Calling all Harriers

Its been a fabulous couple of weeks for Wigan Harriers with PB performances coming thick and fast from Mad Dog10k to Wrexham and Blackpool Half Marathons, not to mention a fine showing at Parbold Hill and the National Cross Country Championships. Despite all those super efforts it isn’t time to rest up yet with the final cross country fixture of the season and a perfect opportunity to celebrate our successes so far.

We normally excuse non-attendance at cross country on presentation of a note from either a genuine medical professional, both Great Grandparents or God. No such dispensation will be given at Beacon Park this Saturday with everyone who owns a pair of spikes expected to turn up and get them muddy one last time! For the Senior Men it’s a chance to show why they have secured promotion for a second year in succession, and the Ladies will need all the support of their club mates as they fight to the very end in a division too tight to call.

If that wasn’t a good enough reason to don the red and black vests, Harriers are planning a celebratory get together at 7.30pm in the Brocket later that evening to mark a wonderful start to the year so far. Given his current excitement levels with a good 3 days to go we expect Chris “Crazy Horse” Burgess to be shirtless on the table tops playing air guitar to “We are the Champions” by 8pm. How can you miss that?

First timers, debutantes and hoary old hands are all actively encouraged to make their way to Beacon Park for 1pm onwards, (or a little earlier if you are a junior!). Look out for the slightly battleworn blue Gazebo with the magnificent sharks fin Harriers banner and as long as you have a Harriers card you can fill your boots with all manner of confectionary delights before and after the races. This one is going to go down in Harriers history – don’t miss it!

Map to Beacon Park

Blackpool Half – Team Wane Report

After yesterdays update from Mike Harris about his fantastic run at the Great North West Half Marathon, we have reports from Blackpool. Congratulations are in order to Pat Cole and Pauline Taylor who crossed the line together in a magnificent 2hours, 13 minutes 57. David Newsham did both his daughter Charlotte and the club proud with a 1:52:44. With a performance like that we look forward to seeing David get his spikes muddy at Beacon Park next week too! Another runner who will be feeling the pressure to don a Harriers vest shortly is Gary Fitzpatrick who has been training with us recently. Gary put in a very creditable 1:34:20.
The final word from Blackpool goes to husband and wife duo Gary and Melanie Wane:
gurning gazTeam Wane turned up at 9.45am into Hilton the Hilton hotel which resembled a refugee camp with runners sprawled everywhere there was a space, stairs, corners, floor, under a table. Queues for the toilets were massive, of which due to nerves I used the facilities 3 times, especially after my tea / coffee mixture from a dodgy hot drinks machine.
We discussed our tactics which where the same, go out easy and see where we are at. Just before race start I went off for another toilet break and Mel went to the start. We met just before start, wished each other good luck then went to our areas. Mel just behind the 2hr 15 pace group, me at the a 1hr 45 group. Before I knew it, the gun went.
We were off into a blustery head wind with narrow paths causing congestion.
I was in the 1hr 45 group but a gobby yorkshire man, who told everyone who would listen his last 5 half marathon times and his beer intake the night before, inspired me to move slightly ahead of them after 1 mile until I could no longer hear him. Behind, Mel was chugging along at her pace and after a steady start, decided her pace was too slow so picked it up.
At around 2 1/2 miles turn around to come back down the coast and out the head wind I was still running steady miles all within 7min 51 and 7mins 57. Until mile 7 after a slight uphill where my confidence had grown passing many runners on the uphill, I decided to pick it up to put more distance between myself of the 1hr 45 group who where now about 30seconds behind me. My pace now creeping to 7mins 40 a mile.
At the same point not long afterwards, Mel had also started her assault, now eyeing the 2hr 15 group ahead of her which she had seen ahead of her all race, with thoughts of catching them and hanging on with them as long as possible.
Coming back up to the Hilton hotel and through the first lap feeling good I went along and turned again to come back south, passed 9 miles. A man was heard saying “Just a 4 miles sprint in then.” Looked at me and said, “Come on, you can pick it up, you can’t be that tired.” So either I was winning an in-race gurning comp or my run face resembles a look of a tortured man. At this point, I thought many things which cant be repeated but basically, “No way will you finish ahead of me.” (He was just under 2mins behind me. Not that I noted my number and checked the results after…)
Feeling even more confident, and starting to having an out of body experience every time I looked at my watch, being was ahead of my expected time, I was inspired me to run the fastest 3 miles of my whole run between 10 and 13 miles. With the spectators starting to cheer at the finish and a big kick up the final uphill into a headwind run in, I started to pass more and more runners and then I went numb and went, a mad dash to the line. My time 1hr 41mins and 34 seconds. A new PB. The finish photo not being the best Ive ever seen and maybe the before mentioned man had a point, I am a tortured gurner.
Further back, Mel had caught up the pace group but was in such a rhythm that she had not only caught them, but carried on past them at 10miles and was eyeing glory herself. Thoughts of running in Rio at the next Olympics, or most probably, getting back down the M6 to eye up muscular men in tight shorts at the DW Stadium for a 3pm KO of Wigan Warriors V London Broncos, inspired her to keep at it, pulling futher and further ahead of the 2hr 15 group. With the thoughts of rugby players in her mind, Mel raced home, with her own sprint finish in 2hrs 11mins and 40 secs, a mere 11mins and 12 seconds off her previous PB.
All in all, a great day for Team Wane. We even made it to the game with 15minutes to spare to watch a Warriors win.

