The Ribble Valley 10k, on Sunday 30th December 2018 which incorporated the Northern 10k Road Race Championships, attracted a total field of around 1500 competitors, and was won by Richmond and Zetland’s Commonwealth Games representative Marc Scott in a time of 28m58s.
Second place went to Liverpool Harrier Jonny Mellor (29m19s),
with third spot going to Preston’s Patrick Dever, who posted a time of 29m24s.
Not far adrift of the leading three was Morpeth’s Carl Avery, who eventually finished sixth,
posting a finishing time of 29m33s, which for him represented a brand-new personal best
of the magnitude of fifty-two seconds.
Another prominent Morpeth Harrier finisher was Rory Leonard, who marked his first ever 10k Road Race outing,
by finishing as first Junior Man, in twelfth place, with an equally excellent time posting of 30m39s.
Morpeth Harriers other finisher in the event was Richard Johnson, who posted a time of 34m12s,
when coming home in 86th place overall, he was also 61st Male in the Northern Championship.
Johnson’s time also bettered his previous best for the distance, by around forty seconds.
The 33rd Annual Woodlawn Christmas Pudding Run, held at Whitley Bay on Boxing Day,
attracted a record field of over 1200 hardy competitors, who faced better than usual conditions,
comprising autumnal like sunshine, laced with only a mere hint of a coastal breeze.
Amongst those competitors were several from the ranks of Morpeth Harriers,
who for the first time in the event, had the first three across the finish line.
Posting an excellent time of 15m48s, double North Eastern Counties Track Champion James Young
was the first of those finishers, winning by a comfortable margin of seventeen seconds from his
club colleague Ross Floyd, who in turn had a nine second margin of comfort over
third placed Morpeth Harrier Andrew Lawrence.
Other prominent Morpeth finishers were Matthew Briggs who was sixth in 16m52s,
and Rachelle Falloon, who was second Woman home in 18m56s, fifty-five seconds
adrift of North Shields Poly athlete Charlotte Penfold.
North Shields Poly as usual splendidly hosted the event, on a slightly modified course due to recent
developments around the Spanish City area, and now look set to hold the event on this course in future years,
with proceeds as always going to the Woodlawn Special Needs School.
The annual Ronnie Walker Saltwell 10k Road Race on Saturday 22nd December 2018,
attracted a total finishing field of 475 finishers, who were led home by Adrian Bailes of Birtley AC,
who won by a whisker from Sunderland Harrier Oliver James, in a time of 32m06s.
Only two seconds divided the pair, with North-Eastern Cross-Country Champion
Greg Jayasuriya of Middlesbrough and Cleveland, coming home third in 32m18s.
The field also included five runners from Morpeth Harriers, whose Festive charge
was led home by Thomas Straughan, who finished fifth in a time of 32m55s.
It was good to see Lewis Timmins back in competitive action following a
serious injury sustained, when out on his bike several weeks ago.
Timmins will certainly feel encouraged by finishing twelfth in 33m29s,
and not far adrift of the leading protagonists.
Third home from the club was Alistair Douglass, who finished 21st, posting a time of 35m00s.
Morpeth’s other two finishers were Paul Bellingham (144th) (9th O/55 Man) 44m38s,
and Kevin Bray (155th) (3rd O/60 Man) 45m14s.
The combined performances of Straughan, Timmins and Douglass, secured an
excellent team victory for Morpeth Harriers, thus ending Tyne Bridge Harriers
five year run of consecutive wins.
The dry sunny conditions, and a slight cold breeze, proved to be a welcome change
from those usually experienced by runners of this popular annual event,
held within Saltwell Park, in Gateshead, and organised by Saltwell Harriers,
and continuing to honour Walker, who was a well-known long service member of the club,
before passing away a few years ago, who also continued to run in the event, well into his eighties.
There was certainly an abundance of festive cheer in the prominent performances by runners
from Morpeth Harriers at some of the regions Park Runs, held on Saturday Morning.
With pleasant Christmastide weather very much playing its part, many runners turned out festively
to mark the occasion by producing some excellent runs, with a few new personal best course records
being set into the bargain.
Druridge Bay Park Run
The biggest turnout from the club was undoubtedly that at Druridge Bay,
where no fewer than seven runners finished in the top twenty.
First home from the club here was Under 15 Boy Dylan Davies, who finished second
to Leeds City’s Chris Snowball, twin brother of Morpeth’s Mark.
Posting a finishing time of 18m05s, Davies was only a mere four seconds adrift of his course best,
and he was also only thirteen seconds adrift of his more senior rival Snowball.
