Last week Wesham members travelled virtually straight from Northumberland to the Highlands of Scotland north of Glasgow to start the 96-mile trek throughout March to Fort William over the West Highland Way. In eight stages, split into individual days Milngavie to Drymen (12 miles), Rowardennan (15 miles), Inverarnan (14), Tyndrum (12), Inveroran (9), Kingshouse (10), Kinlochleven (9), and Fort William (15) this is achievable in little over a week, but Nigel Shepherd forged ahead and reached the finish in just seven days with a massive 22-mile effort on the Sunday. Steve Myerscough was lying second just short of the end of the sixth stage approaching Kinghouse where he pitched up in a camping hut for the night at 74 miles. Michelle Tickle was third at 59.24 miles coming up to Inveroran coming down the iconic Allt Kinglass gorge opposite the Highland Ski Centre. Mark Renshall had covered 52 miles and completed the fourth stage and over halfway in Tyndrum. Martin Bates was showing his strength and clocked up 50 miles just behind having just left the banks of the River Fillan from Crianlarich and passing The Lochan (The Legend of the Lost Sword). Tom Crabtree was five miles down the valley at 45.37 miles although just descending the mountainside, while Martin Allison was going well a further five miles back coming over the shoulder of the mountain coming out of the Falloch valley. Kerry Eccles was making excellent progress with 35.5 miles clocked up and about to gain Inverarnan at the end of the third stage having just revelled in the views along the sides of Scotland’s most famous stretch of water, Loch Lomond. Robert Danson was in sight just behind at 35.2 miles, with Liz Beth a mile further back at 34.27 enjoying the Loch in fair conditions. There were many members traversing the third stage from Rowardennan to Inverarnan, with James Green at 33.15; Paul Eccles 32.74; Dave Young 32.26; Helen Lawrenson 32.12; Sue Coulthurst 30.46; Carl Groome 31.51; Maureen Danson 29.27; Sue Hopcroft 28.99; Tanya Shaw 28.30; and Sharlan Butcher at 28.20.
Back at home the March Virtual handicap took place from Dowbridge in Kirkham over the undulating 4.9-mile route down Spen Lane and through Treales. There were 23 members who took part over a course of their own choice or the actual Treales route, individually and only in socially distanced pairs or alone, with Troy Watson coming home first in 47:13 (actual time 38:13). Nigel Shepherd was second in 48:00 (37:00), and Peter Rooney third with 49:28 (38:28). Julie Paton was first woman and fourth overall in 51:30 (44:30), and Karen Cook second in 53:24 (44:24). Michelle Tickle was third with 53:46 (38:46); Pauline Eccleston fourth in 53:53 (47:53); and Julie Kinsey fifth in 54:01 (44:01). Dave Young placed fifth overall with 53:21 (42:21); Finlay McCalman 7th in 53:44 (41:44); Rob Wallace 9th with 53:50 (34:50); John Burns 11th in 54:01 (39:01); Robert Danson 13th 54:14 (42:14); Kerry Eccles 14th 54:19 (49:19); Martin Bates 15th 54:20 (39:20); James Birchall 16th 54:38 (49:38); Alek Walker 17th 54:47 (33:47); Ben Wrigley 18th 54:50 (46:50); Alan Hudson 19th 54:59 (36:59); Paul Eccles 20th 55:02 (37:02); Andy Moore 21st 55:16 (50:16); Lee Barlow 22nd 56:47 (33:47); Colin Smy 23th 57:48 (48:48).
