Two team silvers and one team gold were the prizes for Morpeth’s combined men’s and women’s veteran squads at the annual North East Masters Open Road Relays held in the traditional venue at Bedewell Park,
Jarrow on Wednesday May 2nd 2018.
As ever, the event is contested by teams of three over a two mile, two lap circuit of the park
in ten year categories with the women’s competition preceding the men’s.
Sunderland Harriers took an early lead in the women’s race courtesy of Nikki Woodward (11 minutes 31 seconds) with Morpeth’s Vicky Gibbs (12m 18s) clocking the 4th fastest time for the leg and keeping the club in contention.
Despite having run a half-marathon at Blackpool the preceding weekend, Helen King produced the usual gutsy run (12m 30s) to give last leg runner Gemma Floyd a fighting chance of a medal and this she achieved in fine style with the 2nd fastest clocking of the night (11m 27s, only one second behind Sunderland’s Alice Smith,
fastest women’s run of the night) to overhaul both North Shields Poly and Birtley in front of her and move the club into a silver medal position (36m 15s). Sunderland Harriers (35m 2s) were the fastest team on the night.
Morpeth’s B team of Jane Kirby (14m 7s), Pam Woodcock (15m 43s) and Sue Smith (14m 26s) finished in a combined time of 44m 16s in 18th place, although it should be noted that both Smith and Woodcock
had commendably stepped down to the Over 35s race to make the team up.
In the later men’s competition Morpeth fielded teams in the Over 35s,
Over 45s and Over 55s and gave relay debuts to Stevens Major and Johnstone.
In the Over 35s competition it was as you were for the women, with the club up against a very strong and determined Sunderland Harrriers, perhaps benefiting from not having to brave the horrendous traffic North of the Tyne to get there.
Returning to competitive action after a long period out, Tony Lewis (10m 53s) was plunged straight into the thick of things on a battliing first leg but was up against decent clockings from Sunderland (Rob Walker, 9m 54s),
Blackhill (Gary Wallace, 9m58s) and Darren Purvis (10m 2s). John Butters began to claw back runners
in front of him on leg 2 with what proved to be the third fastest time of the night (9m 53s)
and moved the club up to a medal position. Chris Smith ran what proved to be the fastest time of the night (9m 36s), but Sunderland ran out again overall winners by some 45 seconds (29m 37s) in what was a tough competition.
The Over 45s were most unfortunate that, after Alistair Macdonald had got them off to a very solid start (11m 26s), Graeme Thorpe suffered the misery of a pulled hamstring on his 2nd lap and had to grit his teeth to get round at all – indeed, after finishing in 12m 5s, he collapsed over the line into the waiting arms of the St Johns ambulance. Fergus Bates on last leg ran a very respectable 10m 40s (the 5th fastest Over 45 time of the night) but was just unable to reel in Elswick B in front of him. Had Thorpe not suffered injury, it is likely that this team would also have medalled, probably with a silver.
The Over 45s B finished in 13th place. Paul Brown, who had loyally returned home to the NE from a training course in Leeds in order to take part, getting the club off on leg 1 in 11m 52s and followed by relay debutants Steven Major (12m 52s) and Steven Johnstone (12m 34s), both of whom confessed later that they had very much enjoyed the event and looked forward to similar competitions.
It was left to the club’s Over 55s to bring off what had seemed days before a most unlikely gold,
what with several of the club’s leading Over 55 vets out injured and Gavin Bayne only drafted in
at quite short notice. In his first race back since sustaining a skiing injury over the Winter, Bayne showed all his experience in running a well-measured and purposeful 12m 24s on leg 1 to bring the club home in 3rd place behind Heaton (Ian Norman, 11m 16s, fastest leg of the night) and Wallsend (Graham Armstrong, 12m 2s).
All things changed, however, when Neil McAnany ran on leg 2, his 11m 54s the 2nd fastest time of the night moving the club up into first place. It was left to Paul Bellingham (none dog assisted, I hasten to add) to stay ahead of Heaton’s hirsutely grizzled veteran John James and this he did with a very composed and sensible run (12m 25s) for a combined team clocking of 36m 43s, some 8 seconds ahead of Heaton Harriers in 2nd place.
All in all, a very decent night’s work and a credit to all who took part.
As indefatigable race umpire and Morpeth Harrier Archie Jenkins reminded everyone
at the presentation, next year’s race will once again be the first Wednesday in May,
so put it in your diaries now!
Report by Peter Scaife