This was a terrific boost for Davies, who is only just returning to competition,
after being forced out of the recent North-Eastern Cross-Country Championships with an unfortunate illness.
Another Morpeth Harrier showing superb form, was Davies’s Under 15 Boy club colleague Ben Walker,
who was third, and only three seconds adrift, constituting in him producing a new personal best
for the course of 18m08s.
Finishing fifth was Morpeth’s Colin Archer, who clocked 18m13s.
One place behind Archer, was Morpeth’s Under 13 Boy Joe Dixon, who also set new figures of 18m43s.
Finishing in tenth place was Dylan Davies younger brother Ryan, who also set a new course best of 19m07s.
In fourteenth place overall, in her first run on the course, Morpeth’s Gracie Hufton
was the first female finisher, posting an excellent time of 20m16s.
Gordon Dixon, father of Joe, completed the prominent Morpeth contingent when
finishing seventeenth in 20m48s, only nine seconds adrift of his best time on the course.
Newbiggin By the Sea Park Run
There was celebration amongst Morpeth athletes as Tom Balsdon and Rachelle Falloon
crossed the finish line in first and second places at Newbiggin By the Sea.
Balsdon’s time was 17m46s, a little way short of his best on the course, however for Falloon,
who was well clear of her Female opponents, her time of 19m00s, was not only a new best on the course,
it also broke the Women’s course record for the venue.
Eighty second behind Falloon in third place, was her Morpeth club colleague Gary Hall,
and other prominent Morpeth finishers were Gary Mason (17th) 22m55s,
which was a new personal best for the Over 45 Veteran Man,
and Over 55 Veteran Man Jim Alder, who was one place behind Mason,
posting a finishing time of 23m14s.
Newcastle Park Run
Mark Long and Emma Holt of Morpeth Harriers were respective first Male and Female finishers
at the Newcastle Park Run, held in Exhibition Park.
Both athletes also had respective bests of 16m05s and 18m07s over the 5k circuit.
Holt finished in thirteenth place overall.
Gibside Park Run
Morpeth’s Paul Adams was only three seconds adrift of being first across
the finish line at Gibside, near Rowlands Gill.
He was also only three seconds adrift of his best over the course,
with his posting of 19m18s.
Wallsend Rising Sun Park Run
Another Morpeth second finisher was Mark Snowball at Wallsend Rising Sun.
Mark posted a time of 18m08s, when finishing thirteen seconds adrift of Gosforth’s Ben Moore.
Morpeth Harriers are delighted to have the support of new sponsor Heartscan for the forthcoming
2019 New Year’s Day Road Race. ANDREW HEBDEN spoke to Heartscan founder and leading cardiologist
Dr Antoinette Kenny about why she is supporting the event and why she believes heart screening can help amateur athletes as much as the professionals.
Antoinette Kenny wants to get something straight at the outset.
“The big message is that sport is good for you,” she says. “It makes the heart healthier and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. It is unambiguously a good thing.”
To anyone who takes their sport seriously, this is welcome news. But Dr Kenny also has some sobering statistics to share.
For example, she tells me that experts believe that at least 12 young people die each week in the UK from undiagnosed heart conditions.
And around one in 300 people have a potential serious condition that will require lifestyle modification or treatment such as medication or surgery.
Sudden deaths during high-profile events such as long-distance runs occasionally make for shocking headlines.
The latest example was the Cardiff Half Marathon in October when two men aged 25 and 32 when into cardiac arrest after crossing the finishing line within three minutes of each other. They both later died at the city's University Hospital of Wales.
Back on a hot September say in 2005, four runners died whilst participating in the Great North Run - the heaviest death toll in the race’s history.
Understandably, these events can leave even occasional runners anxious to know if they might be at risk.
For those who participate in more regular exercise - and who pride themselves on pushing their bodies to the limit - the anxiety might justifiably be even higher.
After all, Dr Kenny tells me that you are three times more likely to develop a serious problem caused by a heart abnormality when taking part in strenuous exercise than you are at rest.
The good news is that cardiac screening has been shown to save lives.
So now Dr Kenny, consultant cardiologist at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, is reaching out to runners and other sports enthusiasts in the North East in the hope that she can help put their minds at ease.
She has more than 20 years of experience of working in heart-related medicine and established Jesmond-based Heartscan in 2014.
Much of her experience has been working in football: Heartscan provides screening to all of the North East’s professional football clubs, including regular screenings for young scholars and for players undergoing transfers between clubs, sometimes for tens of millions of pounds.
Football is ahead of most other sports when it comes to the extent of heart screening of players, partly as a result of a number of high-profile tragedies in the 1990s.