Wesham is gearing up to return to club nights outdoors from March 29th, with arrangements probably following those used last summer during the brief reduction in the pandemic restrictions. It is still early days and numbers will be restricted and the length of time it will be possible to spend together, as well as travelling arrangements. However, at least it will be possible to gather socially distanced for a brief talk and then training in small groups, and to be outdoors sharing training. Licenses for competitive events are being issued for April, and one of the first events is a masters’ cross country being arranged in Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire. The athletics fixture calendar for further into the year is being compiled and again masters are rising to the fore with plans for a festival of athletics in Gloucester in November. This is one week after the planned Masters’ Cross Country International in Dublin, and cross country relays at the end of October. The British Masters 10k road race on 18th April in Grangemouth is unlikely to go ahead and a new date is anticipated but plans for the Road Relays in September are likely to be shelved with efforts to focus on a top-quality return to Sutton Park in May 2022. The Northern Masters are anticipating their half marathon in Lancaster in August and 10k in September, with 5,000m in July and 10,000m in October. In terms of track and field a series of regional masters’ events are being put together for May and June with national competition likely in August. There are no European or World Masters competitions this year although the mountain running (in Telfes in September) is likely to go ahead. The Northern Athletics 6- and 4-Stage Road Relays are scheduled for September 19th, which is also the weekend currently selected for the Northern Masters Track and Field Championships.
It was another bumper week on the Wesham members Strava training leader-board, and Steve Myerscough regained the top spot with a total mileage of 74.2 miles run in a cumulative time of 10:17:07, bob on his average pace per mile of 8:19 as he chugged along over the uplands to place second on the West Highland Way and nearly in sight of Loch Eil on his way to a well-deserved wee dram in Fort William. Daniel Shaw was relegated to second place with his regular 63.1 miles accomplished in 7:40:29. Rob Danson has his sights on the opening up of athletic competition with 62.8 miles in 6:42:58 as he takes up the men’s captaincy at Wesham. Ugis Datavs is keeping focused on the possibility of some ultra-endurance events this year as he kept his focus up with 60 miles run in 7:13:00, and Mark Renshall was fifth on the list with 52.1 miles in 7:34:47. On the women’s leader-board Tess Robinson headed the list with 40 miles completed in 4:46:40, with Sue Coulthurst second with 38.5 miles in 5:53:34. Kerry Eccles, both administering and relishing the Wesham long-distance themed virtual monthly challenge was storming along the West Highland Way to come in third with 35.5 miles run in a time of 5:58:33, continuing to exceed her previous personal records for distances run. Helen Lawrenson placed fourth with 32.1 miles in 4:45:41, very dependent on shift work patterns, and Michelle Tickle had 31 miles in 4:33:50 although also clocked 59.24 on the West Highland Way. Mark Belfield placed sixth overall on the list with 50 miles in 6:05:00; Tom Crabtree 44.3 miles in 5:25:36; Steve Swarbrick 40.4 miles in 5:25:54; Rob Wallace 40 miles as he prepares for some long-distance events in 5:35:20; and Simon Denye 10th with 40 miles in 5:19:20. Helen Greenhalgh was sixth woman over 29.8 miles in 6:13:59; Debbie Myerscough 27.2 miles in 4:42:52; and Tanya Shaw with 25 miles in 3:32:05. On the mountains Steve Swarbrick had the steepest elevation gain with 3289ft uphill with Helen Greenhalgh on 2914ft over 29.8 miles. Neil Gregson was third overall at 2218ft over 36.7 miles in 5:07:03 and Daniel Shaw fourth at 2101ft. Helen Lawrenson was fifth overall and second woman climbing 2093ft over 32.1 miles and Michelle Tickle was third over the Highlands with 1331ft ascent. Sue Coulthurst was fourth with 1259ft and Tanya Shaw fifth over 771ft. Paul Eccles was fourth male up 1827ft over 24.4 miles in 3:39:36 and Stuart Clayton fifth with 1706ft across 32.4 miles in 4:33:14. Rob Danson had the fastest average pace over the week at 6:25 per mile with Garry Barnett second again at a swift 6:38 pace over 22 miles in 2:25:56. Alek Walker was third with 6:53 over 4.9 miles in 33:44 with James Green fourth at 7:01 per mile for 33.1 miles in 3:52:15. Jason Parkinson came in fifth with 7:07 for 3.9 miles in 27:45. Fastest female was Tess Robinson with a fine 7:10 per mile for her 40 miles with Emma Lund second again at 8:01 pace for 9.3 miles in 1:14:33. Suzanne Leonard was third clocking 8:15 for 8.3 miles in 1:08:29. Tanya Shaw was fourth at 8:29 per mile and Michelle Tickle fifth with 8:50 pace including the significant uphill mileage.
