After a summer of separation, St. Helens Striders were finally able to come back together both in training and in competition as the first tentative steps to normality were taken with a small smattering of races taking place.
The new normal means that many races are not exactly as before, with socially distanced, staggered starts. For many Striders, any form of racing is welcome after an interminable hiatus to put their lockdown training to the test.
At the Mid-Cheshire 5K on Friday evening, an outstanding field assembled aiming for fast times on the notoriously speedy course. And Tom Chadwick produced an extraordinary performance to obliterate the all time Striders 5k record in a blistering 15:47 and set the standard for all to follow. His time knocked thirteen seconds off the previous record which had stood untroubled for over two years.
Mark Riley also had a night to remember, clocking a time of 17:58 to equal his own personal best at the distance. With this race under his belt, he stands in good stead to improve on that time during the rest of the season.
There was further success for Striders in a virtual event of the type that has become part of the COVID-19 zeitgeist. Resident mountain goat and king of the trails, Kevin Brennan, took part in the Virtual Grand Tour of Skiddaw. As the event could not take place as planned, entrants were invited to cover the 44 mountainous miles over five stages. Brennan, using his local lump in Billinge as a substitute for the peaks of The Lake District, was crowned the winner with a superb time of 5:42:55 across the five stages. Brennan now turns his attention to the Ambleside 60km Ultramarathon in a couple of weeks’ time where he will compete under more traditional race conditions.
Last Saturday saw the annual Merseyside Cross Country Championships held at Stadt Moers Park and Striders took strong teams to the event to compete against the county’s finest off-road racers.
Once again it was the ladies who flew the flag for the club finishing in 3rd place in the team event. A superb performance from Rachael Fairclough saw her conquer the 8km of mud and hills to finish first Strider in 8th place overall, closely followed by great friend and training partner Kelly Hamilton in 11th place. Next home for Striders was the ever consistent Hannah Whittaker in 13th and final counter for the team standings was the in-form Kylie Maguire in 20th place. The fearsome foursome finishing in the top 20 earned them the well deserved bronze medal. It was a great showing from the ladies who go from strength to strength both on and off road. Striders were also well represented with excellent performances from Rachael Wilcock, Kerry Riley, Jo Herriot and Gemma Aden.
For the men, Peter Fairclough once again confirmed his position as Striders’ cross country talisman, as he powered around the 12km course to finish in an impressive 14th overall in an extremely talented field. Next Strider home was Kane Green, finishing strongly to take 26th place. Mark Riley ran strongly to finish just inside the top 50 with Kieran Allen hot on his heels in 52nd. James Owens and Phil Lawrenson were the final scorers for the men’s team, who finished in a highly creditable 6th place in the team competition. Andrew Lawrenson and Tony Dagnall once again performed well to complete a great day for the club.
The Central Lancashire Half Marathon provided a fantastic start to the year for a number of Striders who achieved new personal bests at the race. Sharon O’Connell knocked an extraordinary six minutes of her previous best to finish in 1:49, while the ageless John Barr continued to defy the years with a superb 1:47 PB. Retirement is certainly having a positive affect on Barr’s athletic prowess.
A pair of Striders jetted to Disneyworld in Florida to take on a unique marathon experience. The 26.2 mile course took in many of Florida’s world famous tourist attractions. John Williams produced an outstanding display in the extremely warm conditions to finish in a superb 3:24, while Darren Eckersley battled a painful foot throughout the second half of the race to cross the line in 3:46.
At the Ribble Valley 10K a week earlier, Kerry Riley ended the year by slicing over a minute off her previous best, with husband Mark Riley and Peter Fairclough also running strongly to finish just outside their own personal bests.
Striders Senorita Carol Foster completed an age category victory double, beating all her rivals at the both the San Javier 5k and Balsicas 5k in Murcia, Spain.
Striders Ladies line up at Stadt Moers
Striders Ladies’ show off their bronze medals
Peter Fairclough with Mark and Kerry Riley at Central Lancashire Half Marathon
Jo Herriott all smiles at Mersey Cross Country Championships
Sunday saw the third fixture in the North West Cross Country League at Arrowe Park in Birkenhead. It was the usual cocktail of blood, mud and thunder but it was a great day for Striders as the all-conquering ladies’ team once again emerged with the spoils in the team competition. Cross Country star Rachael Fairclough led the way for the team with another powerful performance to finish 3rd overall. Kelly Hamilton finished strongly to take 5th place – the line coming just too soon to overhaul the 4th placed runner. Final counter for the team was Hannah Whittaker in 7th place to secure the team victory for the ladies.