Blackpool Half Marathon – Mikes Report

Three Wigan Harriers turned out in Blackpool this weekend to brave the winds and take on the Half Marathon course. First to report is Mike Harris:

gnr250x326I arrived at Baltic on sea (Blackpool) just over an hour before the race start to find over 1,000 runners inside race HQ “The Hilton” sheltering from the icy north wind. A very efficient booking system meant I was soon out doing some warm ups and dropping kit back off at the car.

This was my first road race and half marathon so I knew barring a DNF I was on for a PB! The impressive times posted by my fellow Harriers at Wrexham meant I felt somewhat daunted by the task, however a few kind words on Thursday night meant I had my head ready for action.

The plan was to run a negative split – get faster in the second half or try! The sounding of the gun preceded the usual cavalry charge and I made a real effort not to get sucked into it.  My plan was a very steady 6:50 for the first 3 miles and then 6:40 for 7 and then 6:30 ish for the last 3.

In mile 2 whilst running at 6:40 I had the RW pacer for 1:30 come past me with a mob following behind which was slightly disconcerting. I cursed his poor pacing for the overcrowding not realising I would eventually join the maddening crowd later in proceedings.

The first 3 miles were into a stiff headwind so it was a pleasure to drop down to the lower prom and head south again. The absence of the wind meant I was now sweating like a good ‘un but it was a chance to settle into a steady rhythm moving ahead of the pacer.

Now I’m not sure what happened around mile 7 but I dropped 25 sec off my pace and once more was engulfed by the pace group. This time I welcomed the company and resolved to hang onto this group.

What followed then was a 5 steady miles at 6:45 pace, the wind doing it’s best to sap our strength. Just before the 12 mile mark I turned up the gas to finish in a PB of 1:28.54 (124th place and 30th V40), managing a little of the legendary Harris XC sprint finish to duck under 1:29 barrier. Job done, bring on the Beacon XC!

Parbold Hill Race

Last Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear with a splash of sunshine to brighten the day, (16.02.2012). Rather than relax and enjoy the pleasant turn in the weather, four of our bravest souls took the short trip to Parbold for this years running of the infamous mixed terrain hill race.

Nina Fisher, Shona Taylor, Chris Burgess and Peter Mills obviously havent had enough of leg sapping off road torture despite a season of cross country and opted to pull on their trail shoes to represent the club over the mud sodden fields of Parbold. Mud there was aplenty. The course was sufficiently clogged with the stuff that even the quickest of runners were over 2 minutes down on last years times.

