Saturday 22nd September saw the Northern Road Relays taking place in Leigh. It has been over quarter of a century since Wigan Harriers last fielded a team in the Championships. The appearance of both Mens and Womens teams on Saturdays ended a 25 year absence for the red and black vests and helped confirm that Harriers are well and truly back as a competitive club in the north West. A record number of 121 teams entered the event to make for a fantastic atmosphere on a glorious day for running.
The club announced its return to competive action in blistering style as Chris Smullen took on the first 6.8k leg in 21:33. Chris duelled it out with regular visitor to the Thursday evening sessions Stevie Nicholls who was representing Phoenix. Chris handed over to Darren Jackson who toughed out a 24:47 2nd leg despite an increasingly debilitating Plantar injury.
Kevin Edwards was next up and hauled in a few positions with his 22:50 and allegedly caused Team Captain Andy Eccles to spill his beer in excitement as he supported with gusto from the sidelines. Making his debut run for Harriers was Chris Burgess on leg 4. Chris was given some special motivation to do the club proud from an unexpected quarter and turned any negative energy into a fantastic 23:37.
Richad Noone held the place for team proving he is well on the way to recovery from his “series of unfortunate events” earlier this year, including a contender for the most bizarre running injury award after falling through a loft hatch. His 24:22 leg was followed by anchor man Barry Abram brining the team home in style with a 24:09
The result of their efforts was to earn the club 74th place out of 84 full teams with a cumulative time of 2:21:18. A fine effort that was roundly celebrated in the nearest hostelry shortly afterwards!
Leg 1: C Smullen 21:33 – Leg2: Darren Jackson 24:47 – Leg 3: Kevin Edwards 22:50 – Leg 4: C Burgess 23:37 – Leg 5: Richard Noone 24:22 – Leg 6: Barry Abram 24:09
Next up was the Ladies Team taking on the 4 Stage Relay event. The submission of a full strength squad for the ladies was a triumph in itself, and demonstration of true team spirit as our 4 runners pulled together to represent the club.
First out of the block was Julie Platt who interrupted her Berlin Marathon training for a dose of pure speed and a 14:19 opening leg. With just 7 days to go to her marathon, Julie would have been forgiven for choosing the safe option of a gentle taper rather than risking months of training to represent the club.
Julie handed over to Jayne Taylor who posted a fabulous 14:27. Jayne reported enjoying the course and was looking to be back towards her best as she finished strongly. She still managed to find enough reserves to recce a weather battered stretch of the Bob Graham round the following day!
In the words of her team mates, Mandy Borthwick was an “absoloute star” stepping into the shoes of an injured Jaqui Jones and ensuring a full strength team for Harriers. Mandy did both her team and the club proud to complete her leg in 23:17 before handing over to Shona Taylor.
Shona was another runner press ganged into turning out despite not feeling 100% fit for duty! In the event she ran a blinder, and powered round the course in 18:33 to bring it home for the club.The cumulative time of 1:10:36 earned them 50th place overall and more importantly, signified the return of Wigan Harriers to this important event.
Womens 4 Stage Relay Results.Leg 1: Julie Platt 14:19 – Leg 2: Jayne Taylor 14:27 – Leg 3: Mandy Borthwick 23:17 – Leg 4: Shona Taylor 18:33
Photographs courtesy of racephotos.org.uk