In the men’s race, Striders performed creditably for 6th place in the team standings. A masterclass in pacing from Peter Fairclough saw him reel in and overtake a number of tiring rivals in the second half of the race to finish in 8th place overall. Next home was Kane Green, sprinting past four athletes in the final straight to claim a 21st place finish. Mark Riley was the third Strider home in 63rd place overall. Other counters for the team were Kieran Allen (78th), Eric Ranson (84th) and Anthony Ellis (88th).
Recent New Strider of the Year, John Barr, reached a personal landmark on Saturday in completing his 250th Parkrun at Victoria Park. Well known to many in the town’s running community, Barr is a part of the furniture at the weekly event. He is often found in the pacing team to selflessly help other runners hit their own personal targets and encourage them to Personal Bests.
Earlier in the week Eric Ranson took on the Longridge 7 Mile Christmas Pudding Run. The race saw athletes tackle a gruelling ascent for 4.5 miles, before carreering downhill for the 2.5 miles to the finish. Ranson finished 47th overall in 51:56 and was rewarded for his efforts with a Christmas pudding which will no doubt stay indefinitely in the back of his kitchen cupboard. Photos courtesy of Paul Hanley Photos: https://www.facebook.com/paulhanleyphotos/ https://paulhanleyphotos.com/
Rachael Fairclough glides through the mud.
Tony Dagnall and Alex Abbot stride for stride at Arrowe Park
Hannah Whittaker battles the final stretch of mud.
Kelly Hamilton finishes powerfully.
Kane Green sprints to the finish.
Peter Fairclough leads home the Striders team in 8th Place.
Hamilton Sweeps the Board at Striders’ Presentation Day
The last turn of the calendar traditionally brings great excitement for St. Helens Striders with the Christmas Party followed by the chance to celebrate members’ athletic achievements at the annual presentation afternoon.
Big winner of the day was Kelly Hamilton who was voted Strider of the Year by her fellow members for a second consecutive year. The award was testament to Hamilton’s unwavering support of her clubmates alongside her own outstanding achievements. Hamilton’s success didn’t end there – she scooped the Striders Grand Prix title for the fastest combined time over the Half Marathon, 10 Miles, 10K and 5 Mile distances.
The Grand Prix competition for the men saw Chris Hazeldine claim the title as the runaway winner. With consistently outstanding performances across the year, the result was never in doubt. In the age graded awards, to celebrate the best performances adjusted for age, Brian Middleton and Brenda Cahill were crowned champions.
The Mini Grand Prix was a hard fought competition, with Striders battling it out to record the fastest combined time over the 5k, 5 Mile, and 10k distances. For the women, pocket dynamo Wendy Davies claimed the prize, while Kane Green was victorious for the men.
The ‘New Strider of the Year’ award gives members a one-off chance to bag the trophy, before joining the grizzled ranks of Strider stalwarts. 2019’s well deserved winner was the veteran John Barr, who has thrown himself with gusto into the club’s activities, and claimed the prize to rapturous applause.
The popular Striders Handicaps, organised by club legend Frank McAllister, sees Striders take part in races with members setting off at intervals based on their fastest times. Peter Teeling and Sharron Burt were rewarded for their victories in the Summer Handicap, while Tony Dagnall and Brenda Cahill received their trophies for their recent Christmas handicap wins.
The awards for ‘Most Improved’ also saw popular winners. Gary Eccleston, seemingly beating his PBs on a weekly basis of late, and Lisa Glover, for her meteoric improvement at Parkrun over the year where the worthy winners.
there were three awards for ‘Photo of the Year’ and winners Katie Taggart and Pete Medlicott, Jo Herriot, and Eric Ranson received a mug with their winning photos emblazoned on it.
Last, and certainly not least, the Jim Crehan Award for Outstanding Contribution was handed to Brian Middleton for his exceptional work behind the scenes to improve and promote the club, alongside his decades of athletic success with Striders.
A day earlier, a trio of Striders headed into Lancashire to take on the Wesham 10K. In dazzling winter sunshine, David Wilson hurtled through the fresh and glittering air to race to a fantastic new PB of 34:30 and a 7th place finish. Not to be outdone, the rapidly imoroving Dylan Redican secured an outstanding new PB of 36:32 to finish in 12th place overall. Emma Callery, in the form of her life, completed a hat-trick of new bests as she powered home in 43:36 to complete a successful morning for the club.
