Scorching temperatures proved to be an extra challenge for the 378 runners who completed the week-long 52-mile BTR Tour Of Merseyside. Alan Rothwell, event organiser, said that it had been seven days of 'excitement, anticipation, nerves, laughter and friendship', which forged a sense of camaraderie essential to overcoming the testing conditions.
The Tourists, who were required to complete six races across seven days, encountered the hottest temperatures since the event’s inception in 2013. The fun started on Sunday 1 July with Southport Half Marathon, where runners were guests of Epic Events. This was followed on Monday by six miles of beach and trail multi-terrain in Thurstaston; with 10 miles on the Sustrans Loopline in Walton on Tuesday.
The runners then enjoyed a midweek rest day before Thursday saw the Tourists run 5 miles along the Liverpool waterfront at Otterspool Promenade (Tourists have now adopted this race as fancy dress day); with six miles cross country at Stadt Moers in Knowsley on Friday. The event concluded on Saturday 7 July with a 12-mile Wirral Coastal Run from New Brighton to Hoylake and back to New Brighton, including over one mile across the beach.
2017 champion Chris Pownell retained his crown and managed, despite the heat, to set a new Tour record with an overall time of 4:55:32 – displacing the time set by Terence Forrest two years ago. Forrest took second this time round in 5:05:26 with Dean Howlett third (5:21:09).
Liverpool Pembroke & Sefton Harriers’ Victoria Gilbody claimed first in the female competition in 6:11:32, repeating her success two years ago. It wasn’t a clear-cut victory for Gilbdoy, who was pushed all the way by Carol Paxton (6:12:21), including a thriller at the Wirral Coastal run at which Gilbody shaded it by one second.
After completing the final race, all Tourists received the coveted and much sought-after ‘52’ commemorative finishers’ medal and a bespoke T-shirt featuring the names of the 2018 Tourists.
The final race was followed by a prize presentation and Tour Of Merseyside celebration, the highlight of which was a special video featuring footage of each race day. This year’s event included 16 original Tourists – including just four women – who have completed the challenge each year since it was launched in 2013.
BTR race director Alan Rothwell, who created the Tour Of Merseyside, commented: “What an incredible week for the sixth Tour Of Merseyside. Despite scorching temperatures proving tough for the majority of runners – the Tourists did themselves extremely proud with impressive performances all week.
“It’s a really tough, tiring week all round – but each and every Tourist rose to the week-long challenge, throwing themselves into the event. It’s a week of excitement, anticipation, nerves, laughter and friendship. The atmosphere is second to none, with the camaraderie amongst everyone growing day by day. It’s very special to see and experience.”