As could be predicted Crazy Chris Burgess enjoyed every minute of it finishing 57th overall in 53:55. Peter Mills made his club debut and couldnt have picked a tougher run to do it. He did both hmself and the club proud with a 1:00:17 for 159th place.

cotton eye joeNina Fisher was the first lady harrier home in 109th with a very creditbale 108:48. Nina promises us she ran with the grace of an Olympian throughout the event apart from a few mad moments when she broke into an impromptu Gangnam Style dance as the photograph illustrates. Nina says she found the race tough for a 10k, but was relieved to be informed that she had actually run a 7 mile event! Next home was PB specialist Shona Taylor crossing the line in 109:38 for 291st place and a fine run.


Wrexham Half Marathon 2013

Wrexham is a course long renowned for its flat, fast PB potential and the 500 places available this year once again sold out long before race day. Of those 500 runners, an impressive contingent of 16 Wigan Harriers made the trip down the M56 to tackle the 13.1 miles. The fact that they found the venue assuages some fears about the sense of direction or navigational skills of our Harriers that were to arise later in the day.

Despite the perfect running conditions, there was a palpable air of pre race tension as Harriers underwent their various warm up rituals. This was one of the first road races of the year and all assembled faced an unknown test of their fitness away from cross country. PB hopes were kept quiet as laces were tied, and then re-tied – or maybe not in the case of Kevin Edwards who ran 10 miles of his race with them flapping loose and threatening to de-rail his day!

The start line at Wrexham is a good mile further down the road from the race HQ and car park, and a couple of trips up and down it served as adequate warm up before the masses gathered for the off. It is quite counter-intuitive that the start actually faces away from the general direction of the race itself, involving a short detour around the industrial estate before looping back on itself and heading towards race HQ for the first  mile. This can cause some confusion for runners new to the event, but the majority of Harriers have attended this event before… some of them are in training for self navigating Ultra events later this year so pointing the right way at the start of a half marathon its childs play…

 Chris Smullen and Neil Prescott made their way to the front end of the waiting pack, Graham Millington settled a little further back and bade Darren Middleton good luck whilst waiting for the rest of the club to shuffle past to find their place in the line up. That wait took longer than expected. Putting past experience to no use at all, the rest of the Harriers were still milling about at the rear of the race having a relaxed natter when without warning the rest of the race headed off in a different direction. Realization that they were at the wrong end of the pack dawned at the same time as it became obvious that the race had started a good 45 seconds ago!

To be fair to Harriers, the start arrangements at Wrexham are odd to say the least. No siren, starting pistol or even hearty shout heralds the start of the race. Most runners only realize things are underway as the pack begins to shuffle, jog and break into a gentle run with no apparent word from the organisers. For the next mile and a half desperate Wigan runners weaved their way through the pack of back markers trying to make up lost time. Graham Millington, located mid-pack, was entertained by the spectacle of club mates slowly passing him one by one muttering their complaints about the stat as they passed.

“Cock up at the start Graham”.

“Ah well  have a good race”, followed a minute or so later by the next Harrier:

“Right cock up at the start”

“So I hear”

“Start was a right…”

“YES! So I gather!” 

The staggered start meant that for the first couple of miles the Harriers were less spread out than they may otherwise have been. For a pair of cyclists going the other way it must have been a striking sight as they were heard to comment ,”who are all these lot in the red and black vests?” as runner after runner flew past in Wigan colours.

