Wilmslow Half Marathon: Another year of success!
The unpredictable British weather kept organisers on tenterhooks the previous week wondering whether any of our off-road parking would be available. Working nights the Thursday before the race with heavy rain falling almost constantly, things were not looking good. But fortunately from Friday evening onwards the weather was kind and the field and the Rugby pitches dried out sufficiently to be used for parking. Race Day dawned cool and dry and it looked as though we would have ideal conditions for racing.
On paper it looked very difficult to pick a winner. Last years winner Mark Miles was injured and not competing but Tomas Abyu, winner in 2005 and 2007 had entered, as had 2008 winner Gareth Raven. Also competing was Andi Jones, a regular at Wilmslow, never having won, but twice runner-up. Andi was the fastest British runner at last years London Marathon and hoping that this could be his year.
In the ladies race three times winner Michelle Ross-Cope was looking for her 4th consecutive win, but this year had strong opposition from two other international athletes, Rebecca Robinson and Alyson Dixon.
From the start it was clear that Andi’s tactics were to go off fast and see who came with him. Running around 4:45 per mile, only Holmfirth runner Matthew Pierson was prepared to match this pace and in no time at all these two runners had a 200 metre lead over the rest of the field.
Meanwhile further back through the field lots of runners were chasing their own personal bests or trying to just get round and raise as much money as possible for Mencap which had been nominated as this years official race charity.
As the miles ticked by Andi Jones and Matthew Pierson continued to pull away from the field and after five miles had around a 300 metre lead over any other runners. But then things began to change with Andi Jones gradually opening up a gap over Matt, initially just a few metres but mile after mile the gap grew until it was over 200 metres. Unless something dramatic happened it was looking as though Andi had the race ‘in the bag’.
A new innovation for this years race was to have a timing mat at 10 miles which Andi passed in 49:14 53 seconds ahead of the rapidly tiring Matt Pierson. An interesting battle was developing for third place with Sale Harriers Gareth Raven and Matt Bond together with Tipton Harrier Michael Aspinall only a second apart. The three of them, whilst having their own battle were also beginning to catch Matthew Pierson in 2nd place.
Meanwhile in the womens race Michelle Ross-Cope completed 10 miles in 54:51 over a minute ahead of her nearest rivals and was not only looking good for yet another victory but was in with a real chance of smashing her course record.
After missing out on victory last year by just eleven seconds Andi Jones made no mistake this year and was a convincing winner by nearly a minute. Gareth Raven finally managed to catch Matthew Pierson to take 2nd with Matt having to settle for 3rd. It’s interesting to note that when Andi crossed the finishing line in 64:45 only 200 of the 3,700 runners had reached the 10 mile point!
Michelle Ross-Cope went on to clinch the ladies title for the 4th consecutive year knocking an incredible 32 seconds off the existing ladies record finishing in 72:02 with Kendal athlete Rebecca Robinson just over a minute behind.
In the mens team race Tipton Harriers were the clear winners with the ladies team prize going to Stockport Harriers.