Although the race had been moved this year from its traditional Spring time slot in the fixture calendar, the course itself remained the same – a 2.2 mile, two lap hilly leg for each runner twice round the lake, although the late scheduling did mean that the number of teams looked well down on previous years.
Running at the same time as the Over 50 men, Morpeth’s women were led off by Cat Macdonald who clocked 13 minutes 1 second and had the team in a good second place. Second leg runner and veteran Claire Calverley had only been drafted into the team at short notice on Friday night, but she stuck at her task gamely to keep the team in contention ((15m 24s) although the lead passed to Wallsend Harriers thanks to a flying fastest leg of the day by Danielle Hodgkinson of 11m 49s.
Another runner not overawed at making a Senior Women’s team debut was Sarah Lawson on leg 3, whose gutsy 15m 41s meant that, at the end of her leg, the club was now in fifth place with the lead having passed to Gateshead Harriers with Houghton Harriers in pursuit.
It was down to Rachelle Falloon to reel in the four teams ahead of her, and this she set about doing with a controlled and determined performance, passing Houghton’s last leg runner, Anna Pigford, with only a few hundred metres to go and in doing so clocking 12m 45s, the second fastest overall women’s time of the day to put the team in a winning position for a very pleasing gold medal with an overall time of 56m 51s. Houghton were 2nd, only 5 seconds behind, with Elswick in 3rd.
In a women’s veteran competition won by North Shields Polytechnic Harriers in a time of 59m 39s, Morpeth’s veteran women, represented by Jill Bennett (16m 48s), Sue Smith (16m 41s), Pam Woodcock (17m 38s) and Lesley Chapman (17m 35s) finished as a respectable 10th veteran team.
Meanwhile in a strong Over 50 men’s team competition won by Sunderland Harriers from NSP (times of 52m 20s and 54m 16s) the club’s two teams were 8th and 12th. With a couple of leading Over 50s out and two more drafted into the O/40s team, these were decent showings, although ironically, with the World Vets imminent, Guy Bracken for once didn’t turn out for the Poly.
For the A team, Phil Walker had the fastest run after a long spell out from an injury from which he is still recovering with a time of 13m 28s. Paul Bellingham (choosing not to run in the scheduled-on-the-same-day Bellingham Show…) clocked 14m 59s, Paul Brown, another runner in his first competitive outing since an operation, 14m 49s, and Ben Abbott 15m 2s for an overall clocking of 58m 18s. In a B team featuring a couple of 60 + athletes, Kevin Bray ran 15m 13s, Bill Tilley 15m 25s, Steve Johnstone 15m 33s and Jim Alder ‘the younger’ 15m 39s. Special mention should be made of Jim, who opted to run through the pain barrier to make a full team up when clearly not 100%.
The six leg Senior Men and Over 40 male veterans race followed, and here Morpeth were always in the mix with local rivals Sunderland Harriers, Gateshead, Tyne Bridge and Houghton.
Youngster Rowan Bennett got the club off to a good start despite being the youngest runner of the leg with a clocking of 11m 11s but after Joe Armstrong’s blistering 10m 43s on leg 2 – the fastest time of the day - the club had moved into the lead. Tom Innes’ 11m 40s meant the club were still just ahead at the end of leg 3, but were now being hunted down by Sunderland, Houghton and Tyne Bridge. However, on leg 4 Ross Floyd, in his first competitive outing for several months, ran 11m 29s to maintain the lead.
Unfortunately, strong runs on the last two legs by Sunderland Harriers, who had a good day in the men’s competitions all round, meant that despite the best efforts of Jordan Scott (11m 58s) and Kieran Hedley (11m 30s) the club could only manage second place and narrowly missed out on retaining the trophy they had held for several years by a final margin of only some 21 seconds and an overall time of 1:08:31.
An incomplete B team featured Andy Lawrence (11m 41s), Mark Snowball (12m 1s) and Richard Johnson (11m 46s); credit to them for turning out in an incomplete team.
It was a similar story in the Over 40 veteran’s race with the club again losing out to Sunderland. Ahead of next week’s Great North Run, Tony Lewis had a good first leg of 12m 36s to put the club in a second place they never lost, with Over 50 veteran Lee Bennett recording the team’s fastest leg of the day with 12m 25s. Jamie Johnson ran 13m 35s on leg 2, and Paul Waterston, like Lee, stepped down with a decent clocking of 13m 16s. Men’s team manager Dave Swinburne showed he continues to make progress on the road back with 13m 08s on leg 5 and Jason Dawson brought the team home in 13m 27s for an overall clocking of 1:18:27. A strong Sunderland team, who actually finished in 8th overall place in the race in 1:15:32 finished well over two minutes ahead,
however. Missing a number of leading runners like the Senior Men, a silver was nevertheless a creditable performance and the team were actually 13th overall, ahead of the Senior teams of Jarrow, Crook and NSP.
Overall then, considering the late and rather inconvenient scheduling
and the absences of a number of male and female athletes, a successful day.