At the Myerscroft 10 mile, Brian Middleton once again performed superbly to cross the line in 1:09 – a time that a man half his age would be proud of. It was yet another V65 category victory for Middleton, who continues to show the younger athletes a clean pair of heels.
Katie Taggart ended the year in style at the Oulton Park Half Marathon. Motoring around the course more renowned for high powered cars than neon clad runners, Taggart ran her fastes time in more than 3 years at the distance, taking the chequered flag in 1:57.
Kelly Hamilton named ‘Strider of the Year’
Katie Taggart takes to the podium at Oulton Park.
Dylan Redican, Dave Wilson and Emma Callery brave the cold at Wesham 10K.
Katie Taggart and Pete Medlicott’s ‘Photo of the Year’
A high class field of athletes from across the country assembled at the Wilmslow 10K on Sunday aiming for strong performances on the notoriously fast course and a small group of Striders travelled down to compete. Perfect conditions made for an ideal tilt at a good time. First Strider home was Kane Green, getting closer to his best after a summer plagued by injury, in 35:25. Kelly Hamilton ran superbly to finish agonisingly close to her PB in 39:46, finishing in the top 10 ladies in the process. Producing a season’s best at the distance, Anthony Ellis finished strongly to cross the line in 41:58. Despite entering at the last minute, the determined Wendy Davies showed her talent with an excellent 47:05.
Conditions were somewhat different closer to home at the Festive Flash Five Mile Race at Pennington Flash. The recent inclement weather made for muddy trails and uneven surfaces at the popular local event. Hannah Whittaker returned to the scene of her victory in the summer renewal of this event after a recent return to action following an autumn beset by injury. She put in an excellent display to finish 3rd lady in 35:32. Kylie Barlow chased her all the way and delighted her friends and family with a highly creditable 4th place finish in 36:33. Third Strider back for the women was Ann Johnson, who splashed through the slutch to post 41:06 for an impressive top 10 finish. there were other notable performances from the female Striders. Amanda Coogan laid some demons to rest as she tackled the challenging terrain and coming through unscathed after a recent broken ankle in 51:32. Sharon O’Connell made light of the mire with a fleet footed 41:40 while mudlark Karen Harrison was as happy as the proverbial pig as she crossed the line in 54:45.
For the men, king of the trails Kevin Brennan was first Strider to finish in 5th place, clocking a rapid 33:10 with Eric Ranson close behind in 34:30 for 7th place overall. Third to finish for Striders was Aaron ‘Guardiola’ Scott, upping his game as his long-suffering wife Claire and their tribe of angelic children cheered him on from their marshalling positions.
On Saturday, the British Athletics Cross Country Challenge took place at Sefton Park in Liverpool. The event forms the qualifying trial for the European Cross Country Championships, so some of Britain’s top athletes converged on the city to earn their places in the prestigious event. Rachael Fairclough continued her excellent cross country season to finish in 90th place overall – a superb achievement competing against the best the UK has to offer. Peter Fairclough and Mark Riley also travelled to the event and put in their customary excellent performances.
It was a proud weekend for St. Helens Striders as the supremely talented Rachael Fairclough donned the England vest after being selected to represent her country in the British Masters Home Nations Cross Country fixture at Aintree. Competing against the best Masters athletes across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire, Fairclough produced a sensational performance to finish first English woman in the V35 category and 30th overall in the event at Aintree Racecourse.
There were PBs galore at the Preston Harriers 10 Mile Race – an event that draws runners from far and wide as the race incorporates the Northern 10 Mile Championship. Kelly Hamilton, despite only entering at the last minute, continued her outstanding year as she sliced a huge four minutes from her previous best, clocking an excellent 1:06:17 to finish 11th lady overall. The determined Kylie Barlow was another to set a new PB of 1:12:56 with an excellent run, with sister Siân Walsh following suit to make it a great day for the family, knocking two minutes off her PB in 1:24:22. In their seemingly endless streak of new bests, Gary Eccleston (1:19:53) and Nicola Donovan (1:27:55) once again set new marks at the 10 mile distance.
At the 13 Arches Trail Half Marathon in Radcliffe, Striders battled wintry conditions and a tough 13.1 mile course. First Strider home was Karl Bowles, who made light of the conditions to finish in 1:32 and 36th place overall. Trail specialist Kevin Brennan was next to cross the line in 1:34 for 46th place. Eric Ranson ran well in 1:40, while the sole female Strider, Ann Johnson, battled in powerful fashion up the final hill to clock an impressive 1:54.
