The weather gods were looking down on the field at the Essar Four Villages Half Marathon as a miserable pre-race drizzle cleared up to provide some dry, relatively cool conditions at Sunday’s (20 January) event. As the race celebrated its 36th year, race organiser Steve Riley proudly exclaimed: “Thanks to all our army of 70 plus volunteers, sponsors and, most importantly, runners and racers for coming along and proving that the Four Villages ROCKS!”
As old as London Marathon, the event was started to raise a little money for a local charity and has grown to be a firm favourite in the winter calendar. It maintains a great balance between a club race and one welcoming of other runners and is often featured as a championship event in the Cheshire Grand Prix and the Northern Vets championships.
There were convincing victories for Mohammed Abu-Rezeq and Kirsty Longley, both regulars on big North race podiums. Abu-Rezeq put in a commanding performance to oust previous winner Michael Kallenberg and take first in 66:38.
A decisive start meant a gap opened within the first couple of minutes and the twistier sections of the course were the points at which Abu-Rezeq opened up his lead. Kallenberg claimed second in 67:40, while Sale Harriers’ Nicholas Barry bagged third in 69:19.
The women were brought home by Kirsty Longley, who also secured the V40 prize with her winning time of 1:18:08. Longley was followed in by Helsby RC's very own Hannah Cowley (1:19:50), knocking around 10 mins off last year's time as an unattached runner and again taking home the best local female prize. Third went to Sara Willhoit (1:20:38).
Steve Riley from Helsby RC told runABC North he had been taken aback by the impressive times at the front of the field: “The men's and women's race winners both suffered in the cold last year and clearly had something to prove this year!”
Steve added: “More importantly there were strong runs throughout the field with many smiles on the finish line. We love to see a competitive race at the front but this has always been a race for all runners and there were triumphs aplenty throughout the field.”
You can view the results here.
Image courtesy: Duncan Cowley