The A Team - Manx Harriers under 11 walkers in a sea of red vests at Wirral on Saturday. (Bridget Kaneen).

Anchor Man - no not for a Tug o war - Tigger brought home the team prize - 3 pairs of socks reports photographer Bridget Kaneen.




As the team gathered at the Sea Terminal at 6.30am it was fair to say that there wasn't much excitement among the competitors. This was I believe entirely due to the fact that they had all been up for an hour already but were still half asleep. Making our way through the security check Bridget was stopped by one of the check in staff and told that the Steam Packet were advising people not to travel for a day trip as they could not guarantee a return journey that evening. This was a little late for us as most of the children were already on the boat by this time. Undeterred we boarded the ship to be met by Kathy Moore and family who had saved us seats. The children began to wake up which was a little unfortunate for me as I was trying to catch up on my sleep having worked until 4am the previous night.  

What are we doing before and after the race seemed to be the most important thing to the children rather than anything to do with the race itself. For me however not having walked since the Manx Games I was worried that 5km may prove to be 2km too far.

We were met in Liverpool by our taxi drivers and taken quickly to the race HQ at Birkenhead Park 6th Form College which was a hive of activity at that time. Unfortunately for us it was nothing to do with the race walking due to start 3 hours later. In fact there were no signs any where advertising the event and speaking to locals during the afternoon nothing had appeared in the local papers either. These organisers could do with contacting the Parish or End to End organisers for a few pointers I think.

Once things got under way we realised that race walking had yet again taken an opportunity to shoot itself in the foot. We have already mentioned the lack of advertising but added to that was the lack of support form both officials and competitors. Undoubtedly the Harriers were the best supported club in attendance but there were two walkers who had travelled up from Folkestone yet very few from anywhere else. As befits the RWA Press and Publicity Officer Chris Smith was in attendance and brought a small but quality team with him. Chris however also had a tractor tyre with him which he also carried around when racing which unsurprisingly slowed him down somewhat.

The course was a twisting out and back lap of 1km going slightly downhill on the outward leg and slightly uphill on the return. As the start of the event got closer the weather got worse and by the time the first race started it was raining heavily. Despite the shelter of tress we were unable to avoid the wind and faced strong winds as well. The under 17, junior, senior veteran men and women all started together for their 5km race and despite me being the quickest to react to the gun was Luke Finch took the race by the scruff of the neck and was never headed, looking very comfortable he showed just why he is on of the country's most promising walkers finishing well clear in 21.26. His brother Lloyd was second ahead of Neil Bates walking a steady untroubled 24.29 for third. In fifth place overall but first woman was Bridget Kaneen 27.57 ahead of me in 28.50. As I suspected earlier 5km was too far, I wasn't even good for 3km having blown on the uphill return on the third lap. (My time at 1km would not have won the under 11 race!!!) Despite a major surge on the last lap I continued to fall further behind Bridget but stayed far enough ahead of the 16 year old behind me to grab 6th place. Or if Anthony Brand is reading 2nd senior man.

The under 15 boys and girls race was next but as they were called to the start there was still no sign of Robert Moore who had gone shopping in the morning with his family rather than undertake the arduous race preparation that Peter, Bridget and I put the remainder of the team through. As the starter shouted one minute to go a car screeched to a halt outside the park gates and out jumped Kathy Moore followed by Robert who's middle name could well be Traa Da Loure. Also competing over 3km were Ciara Kaneen and Emma Latham for the Harriers and the very talented Rebecca Mersh of Sheffield. Rebecca dominated this race from start to finish, finishing well clear of Robert 17.34, who appeared very subdued on this occasion. Obviously only arriving as the gun was about to go didn't help. Emma and Ciara started together but Emma soon pulled away and walked her best race ever to smash her pb to record 18.19. A fast finish by Ciara also brought her a pb, 19.14, and third place in her event.

Callum Taylor was our only entrant in the 2kn event and he was up against Mark O'Kane of Coventry who Callum has raced against twice off Island already this year each of then experiencing a DQ. Callum went off with Kathy Granger of Sheffield but a warning caused him to ease up slightly. However Callum is very competitive (not sure where he gets it from) and was soon on her shoulder again. In the end he played safe and went for the finish rather than overall victory and came home second overall but won the boys race in 11.37, 4 seconds behind Kathy but some 32 seconds clear of his nearest rival.

