Round The Walls Hits Half-century

THE Chester Round the Walls Race celebrates its 50th birthday this year.

The multi-terrain race, organised by West Cheshire Athletic Club on Boxing Day from Chester Racecourse, is one of the oldest races in the UK and has been an almost permanent festive fixture since its inception in 1972.

Although changing almost every year due to weather and ongoing maintenance of the roman and medieval walls, the typical route is around 6.8km/ 4.25 miles, starting and finishing on the Roodee racecourse and including sections of the walls including the famed Eastgate clock.

Race director, Alan Morris, confirmed this week that entries have now closed for this year’s fixture which has reached its limit of 500 runners and will be run in an anti-clockwise direction around the walls.

This year’s finishers will all receive a commemorative medal to mark the event’s anniversary.

The first race in 1972, staged just over three miles and organised by Chester and District Athletic Club, attracted just 40 runners and was just for men and won by Doug Watson of Wirral AC in a time of 16 minutes 30 seconds.

Dave Cowell, of Manx AC, won the 1973 men’s race and became the first holder of the Browns the Jewellers Trophy, while Margaret Ashcroft, of Wallasey AC, won the ladies race, and Tony Blackwell, of Deeside AAC, won the under 15 boys race.

Trevor Prescott, an experienced athlete from St Helens, organised the event in the mid-70s and increased the attractiveness of the event by introducing a Veteran Men’s race.

The race was switched from December 26th to the 27th in 1976 and 1977 and entries increased, and in 1978 the race organisers, Chester and District AC had become CEPAC (Chester and Ellesmere Port AC).

John Driscoll, who wrote a brief history of the race in 1996, organised the fixture in 1981 which was confined to the inner part of the Roodee for the first time in its history due to a hard frost making the city walls section of the course completely unusable.

The ladies course was increased to the same distance as the men for the 1983, although under the rules existing at that time they had to start separately.

In 1986 and 1987 the runners had to leave the city walls near the Northgate and use roads within the city walls before regaining entry to the walls near the cathedral because the city council became particularly concerned about the condition of certain sections of the walls and the city council insisted that the city walls couldn’t be used for the event in 1988 which lead to national press and television coverage.

A radically new course was established and used which featured roads, pavements, canal towpath, and steps which measured 4.3 miles, but the 1988 race unfortunately saw one runner who failed to notice a left turn and went onto the towpath and into the canal!

After the 1990 race, CEPAC  received notice from the city council that they would not be able to use the racecourse again, so another route was required and created thanks to CEPAC chairman, Alan Morris, and Chester Half Marathon course director, Chris Morgan, who increased the distance to five miles.

Anne Hall became race organiser in 1995 when the city council suggested using the city walls again, but for the second time in its history, the weather intervened with a fall of snow on Christmas Day followed by a hard frost producing unsafe conditions so the event was contained on the Roodee.

Last year’s event saw six West Cheshire Athletic Club members Neil Finegan, Steve Fernyhough, Henry Robinson, Jodi Bemand, Rosemary Rogers and Mary Radford all finished first in their age group categories which attracted 407 finishers.

Neil and Steve claimed the first over-45 and over-40 men’s prizes with times of 22 minutes 28 seconds and 23:32 respectively, while Henry and Jodi were first under 20 man and under 20 lady in times of 24:01 and 30:41, and Rosemary and Mary secured the first over 70 and over 75 ladies awards with times of 37:21 and 49:33.

Daniel Cliffe, representing Hercules Wimbledon AC, posted 20 minutes 34 seconds to win the men’s race, ahead of Buckley Runners duo Ben Biggs and Sam Bellis who clocked 20:50 and 21:47 for second and third positions respectively.

Chester-based Carol Parsons, competing for Cheshire Dragons, posted 24:12 to claim the women’s title, ahead of runner-up Sarah Hunter (Ackworth Road Runners) in 24:46, and Kate Titlow (West Cheshire AC) in third spot with 25:53.

FIXTURES this weekend include the West Cheshire AC Track Handicap for Juniors (800m) and Seniors (3,000m) at Ellesmere Port Sports Village, on Saturday (10am start), while the Borders Road Running League is being hosted by Cybi Striders at Trac MΓ΄n, Anglesey, LL63 5TF, on Sunday (11am start), and the latest round of the Manchester Indoor Open Track and Field Meetings take place at SportCity, on Sunday (10.30am start).

FORTHCOMING fixtures include the Cheshire Cross Country Championships at Knights Grange, Winsford, on Sunday, January 8.

FURTHER details about West Cheshire Athletic Club can be found at:

Posted by Dave Alexander
12th December 2022

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