Sixteen years ago in 2005 at the final fixture of the season the Wesham men’s cross-country team earned their promotion back into Division 1 in the Mid Lancs League, and Steve Littler strode into the record books by winning the Dentdale 14 for the third consecutive year. There was a poor turnout at the Mid-Lancs final fixture in Fitz Park, Keswick, as several local athletes were in Northern Ireland for the British Masters Cross Country Championships, and so Charlie Pass was able to steal third place for Wesham to give the team a head start. John Collier was 2nd counter in 36th position, with Dave Waywell struggling to recover from a virus coming in 41st. John and Dave were 3rd and 4th Over-50s, securing Wesham the M50 team victory. John Bertenshaw was 4th scorer in 47th place, followed by Arthur Swarbrick sealing the Over-50 victory in 65th and Brian Porter delighted to be in the ‘A’ team finishing 79th. Wesham had no ‘B’ team on this occasion, and so will remain in Division 3. The Vet-40 team finish 3rd in Division 1. The Wesham women did not have a team, with only the faithful Pat Swarbrick and Marie Wyld turning out. The women finish 4th over the season in Division 2. Men’s results: 3. Charlie Pass 38:43, 36. John Collier MV50 44:24, 41. Dave Waywell MV60 45:04, 47. John Bertenshaw MV40 46:01, 65. Arthur Swarbrick MV50 47:19, 79. Brian Porter MV40 49:42, 81. Phil Leaver MV50 49:59, 85. Graham Vickers MV40 50:19, 95. Jonathan Lawson 51:45. Women’s results: 46. Pat Swarbrick WV45 37:04, 49. Marie Wyld WV45 38:00.
Steve Littler led a field of 351 runners through the isolated valley of the Dent in the Yorkshire Dales to win the 14-mile race for the third year in a row in 1:19:46. He was 4 minutes clear of second-placed veteran Peter Banks. Steve’s win guarantees him a spring holiday in the area next year. Peter Cruse finished 14th in 1:30:09, Martin Bates came in 37th in 1:36:38, Steve Myerscough ran 1:38:57 for 53rd, Derek Goodenough finished 176th in 1:56:15, and George Kennedy opted for an easy run to complete the course in 2:00:09 in 205th place. Michaela Dempsey finished 7th woman (90th overall) with a fine 1:47:32, 4th Over-35. In Bangor’s Castle Park in Northern Ireland, Alex Rowe was the only Fylde veteran to compete in this year’s British Masters Cross Country Championships, held overseas for the first time in its 40-year history. Despite this, there was a strong English presence, including teams from Clayton-le-Moors. Alex struggled with fatigue and the aftereffects of a recent virus, finishing 10th Over-45 and 28th overall over a typically tough 4-lap 10k course through wooded parkland. Roy Pickles was the first Wesham man across the line in the Stanley Park 10k on Sunday. Roy was 29th in 40:12, a fine result. The two Grahams, Ingham and Vickers were the next in with 41:27 and 41:53 in 41st and 45th respectively, and Peter Gleaves recorded an excellent 42:13 to finish 53rd. Kath Hoyer returned to the scene following her nasty fall in the Radcliffe Trail Race to finish 12th woman and 1st Over-45 with a delicate 47:50 on the twisting course. Mandy Ingham (143rd in 50:42) and Catherine Newton (225th with 58:24) completed the women’s team. Further afield, an all-veteran squad tackled the 5.5-mile Roddleworth Roller, an all-terrain scramble though woodland around the reservoirs north of Abbey Village. Dave Waywell was the first Wesham runner home, finishing 1st Over-60 in 37:25 (26th overall). Neil Tattersall broke the course record on an excellent day for racing. Dave Preston was next in with 46:24 for 110th place, and Dougie Brown was 2nd Over-65 in 47:08 (114th overall). Julie Murphy was 6th Over-40 woman in 52:33. John Howorth finished 116th in 47:14 and John Whiteman 168th in 55:08.