IMG_1261At the front end Chris Smullen and Neil Prescott were amongst the few who didn’t mess up the start and were both making good time over the first few miles. Chris had already completed a few miles to loosen up before travelling down and getting in a few more miles towards his London Marathon with the warm up. It seemed to be paying off as he ate up the miles ahead of target time and looking good for the first PB of the day. That PB ended up being a massive 5 minutes off an already super fast 1:26 time to see him cross the line in 40th place overall in 1:21:34. (6th M35)

Neil Prescott kept up the theme by shaving 20 seconds off his own PB time to set a new standard of 1:24:29. The front two were to provide an example for those who followed with another 5 PB to be recorded on the day

Captain Awesome
Captain Awesome

As the race settled down, Dave Collins and Kev Edwards found themselves running as a pair with Capt. Awesome settled on Kevins shoulder. Dave spent most of the race distracted by Kevins flapping shoelace wondering when he was going to fall. Their battle went on until the final few hundred yards when Collins pulled out a Reaping move to be proud of to finish 8 seconds ahead of his team mate in 85:06

Darren Middleton is arguably in the form of his life at the moment and well into his marathon build up. Even so, he shared the pre race uncertainty as to how those marathon miles and cross country races would convert to road race fitness. It was evident early on that he is on top form as he found it necessary to rein in the pace slightly as his speed naturally picked up en route. Darren shattered his PB and finished feeling he had more in the tank which bodes well for his Spring Marathon attempt. His time of 86:56 represents a fine result for Richie Noone too – until such time as Darren can sort the mix up over numbers and reclaim his PB!

Regsitered as a Horwich RMI runner for the event, but running for the first time since signing for Harriers was Bobby Kasabov. Bobby was hot on the heels of Mr Middleton and finished just one second down in 86:57 for the 4th PB of the day for the Wigan contingent.

Enjoying his solo run a few minutes further back was the “Silver Fox” himself Dave Waddington. Wigan Harriers answer to George Clooney, (copyright: D.Jackson) had a lonely race as he attempted to beat his time from last year. Unfortunately last year he managed to notice the start and so wasn’t left playing catch up over the next 13.1 miles. Dave  finished agonizingly close in 87:42

Andy Ratcliffe was taking part in his own one man duathalon, involving a cycle to Wrexham followed by an attempt on the Half Marathon straight after. It is fortunate he has a better developed sense of direction that his club mates or he would still be pedalling his way to Edinburgh… Unfortunately his inaugural Wigan/Wrexham Iron Man event ended in a DNF as cramp forced him out at 4 miles.

IMG_1769 Next up were Julie Platt and Barry Abrams continuing the theme of Harriers running in pairs. Barry looked his usual unflustered self as he relentlessly powered his way to an 89:42 finish. Julie stormed through the field after the self imposed handicap start but still managed to smash her PB and dip under the 90 minute mark for the first time. Her time of 89:42 is impressive enough, but had she got off to a better start there would have been an even bigger chunk off that figure.

IMG_1341Just missing out on a sub 1:30 were our 3rd pairing of the race as Martin Andrews and Andy Eccles came home in 90:15 and 90:16 respectively. Martin seems to be finding form again after a prolonged lay off due to a persistent chest infection. A valiant attempt to hang with Barry and Julie tailed off as the lactic won the day, but Martin can be very encouraged by his returning pace and endurance.

Andy Eccles gave us all a lesson in sandbagging, still insisting with moments to go that he was only in attendance in order to shout a bit of coaching advice to his various protégés en route. Dark Horse that he is, Mr Eccles was then seen tearing his way up the field in full Harriers kit and sporting a race number in perhaps the most hands on act of coaching possible – running the actual race.

Andy was followed over the line by Ash in 90:19 who collected the most impressive looking injury of the day with what initially appeared to be a fractured foot. Fortunately an intensive session of icing seems to have seen off the worst of it and fears of a stress fracture are hopefully unfounded.

Jayne Taylor was the second Wigan lady home in 91:04. Jayne picked up 2nd Lady in her age group despite having to overcome the comedy start and fight her way through the field in the early stages.

