Wednesday 12th July – Andy Holden 5
There’s always a danger naming something after someone, the danger that the something becomes bigger, more recognised, than the someone it was named after. Anyone who fancies popping up the Abraham Darby is more likely to be grabbing a pint in a Weatherspoon’s pub that shin up the leg of a Victorian industrialist and Telford is the town in Shropshire rather than the engineer and road builder, Thomas, who tarmacked most of it. The same may be true in years to come of the Andy Holden, the race around the canals of Tipton that the local legend called his own, but not if Tipton Harriers have their way. There are many legends about the legend, that he would drink as many pints in a week as he ran miles, that he got sent the wrong way twice when leading the Belfast marathon and ended up finishing in the runners up spot only to comment philosophically that these things happen. He was the hardest of the local hard men and a great Tipton stalwart and there were plenty of Tipton stalwarts to commemorate him in the race that bears his name.
Just warming up it was clear that the host club would be cleaning up where prizes were concerned. Running around the field and up and down the canal towpath you were passed again and again by sheer class and that class made the race their own from the off. The two laps around the grass soon stretched the field out as the green and white hoops took off at a relentless pace with the remainder strung out behind like washing on a line. Thinning the field out was essential as a brief tree lined incline led runners alongside the canal, passing was possible but not in large numbers and barriers in places made it a little more of a necessity to pick your way carefully. A blast alongside the back of new houses brought runners to a left turn, plummeting down a ramp onto a second stretch of canal, through a barrier, or over for the more adventurous, and off again past the backs of factories before the short sharp incline over two bridges and back towards home alongside the Wolverhampton to Birmingham stretch of the waterway, past Dudley Port station, across the aqueduct and onwards at as fast a pace as you could maintain. Reaching the Barge & Barrel pub you were directed over another bridge and back towards your starting point a mile or so distant, down the wooded slope and onto the field for a lap and into the finish.
Ian Williams was first across the line in 24.32 leading home a procession of Harriers with Martin Williams taking second place in 25.00 and Richard Carpenter taking 3rd place in 25.42. Only two of the top 10 were not sporting the green and white hoops of Tipton and only seven of the top twenty were not representing the host club showing the strength in depth Tipton can call on when required. It was a similar story in the ladies race with Lynne Hill claiming victory in 29.37 having to curtail her round the field cool down to pick up her prize, sprinting through a guard of honour to collect her trophy as her name was called. Catherine Holden was 2nd in 30.37 and Sue Street-Hall was 3rd in 31.32 making it a clean sweep for the host club.
Of the blue hoops on show Stuart Perkins broke Tipton’s dominance by placing 9th in 27.45, Dave Norman got amongst them in 17th in 29.25, Mark Homer was 25th in 30.38, Steve Parr finished in 33.11 to take 39th position, Andy Weaver was 48th in 34.20 and John Andrews claimed 7th spot in 37.07.
In true Tipton fashion every finisher was presented with a bottle of beer and a bag of pork scratchings and sent home happy, the only disappointment that the course came up significantly short but there is only so much you can do with canals when half your field has been built on. And the bottle of beer sported a special label showing Holden at his best to ensure he isn’t forgotten, as long as this event continues he won’t be.