Largest ever!

Report on the 2007 Wilmslow Half Marathon by Malcolm Fowler.

This years Asics Wilmslow Half Marathon was the largest in its 23 year history with 3450 runners completing the 13.1 mile course, 74 more than the previous record field in 2005. Maurice Minns, Race Director and the rest of the organising team had done their best to put on another great race. Wilmslow Hockey Club, together with other local voluntary organisations, provided lots of marshals. Local Cubs, Scouts and Guides staffed the drinks stations.

A few days before the race it looked as though parking would be a real problem but the weather greatly improved during the final few days before the race and we were able to park the majority of vehicles on the rugby club pitches. A number of runners frantically arrived at the start with moments to spare, whether they had forgotten to put their clocks forward I’m not sure, but as far as I know nobody actually missed the start!

Around 15 physiotherapy students from Sports Med were kept busy giving pre and post race massage to runners, raising money for our two race charities, Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Royal School For The Deaf.

There was the usual mix of runners taking part, elite runners looking for a fast time and other runners who were happy just to complete the course and raise as much as they could for charity.

From the start it was clear that the race would be between three men; The 2005 Wilmslow Half Marathon winner, Thomas Abyu from Salford Harriers, Andi Jones, current North of England Cross Country Champion also from Salford Harriers, and Gareth Raven, Sale Harriers, who finished 3rd in the English Cross Country Championships. After the first mile these three already had a 200 metre gap on the rest of the field. After two miles Gareth Raven began to lose touch with the two leaders and Thomas Abyu and Andi Jones were left to dispute the lead.

Around halfway Thomas started to open up a few metres gap on Andi and over the 2nd half of the race gradually increased his lead, winning the race in 1:04:24 which is nearly 2 minutes faster than his winning time in 2005. In the final few miles Gareth Raven started to close the gap on Andi Jones but couldn’t catch him. Andi finally finished 36 seconds behind the winner with Gareth a further 14 seconds adrift.

The womens race was no less exciting with last years winner Pauline Powell from Blackburn Harriers trying to defend her title against Michelle Ross from City of Stoke AC. In the end Michelle finished well clear in 15th place overall and won the womens race by over three minutes from Pauline. It was then just a question of whether she had managed to beat the current womens Wilmslow Half record of 1:12:44 set by Russian athlete Yelena Burykina in 2003. There was a £500 bonus for anyone breaking the mens or womens record. The race commentator and one or two others thought she might have just managed to shave a second off the record, but when the official timekeepers were consulted it transpired she had exactly equalled the record. However in the interests of fairness it was decided to award Michelle half the bonus money for equalling the record.

Sale Harriers were convincing winners in the Mens team race with Wilmslow Running Club 2nd. In the Ladies Team Race Leeds City AC were victorious with local clubs Stockport Harriers and Wilmslow Running Club 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Sid Bailey from Deestriders kept up his record of finishing all 23 Wilmslow Half marathons, His time of just over 2hours is not as fast as he used to run but he is now over 50yrs old.

Many people were interested in whether Wilmslow Running Clubs Ron Reed could become the first over 80yrs to complete the Wilmslow Half Marathon. Sadly Ron had to drop out around half way so Wilmslow still awaits its first octogenarian finisher.

Wilmslow Running Club did have plenty of other success; The Wilmslow Half Marathon was also hosting the Cheshire Half Marathon Championships. Mike Halman from Wilmslow Running Club was the first Cheshire athlete to finish and Rob Downs was the first Cheshire Over 40yrs athlete to finish. Peter Watson from Wilmslow was the first over 65yrs to finish.

It is too early to say how much has been raised for charity, runners will now be busy collecting in their sponsorship money. We should have a clearer idea in a couple of months time.

British Red Cross were kept busy treating runners for blisters, cramp, exhaustion and dehydration, but nothing too serious.

The date of next years race has yet to be confirmed but it is likely to be either the last Sunday in March or the first Sunday in April, entry forms will be available from mid November.