Although Wallasey Athletic Club failed in their bid to win the Blackpool road relay race last Saturday, theirs was indeed a glorious failure as their splendid quintet of Barlow, Wright, Woolford, Mather and Chalton battled their way through the field from 22nd position after the first leg to take third place in a field of 50 teams which included many famous club from the North and Midlands.
These five athletes proved beyond doubt that if in the next twelve months they can find a sixth runner with both the ability and the dedication to training which is so vital to success in athletics, Wallasey A.C will have a team capable of challenging any club in Britain.
The race was run round Blackpool's Stanley Park with each runner completing two circuits giving a total distance of 4/2/3 miles. Although Tony Townsend put in a gallant effort on the first leg with a time of 24 mins. 30 secs. Wallasey found themselves in 22nd place with a time deficit of almost 2 minutes.
Club secretary John Wright tackled this with the same determination he showed in the recent Sefton park relay, and when he handed over to Kevin Mather after a leg of 22 mins. 17 secs. he had carved his way through the field to put Wallasey well on the way to being back in the race.
With Mather much in the same mind Wallasey were now gradually pulling back the teams near the head of the field and with a time of 22 mins. 19 secs. (only 2 seconds slower that that of Wright), he handed over to training companion Brian Chalton several places nearer to the leading teams of Blackpool A.C., Bolton United and Manchester and District Lads' Club.
Chalton, as expected, put in yet another determined onslaught gaining several more places with a leg of 22 mins. 51 secs. He sent Brian Woolford away with Wallasey in fourth place although it was now apparent that they could not catch Blackpool who were in the clear lead after a great lap of 21 minutes 32 seconds by international Brian Craig.
The phlegmatic Woolford with so much more experience of road racing soon settled into his usual mixture of strength and even pace and within a mile had caught and passed Halifax Harriers to put Wallasey in third place.
After running the seventh fastest leg of the day with a fine 22 mins. 3 secs., he gave anchor man Ron Barlow the unenviable task of trying to catch Tim Ward of Manchester and District Roads Club who had a lead of about 250 yards over Wallasey, with Blackpool well on their way to victory.
Barlow was in his most aggressive mood and although one has seen him in many great races for Wallasey A.C. his effort on this occasion was indeed a soul stirring one.
Although Kerr of Belgrave Harriers was making a determined effort to catch him, Barlow first held him off and then started pulling away as he closed remorselessly on Ward and when this great race finished he was only 6 seconds short of placing Wallasey in second place after running what proved to be the fourth fastest lap of the day in a time of 21 minutes 39 seconds.
The race was a great triumph for the host club Blackpool A.C., who in addition who to providing excellent organisation, proved once again that when at full strength they are one of Britains's finest distance teams. Appropriate also on this occasion was the fastest lap of the day by ex-Blackpool runner Gerry North, now with Belgrave Harriers, who trained in a great time of 21 mins. 11 secs. for the 4 2/3 miles.
Today, Wallasey's three specialists in long distance road racing, Woolford,Wright and Barlow travel to Longwood in Yorkshire to tray and add the classic Longwood '10' to their triumphs in three runners to score road races. Colleagues Mather and Chalton transfer their activities to the track, to represent Cheshire in the mile and three-mile events respectively in the triangular inter-county match at Cheadle, where Cheshire oppose Lancashire and Staffordshire.