Fresh from their success in the Derwentwater 10-mile Road Race, and with their best available team running, Wallasey Athletic Club went to Saturday's Waterloo Road Race with their heads and hopes high.
With their team including Ron Barlow and John Wright, two of the team who were in the team which won the race in 1957, and also Brian Woolford, Wallasey were considered to be joint favourites with Blackpool A.C. for team honours - but just how close the result was to be no one could have foreseen.
On a dull cold, windy afternoon well over 300 runners lined up in their pens for the start of the race, which promised to be every bit as exciting as last year's when Bruce Tulloh narrowly beat Brian Craig and Gerry North in a close finish. Unfortunately, Tulloh and another likely winner, Ron Hill of Bolton, were absent, so it looked like the winner would be either Craig or North.
The start was like a herd on stampede as these 300 odd human bipeds surged away on to the first leg of the 71/2 miles course. As expected, Craig and North were soon in the lead, forcing the pace as it they were intent on smashing Tulloh's record made last year,
Just behind them were Don Shelley of North Staffs., Ron Barlow of Wallasey, and a group of several more runners, Woolford and Wright were in the 20's at this stage, and Kevin Mather and Brian Chalton were in the 30's. The fast pace at the front soon sorted out the weaker runners, but with Barlow holding his position magnificently, and with Wright and Woolford moving through well to join him in the first ten, it was obvious Wallasey were well in with a chance for the team race. However, Swarbrick of Blackpool had been running strongly and had passed Ron Barlow to go into third position, and with Blackpool's third runner Fred Howe also closing up, it was going to be a close thing.
In the final mile with the strong wind behind them helping the runners to sub 4 mins. 40 secs. mile pace, the large crowd, waiting at the finish, saw Craig just outsprint North in a close finish, in new record time of 37 mins. 59 secs. - 20 seconds inside Tulloh's record.
With Ron Barlow holding his position well and coming in a gallant fourth and Woolford and Wright following him home in 8th and 9th positions, Wallasey managed to clinch the team race with 21 pts, although finishing with same number of points as Blackpool but Blackpool's third runner did not finish until 17th position, Mather and Chalton, after surviving a bed spell in the middle of the race, moved through well and finished almost together in 37th and 40th positions. Wallasey's other three runners, John Young, Hugh Pritchard and David Field after running most of the race together and helping each other, finished in 159th, 161st and 164th positions.
This was a great race for Wallasey A.C., against some of the strongest teams in the north and Barlow, Woolford, and Wright are to be congratulated on a fine victory.
Today is the second league match, to be held at Club H.Q. Leasowe Road. Start 3:15 p.m. All spectators welcome - free charge, in addition there will be races for boys, over two miles.