There were certainly smiles well etched on the faces of Morpeth Harriers Senior Men’s squad,
and their faithful supporters, after pulling off a handsome team victory
at the Saucony sponsored English National Cross Country Championships,
held for the first time at Donington Park, on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border,
close to East Midlands Airport on Saturday 27th February.
It was also Morpeth’s third National title success in less than twelve months,
a superb achievement in itself, which had begun with the English National
12 Stage Road Relay Championships last April,
then the English Cross Country Relays in November,
and now adding this title to the list is indeed a welcome reward
for all of the hard work put in by the clubs athletes and coaches alike.
As daylight faded, and temperatures began to drop, the sight of six blue and white vests
amongst the first 40 finishers in the final event of the day, the 129th Senior Men’s 12k Championship,
certainly warmed the hearts of the club, because it meant that they
had won the championship for the second time, the first being on relatively home soil,
at Herrington Country Park, near Sunderland in 2013, on by comparison a very snowy slushy course.
Conditions on Saturday at Donington were described as being fairly firm underfoot in most areas,
as the ground was mainly untested; however athletes described the course as tricky,
with tight bends and short steep climbs, ideal though for a National Championship of that magnitude.
.Leading Morpeth Harriers Senior Men home to team victory was Nick Swinburn,
currently in the middle of high mileage training in preparation for April’s London Marathon.
Swinburn showed however that he has good pace in his legs,
as he kept up with the leading protagonists during the three laps,
and only lost a little ground in the later stages,
as the eventual winner Jonny Hay of Aldershot and Farnham
and runner up Adam Hickey of Southend on Sea
locked themselves together in a relentless bid for ultimate glory.
The Morpeth man did hang on to take the individual Bronze medal,
just ahead of Highgate’s Andy Maud, whom he had also battled
closely with at the English Cross Country Relays at Mansfield in November,
and at the European Trials in Liverpool a few weeks later.
Swinburn was also emulating his effort at a very muddy Parliament Hill in London twelve months previously.
Another very prominent Morpeth performer was Jonny Taylor, who eventually finished sixth,
after losing touch with the front runners at the end of lap two.
Third home for Morpeth was North Eastern Silver medallist Carl Avery,
who although was not quite up with the leaders, had an excellent run,
which was well rewarded by a placing of sixteenth.
Next home for the club was North Eastern Bronze medallist Peter Newton,
who ran steadily throughout, to finish in an excellent 30th spot.
Not far behind Newton were his Morpeth Harriers club colleagues Lewis Timmins and Ady Whitwam,
who finished in 35th and 40th places respectively, to close their club’s winning count at 130 points,
which saw them a good 177 points clear of Midland Champions Notts AC,
who were second team, with Sale Harriers a further 26 points adrift in third team place.
Unfortunately once again, Morpeth Harriers longest serving competitive Senior Man Ian Hudspith
missed out on a National Cross Country Gold Medal, the only domestic one he is short of in his proud collection.
Again producing an excellent run, he was the club’s seventh man home in 58th place,
and only a few seconds adrift of being in their scoring six.
The club also had excellent runs coming from Ross Floyd and Robert Balmbra,
who finished in 86th and 106th places respectively.
Morpeth Harriers youngest Senior Man Sam Hancox was next home from the club, finishing in 177th place.
Other Morpeth Harriers finishers in the 1,730 Senior Men’s field, were as follows
Jordan Scott (252nd), Mark Cockburn (425th), in his first ever National,
Rob Hancox (803rd), Neil Gunstone (853rd), and Peter Scaife (1,213th).
Morpeth Harriers other medallist on the day was Scott Beattie.
The Northern Under 17 Men’s champion did find Southern Champion
Isaac Akers of Corby AC a tough opponent, nevertheless he managed
to win the Silver medal, only eight seconds adrift in the two lap 6k event.
North East Champion Holly Peck produced an excellent run in her 3k event,
when finishing eighth after some good early pace, and was only
a mere fifteen seconds adrift of an individual podium place.
She led Morpeth Harriers Under 13 Girls home to 14th team placing,
with further good support coming from Rhiannon Hedley (84th),
Lily Heaton (88th), and Lauren Cummings (278th).
Another excellent individual Morpeth Harrier performance was that of Emma Holt,
who finished 22nd in a classy Senior Women’s 8k event.
Morpeth Harriers Under 15 Boy’s team finished as 14th team in their 4.5k event.
They were led home by North Eastern Silver medallist Daniel Dixon, who finished 48th.
Further team supporting runs came from Taylor Glover (73rd),
Ross Charlton (115th), and Matthew Waterfield (198th).
Another Morpeth Harrier in action in the Under 15 Boys event
was Connor Marshall, who finished in 238th place.
Unfortunately the club’s leading Under 15 Boy athlete at the
Northern Cross Country, at Blackburn, Rory Leonard,
was unable to take part due to injury.
The Junior Women’s 6k and Junior Men’s 10k events saw Morpeth Harriers
Alison Brown and Phillip Winkler finish in 71st and 73rd places respectively.
Morpeth Harriers two youngest competitors Dylan Davies and Andrew Hudspith finished
in 172nd and 188th places respectively in a field of 420 finishers in the Under 13 Boys 3k event.
Running over a distance of 4k, Morpeth Harrier Gracie Hufton
did well when finishing in 232nd place in the Under 15 Girls event.
On Monday 7th March 2016 at 9.30am, Ben Smith from Bristol, will begin the 189th leg of his 401 Challenge,
and that is to run 401 Marathons in 401 consecutive days, a mammoth and magnificent achievement in itself,
and all in the name of two charities, Kidscape, and Stonewall.