They included the death of Daniel Yorath, son of Wales manager Terry (and sister of TV presenter Gabby Logan), who collapsed and died in the garden of the family home at the age of 15. He had an undetected heart condition.
Following the cases a screening programme was set up by the Football Association which has seen thousands of young footballers undergo tests at the age of 16 in the two decades or so since.
The results of those tests informed a recent study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine based on screenings of 11,168 players between 1996 and 2016.
The study, of which Dr Kenny was an author, concluded that the cardiac death rate in these young footballers was more than three times greater than previously thought and that silent heart conditions associated with sudden cardiac death affected 1 in 266 players.
Most deaths were due to heart muscle diseases that were not detectable with screening at the age of 16. The study concluded that more regular heart screenings were required to detect these conditions, which, in most cases, are treatable and athletes can return to competitive sport.
The sudden death of a young person in any circumstances is tragic. But when it happens in a sporting arena it seems even more unfathomable.
“We regard these young people as the healthiest segment of society,” says Dr Kenny, who is an FA-approved cardiologist.
“When a young person drops dead it is obviously very upsetting. But these are sportspeople who are putting their heart under great pressure because they are pushing themselves to the limit.
“That is the time when you are potentially at risk if you have an underlying heart abnormality.”
With the multi-millions of pounds that swill around modern day football, it’s hardly surprising that clubs are keen to make sure their most prized assets - or certainly future assets - are fit and healthy. It’s not just good practice from a health perspective, it’s good economics too.
But Dr Kenny, who also works for other North East sports clubs including Durham County Cricket Club, thinks the same logic should apply to the enthusiastic amateur sportsperson.
She is now reaching out to local sports clubs to make them aware of her services.
As part of this effort, Heartscan has teamed up with Morpeth Harriers and Athletic Club to sponsor its upcoming New Year’s Day road race and talk to its members about the heart risks associated with taking part in intensive exercise.
“Keen cyclists spend thousands of pounds on their bicycles,” she says. “Yet the most important engine that we will ever have is our heart. So it makes sense to invest a bit in that as well to make sure it’s in good working order.”
Heartscan offers two investigations - an electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiogram (echo) - both of which are non-invasive and take less than an hour to complete, plus a personal questionnaire. The results are interpreted by Dr Kenny herself.
Screening is particularly useful for under 35s where causes of sudden cardiac death are usually due to inherited abnormalities affecting the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), disorders of the electrical system of the heart or anatomical anomalies of the coronary arteries. The tests used in cardiac screening, ECG and Echo, can identify most of these abnormalities.
For those aged over 35, non-inherited conditions, such as coronary artery disease, are more likely causes of death and these will typically require additional testing to identify.
Dr Kenny said: “The tests that I carry out for a member of a local running club are exactly the same as the ones I would do for a footballer who is being transferred for £18m.
“There are many people who aren’t professional sportsmen and women but they are very keen recreational athletes.
“They are elite, very dedicated and extremely health conscious. And they push themselves to the limits just as much as the professionals do.”
Dr Kenny is eager to make the service as affordable as possible, including offering discounts to local sports clubs.
Keen runner Xena Marshall, 43, of Killingworth, underwent a scan last year after experiencing heart palpitations following a virus.
“I was naturally anxious and was keen to make sure that there wasn’t something structurally wrong with my heart and that I was fit to compete,” said Xena, who is a member of Heaton Harriers running club.
“It as very easy to get an appointment and the scans only took 45 minutes to an hour to complete. It was all very straightforward. Although I still get palpitations, it is reassuring to know that the scan came back all clear.
“My son is 13 now but as soon as he is 14 I will get him screened. Tragically a close friend of mine lost her son, who was a leading squash player, at the age of 18 when he collapsed and died on court.
“I see it as absolutely vital to get your child scanned, especially if they are regularly playing sport.”
Dr Kenny admits that some keen sportspeople may prefer to remain unaware of some of the health risks
they might face.
But she stressed the outcomes are usually positive.
“Even if we find a problem it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of your sporting career,” she says. “The majority of people who have an issue can have treatment to either cure or manage the problem, and they can carry on taking part in sport.
“However the tragic reality is that the first signal we often get if someone hasn’t been screened is the sudden death. And then there are no second chances.”
Dr Kenny will be giving a talk about some of the issues involved in this article in the new year.
Heartscan will also offer a discount on its services to members of Morpeth Harriers.
For more information visit www.heartscan.co.uk
Heartscan is sponsoring the Morpeth Harriers New Year’s Day road race. The race, which starts at 1pm
on 1 January 2019, covers a course of about 11km in Morpeth and the surrounding area.