Over 1700 runners, undeterred by the biting cold, made their way to Cheshire on Sunday, 17 January to compete in the Essar Four Villages Half Marathon. Part of the high turnout could well have been an act of defiance from the field: the race has been cancelled twice in the previous three years, but, after asking all of those who entered in 2015 for feedback as to whether to continue the race in January, 70% wanted the half marathon to continue in its regular month.
Organised by Helsby Running Club, the scenic course follows a rural countryside route, passing through the Cheshire villages of Dunham on the Hill, Mouldsworth, Manley and Helsby. With a total climb of 170m, the half marathon is regarded as undulating.
Despite the testing course, many runners posted impressive times, with Cardiff AAC’s Michael Kallenberg taking top place in 1:07:06, closely followed by Ben Fish (1:07:55) and Stuart Robinson (1:09:29). In the women’s competition, Gemma Connolly secured top billing (1:22:45), with Rachel Wood second (1:23:37) and Zoe McLennan third (1:25:01).
With temperatures tipping and racing conditions looking ever more precarious, there was concern the event wouldn’t go ahead, as race director Laura Baynham-Hughes explains: “We had the gritters out early this morning and two runners checking the course to make sure we could get the race on.
“That was the priority really, especially after the disappointment of what happened last year. We made sure we sent out lots of messages on social media to reassure everybody we were going ahead.”
Reflecting on the race and the incredible turnout (1722 of around the 2000 registered runners took part on Sunday) Laura added: “It’s been great, it’s definitely been one of our biggest ever half marathons.”