The aim is to raise the sum of £250,000, in support of charities who work
tirelessly to combat child bullying, both in schools, and society in general.
Ben's 189th Marathon is taking place in Morpeth, and aided by a willing group
of volunteer runners from Morpeth Harriers & AC, he will set off from near to the
club's headquarters on Mitford Road, next to the Rugby Club,
and run a course that has been specially designed and organised for him on behalf of the club,
by their appointed Road Race Director Kevin Bray.
The course will take him along Mitford Road, to Mitford Village itself,
then onto the narrow countryside route leading up to Mitford Steads,
past the Village Church, then at the Steads at the top of the Whalton Road,
go straight ahead to Tranwell, round to Glororum, into Clifton,
then it’s back into Morpeth via the Golf Club, the Sun Inn, then into Carlisle Park
via the Joiners Arms, then onto the Stanners at the far end of Carlisle Park.
To achieve the total Marathon distance, Ben will have to complete no less than three circuits of the course,
with the third circuit being slightly shorter than the first two,
If anyone out there knows the terrain of the area, they would readily agree that this is no mean feat,
and is to be applauded, and if anyone is feeling generous, please try to give him your utmost support.
Full information on the challenge, and about Ben himself,
and how you can support the effort,
can be found on www.the401challenge.co.uk
Why not make Ben's trip to Morpeth, and the surrounding beautiful rural Northumberland most memorable,
by turning out to support him along the way in his incredible adventure.
It is expected that Ben will complete his 189th Challenge around mid afternoon,
near the area of the Stepping Stones, close to the Stanners,
please be there to offer him a winner’s welcome.
On the following day, he will continue his eventful journey in Alnwick,
home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.
Under 15 Boy Rory Leonard is the latest recipient of the
Linden Homes Morpeth Harriers Athlete of the Month Award.
Leonard received his award certificate for his achievements in January, from the clubs Press Officer George Patterson, to warm applause from his club colleagues,
at their club house on Mitford Road, in Morpeth, on the evening of Monday 22nd February 2016.
In a very varied month of activity, Rory competed in the final of the Indoor 1500m in Sheffield,
where he finished fifth, where he was up against more Senior opposition.
He finished fourth in the Intermediate Boys event at the Northumberland Schools Cross Country, at Temple Park, South Shields, which following an Inter Counties appearance, has since led him to a much deserved slot on the Northumberland team for the forthcoming English School’s Cross Country Championships in Nottingham.
However his crowning glory on the month, was finishing seventh in the
Under 15 Boys event at the Northern Cross Country Championships in Blackburn,
where he led his club to fifth team place, and just adrift of a podium place both individually,
and also on a team front.
Rory only began his running career last August,
after many years enjoying success on the football field.
Coming from a family with a background in road and cross country running,
he has taken to the sport very naturally, and since his link up with Morpeth Harriers,
he has progressed quite rapidly, and is now very much a fixture in their Junior ranks,
and has been very well accepted by his club colleagues, and coaches,
and in a very short period of time he has contributed largely to some very welcome successes.
The Saucony National Cross Country Championships 2016
Saturday 27th February
Donington Park lies just to the west of East Midlands airport, and is accessed via the A453 road.
Normally there is only one main entrance to the park, but an extra entrance,
complete with temporary traffic lights will operate for the event.
Both entrances will be used; the main entrance being used by those approaching from the M1,
and the second (Download gate) entrance being used by those from the west & Southwest.
TRAVEL DIRECTIONS FROM THE NORTH
If travelling on the M1, exit using junction 24 and follow signs for East Midlands Airport / A453,
as M1 Southbound Exit at Junction 24 and take the 4th exit off.
Follow the A453 Ashby Road Southbound.
At the Junction of the A453 Ashby Road and the M1 J23a take the 3rd exit
and continue along the A453 Ashby Road Southbound.
Travel approx. 3 miles until the Junction of A453 and Hill top traffic lights.
At this point traffic will be turned right to enter the Site via the Main Entrance.
Should any problems mean the above route is closed or very congested,
the contingency route will be via the A50 and through Castle Donington.
(note this is not recommended as the normal route as it can get
very congested due to the traffic light junction in the town)
Currently holidaying in South Africa, Morpeth Harrier Graeme Taylor tackled the Greenpoint Park Run
for the second week in a row on Saturday 20th February, and was again first across the finish line;
however on this occasion he clocked a new personal best of 16m31s for the 5k circuit.
Finishing seventh overall, Morpeth Harrier Holly Peck was the first
Female finisher at the Druridge Bay Park Run on Saturday 20th February.
Running the 5k distance for the first time, she clocked an impressive 20m49s,
considering that she is in the Junior Women’s 11 to 14 age group.
Ahead of her in third and fourth places were club colleagues
Ryan Green and Steve Patterson, who made respective clockings
of 18m10s and 19m10s on their return from injury.
Other Morpeth Harriers running at Druridge amongst the prominent finishers were
Gary Mason, who finished 18th posting a new personal best for the circuit of 22m18s,
and Damian Foster, who was 26th in 22m35s.
Finishing 18th at Roundhay Park in Leeds, Morpeth Harrier Sarah Graham
was first Female finisher for the second week in succession, posting a time of 21m06s.
Paul Banks of Morpeth Harriers completed his 101st Newcastle Park Run on Saturday,
finishing 7th in 18m44s, which was agonisingly just 21 seconds adrift of his best on the course.
Also running at Newcastle were fellow Morpeth Harriers Andrew Hudspith and Eric Hurrell,
who are also Nephew and Uncle respectively.
Andrew was second in the Junior Boys 11-14 age group,
when he finished 15th, posting a time of 19m54s,
and Eric finished 25th in 20m14s.