In 2019 two years ago pre-pandemic Rob Danson was selected for the Inter-Counties Cross Country in Prestwold Hall in Loughborough after his excellent performance in the Lancashire Championships on 6th January. He finished 6th in the Lancashire Senior Men’s team and placed 70th overall in 35:34 for the 6 miles. Lancashire won the 9-man team. Steve Littler was 2nd behind Nick Leigh of Horwich with 1:23:18 just 8 seconds adrift in the 14-mile Dentdale run in the Howgills. Many-time winner of this race this result also won him the M45 age category. Steve Myerscoough in marathon training and recovering from injury finished 48th and 12th M45 in 1:46:31. There were 283 runners in this race. Simon Denye finished 210th in the top-quality Trafford 10k, running 38:54 for 9th M45. Despite the difficult wet and windy conditions, the first 4 finishers still broke 30 minutes on this fast single loop course near Carrington. In a new race at New Longton south west of Preston there were three Wesham finishers. Lee Nixon was an excellent 23rd with 41:49. Finlay McCalman finished 101st and 10th M50 with a rounded 54:00. Lucy Neighbour was 34th woman and 10th W35 in 56:40 and 122nd overall. In the now historic Roddlesworth Roller trail run around the reservoirs south of Abbey Village on a 9km (5.6-mile loop) Garry Barnett finished 26th and 3rd M50 in 39:30. Kath Hoyer was 14th woman and 2nd W55 in 48:17 and Dave Waywell placed 4th M70 after last year’s 2nd with 58:59, 16 seconds faster than 2018. Debbie Myercough warmed up for the trails and fells with 64:29 for 81st female position and 233rd overall, 12th W55. Conditions were wet and windy for parkrunning last Saturday morning, but Wesham members were able to get out as usual either to their local park or further afield. There was just one member out in Avenham Park in Preston, Robert Brown, who ran 26:40 for an M60 age graded performance of 60.69%. Some way down south in Winchester Martin Allison clocked 24:29 with an M35 grade of 53.85% and Jo McCaffery 29:40 for W40 51.85%. At Sherwood Pines north east of Mansfield Darren Gray recorded 27:19 for an M40 grade of 50.34% and Ann Knowles ran 36:39 for W45 44.66%. Back at home at Lytham Hall Jonathan Lawson was the fastest Wesham member of the day with 22:05 for an M50 grade of 67.32%. Ben Wrigley ran a good 22:16 just 10 seconds short of his best for M35 60.40% and Sharon Cooper clocked 23:46 for W45 66.83%. Colin Smy ran 26:37 with M35 50.91%; Graham Cunliffe kicked off a double 5km with 26:53 for M60 60.69%; and James Birchall ran 27:17 for 47.40% and Emma Davies 27:28 for 53.88%. Keith Wilding ran 30:17 pace-making 30:17 with an M60 grade 53.44%; John Sharples 30:21 on his 3rd parkrun with M60 54.75% and Phil Leaver 30:23 with M65 55.18%. In the Lancaster parkrun in Williamson Park Carl Groome ran 24:01 on his return from injury for M50 61;42% and Sue Rigby 36:52 with W45 43.08%. In Blackpool’s Stanley Park Helen Lawrenson ran the fastest women’s time of the day with 22:16 for W45 74.40%. Dave Marsland had an M60 performance of 71.39% with a time of 23:04; James Mulvany popped back to his home grounds and ran with his son to clock a swift 24:12 for M40 56.82%. Finlay McCalman ran 26:08 for M50 58.29% and Tanya Barlow 28:07 for W45 57.62%. Along Fleetwood Promenade Peter Cruse was 9th fastest of the day with 24:44 for M55 62.67% and Suzanne Leonard 11th with 24:48 for W45 65.99. George Kennedy also clocked 24:48 with an M60 grade 65.26%. Further afield again the parkrun tourists visited the inaugural run at Centre Vale in Todmorden. David Taylor was 2nd fastest of the morning with a good 18:41 for a graded performance of 69.58%. Vicky Gore ran 27:56 for W40 55.91%; and Steven Gore 27:57 (M35 47.76%).