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2019: Club highlights - A Member's Perspective

by Connor Barrett

As 2019 drew to a close, I thought it would be fitting to end the year with the highlights as told by you, the members.

What I didn't expect was the overwhelming response, memories, stories and photos that landed in my inbox in the days after I mooted the idea on the RRC Facebook page.

Below are a collection of messages that I received with the moments that will last long in the memories of club members.

Of course, there are many more than those detailed below but I hope that this post gives you a glimpse of the best of 2019 in this amazing and, without exaggeration, life changing club that we are all a part of.

Where possible, I have grouped your memories and stories by the events where they were formed. I am extremely grateful for both the stories and kind words I have received when putting this together and hope that you all enjoy it. Grab a coffee (or a beer), sit back and enjoy.

Without further ado, these are your RRC highlights of 2019:

When asked for his personal highlight of 2019, our leader and RRC001, Rowan fondly recalled the Cybi Costal Marathon weekend which is where we begin this roundup.

When RRC is in town, you are bound to know about it. With a maximum entry of 200 participants, the Cybi Coastal Marathon is a small event where our club comprised 20% of the entrants.

The event became a fond memory for a number of reasons. Andrew Norman remembers the gruelling course, raucous support and the atmosphere created by fellow members and competitors as they crossed the line. Once finished, each club mate joined the wall of ramouflage-clad support to reminisce about how ridiculous the event had been and cheer every runner home.

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Nigel Hartley remembers the event for the unforgettable party that took place afterwards where our very own charming man, Martin Chepner joined a hen party in a hot tub!

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A picture that speaks a thousand words.

In the most difficult times, this club comes together and shows its spirit in spades. This year has seen a number of our members come back from injury and illness to run again.

For Graeme McDonald, the Manchester Half Marathon was particularly special for this reason. In July, Grame was ill and didn't think that he would be able to return to running. Standing on the start line, 10 weeks later, Graeme surpassed his expectations as he stormed to a sub-2 hour finish.

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Another club member who has returned to running is David Dockerty, after having an untimely accident at an event towards the end of 2018. Hoisted in the air in a show of solidarity at the first club championship event of the year at Cuerden Valley parkrun,

David returned to running later in the year.

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I know I'm not the only one who was immensely glad to welcome David back to the club, first for a beer and a chat, then to see him running again.

Andrea Sidebottom enjoyed a successful year, running in the Manchester Marathon Relay with 'Team Nutters'. After recovering from pneumonia in the summer, Andrea travelled to Amsterdam to run the 8K surrounded by friends and club mates alike. Later in the year, Andrea went from strength to strength by winning her age category at the Serpent 6 trail race in Bolton.

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For Jane Emanuel, her moment of the year was a tie between completing her 100th parkrun and running in the Amsterdam Marathon, supported and spurred on by Matthew Carmichael all the way to the finish line which they crossed hand-in-hand. Jane's 100th parkrun was a double celebration as club regular Catherine Shield ran in her 50th parkrun - a huge congratulations to both on their brilliant achievements.

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Who can forget the Ironman in July? With three competitors coming from our club, the RRC cheer squad was out in force, supplied with sandwiches and refreshments by Ali and Marie McKittrick.

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For Gary Bradley, the cheer squad on Lumb Carr Road was the highlight of his year as he powered past on both laps of the bike leg.

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At the same time, Lesley Heyes was smiling her way through the course. Each time she passed the cheer point, both on Lumb Carr Road, then on the 4-loop marathon course, her smile grew. Each time Lesley came into view, her positivity and enjoyment of the event was infectious.

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After retiring hurt whilst on the second lap of the bike leg, Alex Quayle has vowed to return to the event next year fitter and stronger than ever.

2019 is the year that Alex Quayle headed for the Big Smoke. Luckily for us, that hasn't stopped him regularly popping back home to join in with club championship and social events. In the words of Alex, his highlight was 'A windy day spent in the far North West Highlands. Sat atop Cul Beag on the Coigach Peninsula we took shelter from the driving wind in this flourescent bothy bag. Only to create a driving wind of our own inside the bag - the type of thing to make grown men giggle! Upon reflection, this was a fun moment between friends on an adventure together - literally just for the hell of it. I thank the club for bringing us together: James, Nige and my mate Sam are some of the finest men I know. Bring on 2020!'

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Sacha Fox has been many people's inspiration over the last 12 months and, at least for as long as I have held the pen, is the member who has featured in the most RRC club highlight reports. For Sacha, her highlight of the year came at one of her most difficult moments. After falling and face-planting in Anglesey, another club member came to her rescue as Gaz Bradshaw ensured that Sacha reached the finish.

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On a more serious note, I am sure that I won't be alone in wishing Sacha a speedy recovery after a collision with a deer sent her tumbling during the Ribble 10k on Sunday. After a visit to A&E, Sacha reported that she hadn't broken anything and that she was heading home to recover. Get better soon mate and here's hoping for an injury and incident free 2020!

In the words of Gina Jackson her highlight came with 'Julia and I cursing the club, the gods, the countryside as we ran round (The Serpent 6). One of the best races I've ever done, along with the Bolton Bauble 10k as I just had a right laugh and didn't worry about times. Nearly lost a shoe at both races 😂 I have had to throw them out after the Bauble 10k'. If nothing else, I think this reflection summarises perfectly the crazy social side of our club.

At RRC, we love exploring and sometimes that leads us to new trails and interesting places. Rosie Cummings took on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge with the company of Helen, Nigel, Lee and Andy who is lovingly referred to as 'Andy - brewer with the black beard'! The team completed the peaks in a time of 6 hours 30 minutes before retiring to a pub for refreshments!