Two Striders headed to Blackburn to compete in the inaugural Blackburn 10K. Katie Taggart continued her great year with a strong finishing 54 mins on the undsulating course, while veteran Brian Middleton’s 43:17 was enough to secure him victory in the V65 category. His excellent time would also have been enough to win the V60 category. As ever, Middleton continues to show the younger athletes a clean pair of heels.
Hills were the order of the day too in Conwy, as Danny Fegan competed in the picturesque Welsh town’s half marathon and finished in a superb 1:37, while Pete Medlicott chased him home in 1:43.
Fairclough powers across the course at Aintree
Fairclough ready for her England debut.
Striders assemble for 13 Arches Half Marathon in Radcliffe
Sunday saw the St. Helens Striders 5 Mile Trail Race return for it’s 4th instalment on a bright autumn morning down at Sankey Valley. Despite the perfect weather on the day, heavy rain in the days leading up to the event made for tricky underfoot conditions.
St. Helens Sutton A.C.’s Matthew Crehan once again showed his class to claim a 3rd victory in the race. Establishing a big lead from the off, his rivals were unable to come close as he stormed home in 28:43. It was a 1-2 for Sutton as Charlie Roberts was next to cross the line in 30:33. It was only Thomas Dempsey of Kirkby Milers who prevented a total Sutton domination of the podium with a fast finishing 31:41 to claim 3rd in front of David Twigg.
In the ladies’ race, last year’s champion returned to defend her title. Lisa Gawthorne of Liverpool Pembroke and Sefton Harriers made light work of the mud to dominate the race and once again claim victory in an impressive 36:44. Liz Whitfield of Warrington’s Spectrum Striders earned a hard fought 2nd place in 38:52, with Jennifer Brady of Liverpool Running Bugs claiming 3rd.
There was further success in the age group categories for Sutton as Chris Birkett claimed the V40 prize sfter finishing in 6th place overall and Chris Reid bagging the V55 win to cap a great day for the club. Other winners included Robert Hough (V45) and Alan Brady (V65)of Spectrum Striders , Christopher Lee of Liverpool Running Bugs (V50) and Anthony Beyga of Kirkby Milers (V60).
For the ladies, Pat Helsby of Kirkby Milers produced a sensational performance to finish first in the V60 race, ahead of the winners of other younger age categories. Kate Johnson of Spectrum Striders earned the V45 prize, with clubmate Eleanor Roberts claiming the V50 win. Other winners were Tracey Carr of Liverpool Running Bugs (V55) and Cath Boland of time2run (V65).
With members of St.Helens Striders employed in organising and marshalling the race, there was the chance for one lucky Strider to win a golden ticket entry to the race through a club raffle which raised £174 for the St. Helens Young Carers Charity. Mark Hamilton was the winner, and was cheered on enthusiastically by his teammates out on the course to finish in 51st place overall.
For many, autumn conjures images of the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But for St. Helens Striders, it is the season of mud, blood and thunder as the North West Cross Country League makes its return to the weekends.
The first fixture of the season took place under fresh and glittering skies at Beacon Park, Upholland, which were in stark contrast to the quagmire underfoot after a long period of rainy weather. As ever, its places and team points that matter in cross country rather than times, so the strong Striders team set out to face the hills and the mire of the Beacon full of positivity.
First Strider home was the peerless David Wilson, who made light of the brutal course to power the vertiginous final hill to the finish in 12th position overall. Returning from injury, Kane Green ran a careful race in the ankle deep mud to cross the line in 33rd place. Next was the ever consistent Mark Riley to claim 42nd place with Ian Chisnall breathing down his neck the whole way to finish in 45th. Phil Lawrenson and Anthony Ellis both finished inside the top 100 to complete the scoring for the team competition.
For the ladies, Rachael Fairclough was once again the star perfomer as she finished in 3rd place – a great first race as she prepares to represent her country in November. Kylie Barlow produced another excellent display to cross the line in 19th, while Rach Wilcock proved a superb addition to the club in her debut race as a Strider, delighting her new teammates with a 24th place finish. Cutting a dash with her new pink hair, Susan Kerfoot was 4th Strider home, while the unflinching Wendy Davies soldiered on despite a badly cut heel to follow Kerfoot across the line.
A band of Striders diced with death as they took on the unique challenge of the ‘Beat the Reaper’ 10K in Croxteth. First to avoid an untimely end was Eric Ranson, racing around the course to earn a 9th place finish in an impressive 41:30. Graham Jones, in his trademark fluent style, was close behind in 42:19 with Danny Fegan also running strongly in 44:00. Tony Padmore was another to dodge the Reaper’s scythe, completing the course in 46:06.