IMG_1390Following up were the final pair of Graham Millington and Darren Jackson. Graham credits Darren for keeping him to a demanding pace over the middle miles of the race as they passed 10k 40 seconds under Grahams previous PB.  Darren has quickly regained a lot of his speed following a knee operation earlier this year and is now building back the endurance platform that saw him close to breaking 91 minutes here last year. This time he kept up the pace until dropping off at around 9 miles and leaving Graham to run alone to a significant 5 minute PB in 1:35:41. For the 4th road race in succession Andy Kaufmans out of date PB juice seems to have done its trick for Graham! Darren was pleased to come home shortly after in 1:40:30

IMG_1777At the post race awards the Harriers waited patiently as it seemed most of North Wales was given a special medal for taking part. Mr Millington is apparently considering falsely registering an address in Wrexham next year in order to qualify for one of the rather attractive medals given out for local Grand Prix runners! Jayne Taylor collected her crisp £20 note with rather more glee than did Julie Platt who also came second in her age group. Julies delight was tempered by the fact that her huge race effort had actually aged her a few years and placed her in the V45 category! She swallowed her upset and made straight for Cheshire Oaks on the way home were the £20 quickly vanished!

Photos by:

Harriers Champions at Lancaster!

Wigan Harriers Senior men wrapped up promotion in the Mid Lancs League 3 this weekend, and are destined to finish the season as Division champions. Another magnificent display saw them bag maximum points for the 4th time this year resulting in an unassailable position with one race remaining. Adding a gloss to the glory were the Mens V40 team who also go up to the top division of the V40 league as Champions.

For the Senior Ladies its all still to run for at Beacon Park in the final fixture with both the Division 2 Senior and the Vet 35 competition too close to call. The season could still end in promotion or relegation its that tight! A splendid team effort this week saw them finish 7th from 26 teams at the weekend. Thanks to the youthful nature of Saturdays squad there were no points to be had in the V35 competition though!

Kicking off the afternoon were the juniors with Nathan Dunn once again putting in a splendid performance to finish just 2 seconds behind close rival Ben Blacburn in 2nd place. Nathan sits in 4th place overall with just a single point seprating him and Ben after a well fought season long battle. Scott Thompson followed Nathan home with an excellent 11th place in 13:53.

The U17 girls race saw a formation of Harriers finish in 8th 9th and 10th. Natalie Thompson, Danielle Thompson and Victoria Cowling put in a well co-ordinated team performance with just under 40 seconds covering all 3 girls. It ws the first time this season Harriers registered a full team in the event and it is nice to see the table now register points for the squad.

It was then over to the Senior Ladies who were led home by Julie Platt in 17th place, with Tracey Dutton less than 60 seconds behind in 21st. Julie and Tracey now sit 8th and 9th respectively in the L35 standings.

Completing the scoring for Harriers was Nina Fisher posting a very creditable 69th place in only her second senior Cross Country event.  Nina has learned a trick or two since her first outing at Knowsley and this time chose to ignore Mr Collins support rather than respond and be accused of “not trying hard enough”. Nina says she even went as far as making sure to avoid eye contact with Dave, which is something a lot of us try to do during training sessions as it only encourages him.

We were fortunate to have a Ladies team at all as the squad were so engrossed in discussing race tactics that they chose to carry on up the M6 rather than take the Lancaster exit. It is fortunate that Cross Country doesnt require any self navigation!

Andy Kauffman led the way for the men with a blistering performance for 15th overall and his best placing of the campaign so far. Missing out on a few Tuesday speed sessions recently in favour of a cake decorating class obviously hasn’t slowed him down. Hopefully we will all reap the benefits when Andy gets his fondant fancies out in the gazebo at Beacon Park.

Chris Smullen was next home in 38th place (43:32). Not only was this a fine cross country performance, Chris had arrived in Lancaster early to do a few extra miles warm up, and then tagged on a few more at the end to turn the event into a decent length marathon training run ahead of his appearance in London later this year. Kev “Go Hard or Go Home” Edwards is in danger of losing his Harriers Hardcore crown!