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Sometimes, the greatest moments are found in the losses and for Neil Wharmby, losing another 4kg in weight and reducing his blood pressure whilst running with the club and taking up Yoga with Ness contributed to a brilliant year. In March, Neil completed the Freckleton Half Marathon for the first time in 20 years and, as he was cheered over the line by his grand daughter he enjoyed a particularly poignant moment.

In a contender for the most obscure highlight of the year, Neil was interviewed by a Flemish Eurosport reporter after running into the Olympic Stadium with fellow Rams, Lianne, Ann and Helen.

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Some would say that we aren't really members of a running club at all, rather, we are members of a running family. Indeed, our club hosts a number of families who run together on Tuesday nights. To this end, it was brilliant to be at the wedding of Brenda and Scott Webber in the summer as we enjoyed a traditional Irish evening of music and dancing.

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We have also celebrated the engagement of Neil Rothwell and Karen Grindrod after Neil proposed at the team photo in Amsterdam - what a way to celebrate the Ramsterdam weekend!

From great friendships to family bonds, this club has it all. The formidable mother-daughter duo that is Fiona and Hannah Chick completed their first marathon together at the Manchester Marathon - the event is fondly remembered for the many truly special and memorable moments that were experienced that day.

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The Manchester Marathon was also Olly Caunt's first event at the marathon distance. Running with Emma Palmer in the first half, the support given by fellow Rams around the course was incredible. Olly then returned to Manchester to complete the half marathon this autumn, finishing in a huge personal best of 1:53.

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Heather Carmichael's RRC journey began in January 2019 when her husband, Matthew, bought her membership as her birthday present. Sceptical at first, Heather has since completed the Bury 10K, Windmill Remembrance 10k and countless parkruns with fellow Rams and is looking forward to another year with the club in 2020.

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Cecilia Woods won a place in the ballot for the Berlin Marathon and put in a fantastic performance as she achieved a sub-4 time. A strong performer across the club championships, Cecilia placed highly in the championships this year and also celebrated as Lesley Heyes completed the Ironman UK in Bolton.

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In the last event of 2019 for many of our members, Karen Leach pulled a huge performance out of the bag. Consuming copious amounts of beer and curry the night before a run isn't normally considered the perfect way to prepare for an event but it propelled Karen to a time of 46:40 at the Ribble Valley 10k.

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The feat became even more impressive when Karen revealed that she finished the 2018 event in a time of 51:52 - improving her previous time by over 5 minutes. More of the same next year!

Our club is continually expanding and growing with each passing week and this year has seen our club welcome many more Rams to the fold. Emma Stacey supported both the 'Couch to 5K' and then the '10 weeks to 10K' group from the start of their running journey in January. From running 90 seconds non stop at the start of the year, Emma celebrated the success of the group as they successfully completed the Bury 10K in October.

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Justin Bones reflected on his progress from the 'Couch to 5K' programme in January to his first half marathon later in the year - an impressive feat and one that he hopes to build on moving into 2020.

One person who popped up a lot when asking people for their greatest highlights of the year was, unsurprisingly, Chris Hughes.

For Emma Palmer, Chris' efforts to support her in Anglesey, climbing over a mountain with his bike on his back to cheer her on during the marathon, stood out above the rest.

I know that I asked for one highlight each but rules are made to be broken and it has to be said how grateful I was for Chris' support in the build up to Manchester, especially in the first month of training. Gina Jackson also fondly recalled running with Chris during their Hell of a Hill Marathon laps. Hell of a Hill is both an inspiring and extremely challenging event and it is testament to his determination that he completed multiple days at the event.

Last but not least, Gemma Duffy reflected on Chris' support and encouragement as they ran the Rochdale Half marathon together. Is there nothing that Chris didn't do last year?

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Chris's own personal highlights included Emma Johnstone's unforgettable 11.5 mile swim across Lake Windemere, seeing the club's 10k group graduates completing the Bury 10K event and cheering home those he'd helped to train for the Manchester Marathon.

As the year drew to a close, a number of members took on the #adventrun challenge - which sees runners head out of the door every day in December in the lead up to Christmas.

The event culminated in a brilliant Christmas Party in the Park on Christmas Eve morning with plenty of tea, coffee and mince pies consumed.

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Again, our thanks go to the McKittricks for providing their catering van to supply warm refreshments and hot dogs once the running had finished and the Christmas celebrations began. Congratulations to everyone who completed the 24 day challenge!

My personal highlight came almost 25 miles into the Manchester Marathon. From 20 miles, I was on countdown for the RRC cheerpoint. After Sarah Sutcliffe's sage advice earlier in the run to slow down - I was almost certainly running too fast to try and make up for a very ragged start - the finish was almost in sight as the enthusiastic cheer squad came into view.

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I remember pulling out to the right hand side of the road to soak up the atmosphere. The cheerpoint went crazy and I remember embracing Charlotte Barker with tears in my eyes knowing that, with just over a mile to go, I was going to achieve something that I thought impossible just two years before. Thank you to everyone who supported me in the lead up to the marathon for making it possible.

Running aside, I would like to thank you all for your continued support, encouragement and contributions to these reports. Since I began writing these reports, setting time aside on Sundays and Mondays to reflect on the race highlights that you create over the course of a week, it has given me the opportunity to learn about the diverse range of events that our members enter. I hope that you have enjoyed reading and reflecting on 2019.

From the Sunday morning long runs to the Tuesday nights, from the camaraderie to the club nights out, it has been a brilliant year.

Here's to 2020.