Leaden skies and a grey sea offered a forbidding welcome to the 184 runners who took part in the 59th running
of the annual Blyth Sands Race on Sunday afternoon (2nd December 2018).
High tides had meant the race being moved from its traditional 11 am start to 1 pm, but even at that time there was little firm sand on which runners could gain good purchase, and many competitors reckoned post race that the conditions under foot were among the worst in the last decade - little firm sand, many troublesome stones of all sizes and a lot of rivulets and pools to negotiate. ‘The course is always the same but never the same,’ as one runner aptly commented later.
The race did see, however, one of the closest finishes in recent times, as Over 55 veteran Chris Morley
of North Shields Poly, with a 5 minute handicap off scratch, came through the field to pip two-times winner
and Over 70 vet Mark McNally of Elswick Harriers in the finishing funnel. McNally,
who as an Over 70 had a generous 11 minutes, was hugely disappointed to be beaten in this fashion
and later admitted he had had no idea he was being hunted down, looking as he was for a hat trick of wins;
he had indeed held what looked like a commanding and insurmountable lead having turned round at Seaton Sluice.
In third place was a runner who had travelled a long way: Jarlath Mckenna of Bristol and West who,
as a senior male, also recorded the day’s fastest time, 30 minutes 16 seconds.
First woman home was O/45, Jeannie Brady of Tynedale, and 9th overall in 39m 56s.
There were seven Morpeth Harriers taking part in total. Neil McAnany was first home for the club,
19th overall and 4th O/55 in what is currently a very tough category.
He was followed home by Richard Johnson, 8th fastest on the day and 26th overall,
and Gary Hall, 37th and 3rd O/45.
Paul Bellingham and Peter Scaife, both O/55 vets, were 44th and 47th respectively,
and O/60 Richard Sill 52nd. Archie Jenkins, a stalwart and past winner who never misses the race,
completed Morpeth’s competitors in 111th.
Morley’s triumph as race winner was somewhat dampened later by his disqualification from the team event for failing to wear a club vest. This meant Heaton Harriers were awarded the team prize,
with Tyne Bridge Harriers in second and North Shields Poly demoted to third.
Report by Peter Scaife