Captain Awesome Dave Collins put in another strong performance in 45:00 dead for 47th place. Dave puts his current run of good form down to Tesco lasagne – so Caprtain Horseome it is from now on! Chris Burgess reports himself disappointed with a performance that saw him home 56 seconds later in 57th place. Taking account of a mid week illness and a dubious curry the night before he has no need to hang his head. Those unfortunate to follow him may disgaree.

The final scoring positions came down to a battle between Kevin Edwards and Mike Harris with Kevin prevailing by the slimmest of margins and Mike consolidating the team performance 2 seconds behind him. Both runners posted their highest placings of the season in 50th and 51st positions. Kev had led for the entire race and it was “Mike Worsley” style comedy sprint for the line that brough Mr Harris within touching distance as he out paced Paul Marshall at the death.

Coach Eccles running with a numb foot sustained in the arctic conditions at Knowsley finished in 100th place just ahead of Barry Abram in 103rd. With many years of experience behind him, our fully qualified coach Mr Eccles knows a thing or two about proper pre race preparation. Leading by example Andy demonstrated the performance enhancing benefits of 8 pints, 2 brandies and various “other” drinks the night before a cross country event. It never did Alf Tupper any harm! Mr Eccles had to take advantage of a garden chair in order to enjoy Tracey Duttons’ Muffins post race.

Gary Wane took advantage of a weekend without the wife to get up to some filthy fun on his own. What better to fill the empty hours alone than giving his wonky ankle another good test to bring it home for Harriers in 133rd place overall.

The mens team were a superb 4th from 22 Teams overall which equated to top place in the V40 Teams and top place in the Division. For the men at least, Beacon Park will be no more than a muddy victory lap as we cheer on the ladies in their nail biting end to the season.

Lancaster X-Country next up

Dave Collins with the trophy last year

Dave Collins with the trophy last year

Following on from the great success of the Northern Cross Country Championships at Knowsley Park, Harriers are back in action this weekend in the penultimate Mid Lancs fixture at Lancaster this weekend

We are expecting another bumper turn out this Saturday as we look to consolidate our position in respective leagues.

The Ladies Team are looking good in 3rd place on 16 points, but the division is so tight that the season could still end in either the glory of promotion or the disappointment of relegation. Every run now matters vitally to the team! The ladies V35 Team is level with top placed Southport Waterloo on 26 points with 2 more chances to score.

The Senior mens team are in a great position in Division 3 in joint second place with Red Rose runners and with a real chance to go for top spot over the next couple of fixtures. That would mean promotion for the club 2 years running and represent a fine reward for the efforts this year. Even more impressive is the V45 team who are 10 points clear at the top of Division 2 and looking good to clinch promotion this weekend.

We have had issues in recent fixtures of members mis-counting cross country laps and getting a little confused! For clarity: On Saturday for the Ladies the course consists of 1 small and 2 large laps. For the mens team its one small lap, one large lap, and 3 of the ominous sounding extra large laps. Course Map

Mid Lancs issued the following directions to get to the venue at Lancaster University:

Exit M6 at jct 33. Follow signs to Lancaster. Go through Galgate. Take 1st right into the University signposted Lancaster House Hotel (not the main entrance to the University). Access to the car park is 100m on left (gravel car park next to tennis courts)

map to the venue

Be Seen!

hivizWe may have passed the shortest day and the evenings are drawing on, but its still pretty dark around the DW when we train on a Tuesday and Thursday. We are lucky to have a mainly traffic free circuit to train on, but we do still; get the occasional car, cyclist or pedestrian on the route.

On that basis its still too soon to put away your stylish Hi-Viz kit even though one or two of us seem to have done so recently! We have had a few “all-in-black” stealthy runners doing the sessions over the past few weeks who could double up as cat burgulars they are so hard to see in the dark!

Can all runners please make sure they turn up fully flourescent for the next few weeks until the clocks finally go back and we can all parade our snazzy Spring running gear! Wearing a head torch is a great idea, but doesn’t preclude the need for a bit of day-glo yellow and scotchlite. Even with a light on we would still prefer to see a hi-viz bib or item of safety kit.