The last event was the under 11 1km, again mixing the boys against the girls. Sadly other than the Harriers there was only one other entrant and how he would have wished it was different. As I predicted Helen Anstead won the race but she had it far from her own way. Lauren Whelan fresh from her week of warm weather training in Wemm on the outskirts of Manchester went with Helen and finished a mere 7 seconds behind smashing her pb with 5.31 making her 3rd on this years ranking list for 1km. Behind these was a great race between Bronwen Kaneen and Fay Latham. Bronwen again prevailed but only by 2 seconds as Fay also smashed her pb recording 6.06. Bringing up the rear in this race but not to be out done by their faster rivals were the smallest competitors on the day Kirsty Taylor and Richard Granger of Hallamshire. A race long battle came down to the wire with Kirsty getting the nod in a sprint finish, both athletes been given the same time 6.22, a pb for Kirsty.

Prior to the first race Chris Smith (Leicester) laid down a team challenge to the Harriers, in fact he said that they were the champions elect as we couldn't field a team as we were unable to persuade Peter "its too short for me, I'm an endurance athlete" Kaneen to take part. However at the presentation it turned out that teams were made up of anyone who competed in the 5km race. Whilst Leicester boasted 14 points including 1st and 2nd in the race with the Finch brothers the combination of Neil, Bridget and myself also scored 14 points but took the team title by virtue of our third walker (thats me) being higher placed than their third walker (Chris) If I am not mistaken it is probably the first time that I have ever beaten Chris.  Chris has recorded a sub 90 minute 20km albeit some years ago, this was in the Manx Airlines race when he stayed at my house.

The walkers who won medals were not prepared to imitate the organisers advertising methodology and medals could be seen swinging from the necks of the fortunate few in Caesar's restaurant, St. Johns shopping centre, the Steam Packet check-in / prison / waiting room and on the boat. Quite rightly they should all feel very proud of they achievements including those who didn't win a prize.

It would be difficult to pick out a performance of the day as in those conditions all performances were good and one would expect to be able to improve upon them in more favourable conditions. But I would say anyone who was able to set a pb on Saturday an extra special very well done.

A big thank you must go to Liz Corran who had made the travel arrangements prior to jetting off to New York and also to "Mum" to all for the day Bridget. Excellent support to all the walkers was given by Peter "Spielberg" Kaneen on the camcorder, Simon Latham who had travelled down from Manchester and Carol Bates who flew over on the day.

The journey back was eventful to say the least, after a 6 hour delay we were then invited on to the Super Sea Cat 3 roller coaster which was better than anything at Blackpool. Next time the steam Packet say that the boat is delayed or cancelled due to the weather, take their word for it. We endured it Saturday night and it wasn't pleasant.

Next event is the winter league at Andreas on Sunday 17th November, signing on from 9.30am at the Ayre Utd FC club house. Due to the cancellation of the first race this event will be a scratch race.  See you all there.

Results from Wirral Grand Prix


1. Luke Finch   Leicester       21.26

2. Lloyd Finch  Leicester       23.15

3. Neil Bates                   24.29

5. Bridget Kaneen                       27.57 (1st Lady)

6. Steve Taylor                 28.50


1st Team Manx Harriers



1. Rebecca Mersh        Sheffield               16.17

2. Robert Moore                 17.34

3. Emma Latham                  18.19

4. Ciara Kaneen                 19.14



1. Kathy Granger        Sheffield       11.33

2. Callum Taylor                        11.37

3. Mark O'Kane  Coventry        12.09



1. Helen Anstead                        5.24

2. Lauren Whelan                        5.31

3. Bronwen Kaneen                       6.04

4. Fay Latham                   6.06

5. Kirsty Taylor                        6.22

6. Richard GrangerHallamshire   6.22



I'm Late - Robert Moore is helped to get his shoes on by his family as they get to the Wirral walks venue in the nick of time. Picture by Bridget Kaneen.

My Way - Callum Taylor decides he likes to turn left rather than right handed in the Wirral walks. Picture by Bridget Kaneen.

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