Standish Hall Trail Race report from Mark Morgan-Hillam – Saturday 31st October
A mild Halloween Saturday afternoon saw five enthusiastic Wigan Harriers enter rival territory for the twice yearly Standish Hall Trail race, hosted by Wigan Phoenix. Catherine and Paul Fisher were present, as were Nina Pilkington, Stuart Towns and myself. Tim Pwas also on hand, kindly marshalling in the deep, dark woods! The race usually boasts a field of approximately 200, but we noted on the startline how much quieter than usual it was – probably affected by the inaugural Haigh Hall Parkrun, which took place earlier in the day.
And so it was that 78 runners departed along the farm tracks to tackle the well trodden, approximate figure of eight, 10k route. The course has a good mixture of everything; firm farm tracks, single file muddy trail, fast downhill and gloopy, muddy uphill. The course runs very differently in October to February – the latter is always a total mudfest! On this occasion the course was still wet in places, (Elnup Woods is always muddy!) but generally reasonably dry and forgiving.
As for the race, the reduced field was apparent from the off as I found myself in the leading pack. For the first time ever, I could count my position in the race so, from 6th, I knew what I had to do to make the top 5 and get into the prizes! Stuart was handily tucked into the next group. As we hit the first uphill, I could tell the two guys in-front weren’t going to like the uphill as much as me, so I let them lead me downhill into the muddy wood section and, as the course swings back uphill after a particularly unusual stile/gate/switchback-bikeproof-thingie, I moved into 5th and then chased down the 4th place bloke as we headed up towards the crossroads in the middle of the course.
As we pounded back downhill into the woods I was well clear and knew, barring embarrassing slips/falls, 4th was the worst case scenario. I had brief hopes of catching the 3rd place runner when I could spot him through the trees as we climbed again, but he ran on strongly to maintain a 30 second gap to the finish. Still, it was very exciting to actually run in contention for places and I was naturally delighted with 4th place and a time of 40.13 for a muddy, hilly 10k – a course PB for me by nearly 2 minutes.
Stuart was soon pounding into the finish, finishing really strongly in 7th place in 42.12 – also a course PB for him. It’s a shame the course wasn’t another 400 metres longer as he may well have tagged the 6th place runner.
It was Nina’s first run on the course and she finished well in 50.33 – 32nd overall and 6th lady. She had managed to not start her watch successfully at the start and didn’t seem keen on our idea that she went round again so that she could record it properly!
Paul was next in and seemed to have really enjoyed the run, (you’ll have to check with him though – he may say different!) 52.40 and 46th was certainly a decent performance though – especially considering he was recently knocked off his bike!
Catherine was next to arrive and worked really hard for a pleasing time of 57.42 – 56th place and 14th lady. I think she was pleased to see the finish line but you would never have known it from her strong finish!
And so to the presentation ceremony back at the Britannia Hotel and a decent haul for the Harriers. My daughters were most dischuffed when I didn’t receive the 4th place prize and it took a while for them to understand that winning a veteran category was a better prize then 4th! I was first Vet 40 but won the overall vet cat prize as the actual race winner was also the leading vet. This meant that Stuart was promoted to the 1st vet 40 prize – happy days! Nina was also 2nd lady vet 35 and was promoted to the first prize under the same rule. Three lots of Endurance Store vouchers for a team of happy Harriers!
Mostly though, the event was the usual friendly, local affair proving – to me at least – that a good little race always beats a big, corporate event. Thanks to the Phoenix for hosting and well done to all the Red ‘n’ Blacks!