After a difficult year that saw the 2013 event cancelled due to heavy snow, the Essar Four Villages Half returned on Sunday. The event welcomed just over 1800 runners to the quiet Cheshire lanes, with organisers describing the day as ‘an absolute triumph in near perfect conditions’.
The men’s race was one of the closest for years with little separating the top three competitors, Mohammad Abu-Rezeq, Josh Lilly and Ben Fish. A move in the final mile proved decisive as Abu-Rezeq and Lilly broke away, and a sprint finish had to separate the pair as the former finished first by around half a stride. The final chip times show Abu-Rezeq (1:05:46), Lilly (1:05:46) and Fish (1:05:58).
Diane McVey was the clear winner in the women’s event, coming home in a time of 1:19:23. The Wilmslow runner was followed by City of Chester’s Kelly Crickmore (1:20:34), with Gemma Connolly taking third position (1:21:31). Of the 1805 who finished the race, Ben Hulme was the mid-point runner in 1:47:55, with the last competitor home in 3:09:01.
Steve Riley, one of the organisers from Helsby Running Club, said he was delighted with the return of the race: “The weather gods must have been feeling guilty after their efforts last year and blessed the race with temperatures around 6 or 7 degrees, a slight breeze in the air and just enough gentle winter sunshine.”
Steve added: “Thanks to our sponsors Essar, Asics, Running Bear, Northern Running Guide, Mornflake, Xtra Mile events and Roberts Bakery (for the gingerbread men!), and of course all our volunteers, supporters and helpers. The race has always been promoted by a small group of organisers as a community event making significant donations to charity and holds a special place in the early season calendar.”