Vron Walker was second fastest woman with a pace of 8:35 per mile, and Tanya Shaw third with 8:41 pace over the marathon distance.

In 2005 16 years ago Wesham fielded the leading local men in both of the major fixtures in the region last weekend. Charlie Pass and Alex Rowe led the Fylde contingent in the fourth Mid Lancs cross-Country fixture at Kendal, and Steve Littler was first Fylde runner in the Four Villages Half Marathon. The Mid-Lancs fixture at Kendal Showground at Crooklands was swelled by the addition of the Cumbria County Championships, and there was a sizeable quality field in all the races. The conditions were great for running and there were some excellent tussles. Charlie Pass was Wesham’s leading man, with an excellent run to cover the 4-lap 7-mile course in 35:40 to place 9th. Alex Rowe took some time to get up to speed but ran much better that in the previous week’s County Championships to hold off a clutch of Over-40s over the last lap to clinch 2nd in that age category with 11th place overall in 36:12. Behind Alex the Wesham Men were weakened by the withdrawal of leading vet-50 Gary Pendlebury with a calf strain, but John Collier battled it out with his usual grit to place 58th and 5th Over-50. Derek Buckley found himself in the position of 4th counter as he ran strong to finish 71st. John Bertenshaw enjoyed a good run to claim 95th in 41:45, and for the second week running resurgent Russell Mabbett closed in the Wesham ‘A’ team and the Vet-40 squad in 126th with a great run recording 43:46. The Men’s ‘A’ team were 2nd in Division 2, and the Vet-40 team was 3rd. John Collier, Arthur Swarbrick and Phil Leaver secured 1st team spot for the Vet-50 team. Arthur Swarbrick, Mark Midgeley, Phil Metcalfe, Brian Porter, Barry Edwards and Phil Leaver composed the Men’s ‘B’ team, who between them scored 5th in Division 3. Both Men’s teams were below strength due to injuries. The Wesham Women were similarly depleted due to other commitments, but the four runners present all ran well, particularly Michaela Dempsey (46th in 31:48), and Bernadette Dickinson (53rd in 32:38) who both missed the start due to a slow watch between them. Pat Swarbrick ran 37:03 for 74th place and Marie Wyld came in 75th in 37:07. The Wesham Women placed 5th in Division 2 and 7th Vet-35 team. Graham Vickers was 166th in 47:53 (M40) and Keith Gresty (M60) 208th in 54:54. Dave Preston took on the challenge of the 7-mile Ashurst Beacon Fell Race on Saturday with its uphill finish at the tower. Dave finished 116th in 53:53. Steve Littler had a fine run in difficult cold and windy conditions in north west Cheshire on Sunday in the Four Villages Half Marathon. Steve finished first Fylde runner in 8th position in a time of 1:13:21. Lee Barlow was 2nd Wesham home, 53rd in 2:10:24, trying to pace leading Over-60 Dave Waywell to a course age category record. Unfortunately, the conditions were against Dave, who nevertheless had a storming run to stop the clock at 1:20:34 in 55th place. Alan Hudson finished 2nd Over-55 with an excellent 1:23:55 for 92nd, and Russell Mabbett excelled having run well in the Mid-Lancs the previous day, running 1:26:07 for 133rd place.

Eight years ago, in 2013 the weather put paid to what would have been an important weekend for road running, with snow and ice causing the cancellation of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York and the Four Villages Half Marathon in Cheshire. Both races were sold out to capacity and are top quality for competition and performance and several Wesham members with entries were frustrated and unable to run. It was left to the local Inskip Half Marathon to pick up the pieces and did so in fine style although this race was also sold out and closed before the day and so was unable to accommodate many from the cancelled events. Conditions were still cold and windy but defending champion Stuart Robinson of Salford Harriers was in better shape this year and he forged to a win in 1:08:25, some 7 minutes faster than last year and well ahead of second placed Dave Rigby of Preston who finished 1:26 behind in 1:09:51. The win stiffened during the race and runners faced a tough final three miles into a sharp head wind. The women’s winner was Maria Kelly of Penny Lane in 1:29:10 with Alison Drasdo of Trafford AC 2nd in 1:30:17. The race proved popular with Wesham members and there were 4 ladies and 13 men competing among the 317 finishers. The Wesham women were the most successful winning the team event ahead of rivals Red Rose by just 6 points with St Helens third team. Emma Lund was on great form and she finished in 4th place in a time of 1:33:27, placing 78th overall against the men. Nicola Unsworth had a solid run in 1:40:52 to finish 14th woman and 5th W40 in 123rd position overall. Tracey Hulme cemented the team win with a fine 1:44:06 to come in 18th woman and 4th W50 in 143rd overall. Sharon Cooper provided excellent backup in 25th place in a time of 1:49:51, 5th W35 and 175th overall.  With the two fast winning sub-70-minute times in the Men’s race there was then a gap to a significant group in the chasing positions with the fastest finishing time 1:14:25. Conditions were better than last year’s high winds and times were generally much faster this year. Rob Danson was once again to the fore of the Wesham men, coming in 8th in 1:17:50 isolated by over a minute from the 7th and 9th men as this group had separated and facing quite a challenge in the final windy miles. Lee Barlow was trotting along nicely until hitting the headwind and had to hang on to come in with 1:21:32 in 17th place in the middle a group of six runners each separated by around 10 seconds. Lee finished 5th M40. Troy Watson ran a superb race and was 27th with 1:22:59 taking 3rd M45 slot, and with Simon Eaton posting a workmanlike 1:29:40 to place 57th the Wesham men were 2nd team behind Preston with Lytham narrowly behind in 3rd place. Duncan Carter wearing running the number ‘2’ finished 60th in exactly 1:30:00 to place 10th M45. Graham Cunliffe is quickly regaining fitness following his double operation to relieve frozen shoulder and he was 2nd M55 with a fine 1:33:00 in 76th place overall. Not far behind Russell Mabbett posted another good performance as he digs in to build his speed back after his ultra-marathon efforts with 1:33:27 in 79th place. Chris Moss was 108th with 1:38:24 and 21st M45; Nigel Shepherd 176th and 15th M50 with 1:49:52; Paul Carter another great performance in 179th place with 1:50:08 so close to a sub 1:50 time; Stephen Wilkinson 223rd in 1:57:22 for 6th M60; John Howorth correctly credited this week as an M60 in 9th place and 254th overall with 2:03:39; and Mike Walsh supremo M80 in 2:13:36 in 286th place. With Wesham supplying a lot of the officials this was a good morning out for the club.