In the end Morpeth Harriers comfortably retained their title at the Weetslade Relays on Wednesday 21st June 2017,
although for much of the race they had to go head to head with local outfit Gosforth Harriers.
While the promised thunderstorms thankfully never materialising, it was still a close
and muggy night for the 100 plus teams that gathered at Lockey Park, Wideopen
for the 8th annual running of the event in which runners complete a circuit of the park
before heading out to the nature reserve and a short, sharp ascent of the old spoil heap on a 2.5 mile loop.
The unique nature of this event, however, derives from the composition of the teams of three,
the rules only requiring each team to include male, female and veteran runners in any permutation or running order.
Once again, Morpeth were fortunate to be able to draw on the services of two of last year’s winning team,
Tom Straughan and Emma Holt, but with veteran Chris Smith absent on paternity leave,
Ian Harding was able to come in as more than adequate replacement.
It was clear from the off that a determined Straughan meant business as he took the lead
at the front of a small group that quickly established itself and included both
ex-Morpeth Harrier Lewis Timmins, now with Gosforth, and club colleague Karl Taylor.
At the end of the leg, Straughan and Timmins were still locked together, Timmins (12 minutes 49seconds)
only managing to get away from Straughan (12m50s) in the run-in with Taylor a strong third place in 13m22s.
On second leg, Morpeth’s Emma Holt had soon overtaken her Gosforth rival, Helen Warburton,
as the leading runners headed around the pitch, but, much like Timmins,
her younger rival Warburton sat in and, with Holt no doubt feeling the previous
weekend’s fell race at Windy Ghyll in her legs (in which she had been the first female competitor home),
Warburton was able to steal a few yards on the run-in to the final changeover.
Warburton would in fact be credited with the fastest female leg of the day (14.57) with Holt only one second behind.
It was all down to the final leg, and Morpeth were fortunate to have an in-form and experienced competitor in Ian Harding to run it. Harding had already taken over ten yards out of his Gosforth rival as the runners disappeared out of sight, and when he reappeared some 13 minutes later, he had taken nearly two minutes out of Gosforth’s Darren McBain. On completion, Harding’s time was comfortably the fastest veteran run of the night and also the fourth fastest overall. Morpeth’s winning time was 40 minutes and 48 seconds with Gosforth second in 42m 37s.
Meanwhile Morpeth’s B team were also having a very successful night, with veteran Jane Hodgson, on her first outing over the course, finding it strongly to her liking and recording the fastest female veteran time of the night (15m10s) when putting the team into an unassailable third place at the end of leg 2. It was down to Tony Lewis to anchor the team home, and despite a lot of miles in his legs from ultra-run preparation and cycling,
Lewis recorded a time of 14m 27s, the second fastest male veteran time of the night,
as the team finished an excellent third in 42m 59s.
Behind these two teams, there were a host of strong performances from a range
of both younger and more experienced male and female runners.
Richard Castledine, in his first outing in a relay, ran well for the C team in a time of 14m 38s,
and with Gemma Floyd recording the second fastest female veteran time of the night (15m 30s)
and Paul Waterston on last leg (15m 29s), the three secured a highly respectable 8th place,
ahead of the A and B teams of most other clubs.
There was further success a little further down the field, with the D team of Phil Walker (15m 12s),
now starting to get back to something like his competitive best,
Helen King (17m 20s) and youngster Dean Lonsdale (15m 5s) finishing in 47m 37s in 15th place.
Like Castledine, this was Lonsdale’s first competitive outing in a relay and he certainly
looked fresh and full of running at the end.
With four teams home in the first fifteen, the night was certainly shaping up to be one of the strongest club performances at the event, and this was backed up by the runs of the E team of Gary Hall,
Jane Kirby and Mike Winter (38th in 51m 49s) and the final team of Dave Nicholson,
Clare Hiscox and Paul Bellingham, ( 60th in 54m 56s), with Hall,
Kirby, Hiscox and Nicholson all competing in the event for the first time.
In total, some 103 teams took part from over 20 local clubs.
Fastest time of the night went to Finn Brodie of Tyne Bridge (12m 42s),
but in truth it was too late to make any impression on the leading three.
Morpeth’s third win at the relatively new event means they now go equal on victories with Elswick Harriers.
Report & Photos by