Performance on the day, however, came from Gerry Shaw who finished 5th in the ladies race with an excellent time of 48:08.
Gary Eccleston and Nicky Donovan travelled to Lytham for the Green Drive 5 Mile Race. The pair continued their recent streak of PBs with Eccleston clocking a fantastic new best of 37:29 and Donovan also securing a new best mark of 42:29
Globetrotters Katie Taggart and Pete Medlicott travelled to the east coast of the US for the Brooklyn Marathon. It was an outstanding performance from Taggart, who earned a huge new PB at the iconic 26.2 mile distance as she came home in 4:16. Her remarkable display also gave her 5th place in her age category in a huge field of athletes. Taggart’s great friend Medlicott was with her every step of the way to finish just one second behind.
St. Helens Striders made the short trip over Billinge Hill to compete in the Wigan Trail 10k on Sunday. This excellent event, organised by local rivals Wigan Harriers, is always a favourite on the Striders calendar. On what was a glorious spring morning, Kelly Hamilton produced a sensational performance to emerge victorious in the ladies’ race, in a blistering 40:58. Next to cross the line for the women were sister act, Wendy Davies and Ann Johnson. After battling throughout the race in a great display of sibling rivalry, Davies finished in 48:07 with Johnson hot on her heels just one second behind.
First home for the men was John ‘The Electrician’ Williams. He finished in 31st place overall in a time of 43:00. He was delighted to earn a cash prize as the first finisher for Striders who had most athletes of any club competing in the race. Next was the ever consistent Darren Eckersley in 43:28 (33rd), followed by Andy Shaw in 45:22 (49th). There was another outstanding performance from Frank Cahill who overpowered his age group rivals to secure 1st place in the V60 category.
Back on Merseyside, a team of Striders took part in a charity race hosted by Liverpool Running Bugs. The ‘No More Knives’ 5 Mile Race at Stadt Moers Park in Knowsley. The event raised a huge amount of money for the charity set up in the wake of the tragic murder of Adam Ellison in 2017. Hannah Whittaker finished in 2nd place in the ladies’ race with close friend and training partner Lisa Cheers close behind in 3rd. Kevin Outten performed admirably to finish in 8th place overall.
Anita Hall headed to Cheshire to take on the formidable Sandstone Trail Challenge. She competed the epic 33 mile course in an impressive 8 hours.
In Preston, the tireless Brian Davies was the lone Strider at the Blacksticks 10k and produced yet another solid performance, finishing in 58:37.
All eyes were on the capital on Sunday for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon. At one of the world’s iconic sporting events, St. Helens Striders had a strong team of runners primed for the challenge.
In front of tens of thousands lining the streets and a worldwide audience of millions, Daniel Cheetham was the first Strider to finish in a fantastic 2:58, breaking the magical three hour barrier once again.
David Wilson was next home, finishing in 3:16. It was a disappointment for Wilson, who was well on course for a new club record but was stricken with injury around the halfway point. His still impressive finishing time was testament to his boundless grit and determination.Scott Barlow, in his debut marathon, performed tremendously to finish in 3:39 while trail enthusiast David Brisco completed his first and last road marathon in 4:03; a solid effort after having his preparation hampered by illness and injury. Another first-timer, Dave Lynch, crossed the line in 4:56.The ever-popular Mike Brunt also delighted his friends and followers as he conquered the course in 5:47.
It’s been said the course of true love never did run smooth, but Colin Wilson and Jane Marshall proved the Bard of Avon wrong as the lovebirds trained together for the Shakespeare Marathon and Half Marathon in Stratford-upon-Avon. Their training was a great success as Wilson secured a huge PB finishing in 3:53 – an astounding 23 minutes faster than his previous best. Marshall was not to be outdone, and she also achieved a PB of 1:58 in the half marathon, a 6 minute improvement on her previous best mark.
Mark and Brenda Carrier travelled to the sunny island of Mallorca. Mark completed the Magaluf Half Marathon in 1:56 in the oppressive heat, while his beloved wife Brenda was equally impressive, finishing the 10k in 1:05. Over on the Spanish mainland, Lynda Butchard put the disappointment of missing the Greater Manchester Marathon behind her. She blazed a trail through the Spanish capital of Madrid, completing the city’s half marathon in 2:34.
Earlier in the week, a trio of Striders took part in the Mid-Cheshire 5k. The fast, flat course attracts a quality field of athletes from across the country. Kelly Hamilton finished in a blistering 19:26, with devoted husband Mark following closely in 22:03. Kerry Riley also completed the course in 25:10.