Tourists complete 52-mile Mersey running challenge

The BTR Tour Of Merseyside (TOM) 2015 was brought to an exciting close after a week of races totally 52 miles – with places for the 2016 event selling out the very next day in only eight hours.

The seven-day event (5 to 11 July) featured six races of varying terrain in different locations across Merseyside, covering a total of 52 miles.

The sold-out event featuring 300 participants saw a total of 269 runners complete the challenge to become fully fledged Tourists, with the field split between 177 males and 92 females.

For the third successive year, Manchester-based Anthony Taylor took first place in the overall Tour. He completed his hat-trick Tour in 4:57:32 – smashing the five-hour barrier for the first time in the event’s three-year history and setting a TOM course record.

Taylor was chased all week by Tour newcomer Terence Forrest, from Cairngorm Runners, who proved popular with his fellow Tourists with his unique style of running – starting at the back of the race field and then racing through to the front of the pack. Forrest took second place with 5:04:52.

The pair have gone head-to-head in a number of other races this year, including the BTR Mersey Tunnel 10K. Taylor took first place in the Tour’s first race, Southport Half Marathon, and remained ahead for the rest of the week – providing plenty of friendly rivalry and banter between the pair all week.

Third male was Slava Osipovs, who also returned for his third TOM, recording a time of 5:12:25. Osipovs took fifth place in 2013 and second place in 2014.

For the females, the leaderboard changed on an almost daily basis. Last year’s winning lady Liverpool Harriers’ Jenny Clague was in the overall lead all week until she fell ill and sadly pulled out of the fifth race and overall Tour.

The top podium place for the ladies was taken by Tour newcomer Natasha Sheel from Serpentine RC in 6:05:43.

Second place was returning Tourist Gillian Verdin from Liverpool Running Club in 6:17:31, setting her own TOM personal best. She was followed by Tour newcomer Sarah Carroll from Oldham Royton Harriers AC in 6:21:49.

Prizes were awarded during a special celebration event at Camp And Furnace in Liverpool, following the final race.

The first BTR Tour Of Merseyside took place in July 2013 with 73 Tourists completing the inaugural event. Last year, the field more than doubled with 161 finishers.

The 2015 TOM start list included 29 of the original Team of 2013, who are the first runners to complete a Tour hat-trick, including only seven females. A total of 24 will return for their fourth successive year in 2016.

The Tour 2016 has already sold out. Entries opened the day after the 2015 Tour (Sunday, 12 July) – and within eight hours all 350 places had been taken. This year’s event took two weeks to sell-out.

The challenge started with Southport Half Marathon, where runners were guests of Vital Events. This was followed by six miles of beach, woods and trail in Thurstaston; 10 miles on the Sustrans Loopline in Walton; five miles in Hale Village; six miles cross country at Stadt Moers in Knowsley; with a 12-mile Wirral coastal run completing the Tour.

The runners even opted for fancy dress for the Hale leg of the Tour, despite the scorching weather conditions. They were given a warm welcome by Lord Mayor Of Hale Village, Paul Turton, who started the race and later congratulated runners as they finished the line.

The BTR Tour Of Merseyside is the brainchild of BTR Race Director Alan Rothwell.

BTR Liverpool is the leading independent organisation for creating, managing and delivering headline race events in Liverpool City Region. Its growing portfolio includes the Mersey Tunnel 10K; Wirral Half Marathon/10K; Port Sunlight 10K/5K; Vitality Liverpool Half Marathon; and the Liverpool Santa Dash.

BTR Race Director Alan Rothwell commented:

“What a phenomenal week, it totally surpassed all our expectations, for both the BTR Team and the field of 300 runners. The Tourists completely embraced the challenge, and 52 miles is no mean feat for any runner.

“The pure grit, determination and sheer enjoyment shown by all – even through the most challenging races of the Tour – has been nothing short of inspirational and a joy to watch. Strong bonds and friendships are formed and this is what makes the running community so welcoming.

“The Tourists had extra fun along the way and opted for fancy dress at Hale, the shortest race of the week. They certainly made the effort with so many creative costumes in such hot weather conditions. We have to say a big thank you to the Lord Mayor for being such a great sport, his encouragement gave the runners an extra boost through what is a very long and challenging week.

“The 2016 Tour is only the fourth successive event, so for all 350 places to have sold out in eight hours is incredible. Thank you to the runners and volunteers who make the Tour Of Merseyside such a special and unique event in the running calendar.”

As well as unattached runners and charity runners, there was a huge club presence on Tour from across the region. These included Fylde Coast Runners; Helsby RC; Kirkby Milers; Knowsley Harriers; Liverpool Running Club; Mersey Tri; Penny Lane Striders; Pensby Road Runners; Sale Harriers Manchester; Skelmersdale Boundary Harriers; Southport Waterloo AC; Wirral AC; Spectrum Striders RC; Wallasey AC; West Cheshire AC; and Wigan District Harriers AC.

The Tourists were joined by over 75 guest runners during the races at Thurstaston, Hale and New Brighton.

Next in the BTR race calendar is a mini tour covering 26 miles. The BTR Whistle Stop Tour Of Wirral is from 11 to 13 September, incorporating the award winning BTR Wirral Half Marathon.

BTR recently won the title of Event Of The Year at the Wirral Tourism Awards 2015 for the Wirral Half Marathon/10K.

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