With spring around the corner, the clocks changing, and warm sunshine in abundance, it can only mean one thing… the Asics Wilmslow Half Marathon.
Sunday saw the 28th staging of this ever popular event and for the fourth year running, the race incorporated the English Half Marathon Championships.
Despite entries being closed by January, a record number of over 5,000 entrants were received, and for the thousands of spectators lining the route to cheer on the runners, you could easily have believed that far in excess of that were running! The roads came to a stand still and for 13.1 miles the leafy lanes from Wilmslow and out to Mobberley and back became home to the thousands of runners. Many had their own story to tell and were raising money for their own favourite charity. This year the official race charity was the David Lewis Centre in Great Warford.
From the start two runners soon opened a sizeable lead over the rest of the field. Winner in 2005 and 2007 Tomas Abyu set the early pace clearly hoping to become the first male runner to achieve a hat trick of wins. But Anthony Ford from Sale who has been achieving some fantastic race times in the last couple of years wasn’t going to be let him get away and was only a few metres behind.
After three miles, running at a blistering 4:45 a mile Abyu and Ford already had around a minutes lead over the rest of the field and barring something totally unexpected, it looked like a two horse race for the title.
Ford then began to pull away from Abyu and the gap between them grew dramatically over the next few miles. Ford went through 10km at 29:41 nearly a minute ahead of Abyu. Had he gone too soon? They were not even half way around the course? Any doubts were soon dispelled as Ford continued to pull away eventually finishing in 64min 54secs, a fantastic time in the heat and over two minutes ahead of Abyu which is the biggest winning margin in the 28 year history of the Wilmslow Half Marathon. As well as bring crowned English Half Marathon Champion, Anthony is also hoping to gain selection in the GB Olympic Marathon team this summer. Previous Wilmslow winner Gareth Raven from Sale was third.
It was good to see Nick Jones from Tipton running at Wilmslow again and finishing in 17th place. Nick, (wearing race number 1) won the race in 1999 and 2000 and with his fastest time of 63mins 25 secs is still the fastest ever British runner at Wilmslow.
First Wilmslow runner home was Rob Downs, 22nd in 73 minutes who also won the ‘male over 45? category.
Leading lady and taking the championship title was Catherine Ansell of Herne Hill in 76min 53secs. Team mate Rosalind Kieran was second lady home only 16 seconds behind while local girl Olivia Bush of Altrincham but racing in her club colours of City of Norwich AC completed the ladies championship podium.
First Wilmslow lady home was Diane McVey in 86 minutes. Diane was well supported by fellow club members Sharon Johnstone and Katy Green who as a team had the honour of being crowned English Half Marathon Champions.
The race now raises in excess of £50,000 annually for charitable causes and is recognised as an event that brings the entire Wilmslow community together and increases the population by close to 10,000 if only for a few hours!
The unseasonably warm conditions took its toll and Red Cross volunteers were kept busy with many athletes being treated for dehydration, but everyone was a winner, the runners, the deserving charities, the hundreds of volunteers who make the race possible and the thousands of spectators who cheered the runners every step of the way – any of whom will be waiting for 2013 entries to open in November!
Thanks are also due to Asics who again were the lead sponsor with support from Etihad Airways and Waters.