Morpeth Harriers were the winners of the 9th annual Weetslade Relays on Wednesday evening (20th June 2018) for the 3rd consecutive year and for the 4th time overall since the race’s inception in 2010.
Held again in their customary tranquil spot at Lockey Park, Wideopen this year was notable in part for some changes to the course necessitated by recent housing developments, meaning legs were now longer (nominally 2.5 miles) with the route itself, though still necessitating a lung-bursting ascent of the old Weetslade spoil heap,
now run in the opposite direction from previous years.
The unusual and unique format, however, of teams of three comprising one male, one female and one veteran of either sex stayed the same and the race’s popularity is reflected in the 100 complete teams that finished.
Jordan Scott got the club off to an impressive start on the first leg, coming home in 1st place in a time of 13 minutes and 26 seconds which proved to be the 3rd fastest overall time of the night, and putting the A team in a commanding position by nearly a full minute from the off.
With veteran Jane Hodgson on second leg currently on a run of very fine form, it was clear that the lead was never likely to be challenged, all the more so as she ran what proved to be the fastest female time of the night, 15m 5s.
This meant Lewis Timmins on final leg already had a lead measurable in minutes by the time he set off, but despite the absence of any competition around him, he showed what good form he too is in when clocking the fastest leg of the night (as he had last year when running for Gosforth Harriers) of 13m 15s.
Photos courtesy of Jonathan Maley
The A team’s winning time of 41 46s, in addition to clearly being a record for the new course,
was also nearly 4 minutes ahead of their 2nd place rivals, Tyne Bridge Harriers (45m 21s)
for whom James Dunce on last leg ran the 2nd fastest time of the night (13m 21s)
to just over haul Justina Heslop of Elswick Harriers in the run-in. It was a bitter-sweet return to competition
to a clearly below-par Heslop who has not competed for two years but whose stunning leg over the course in 2015 lingers long in the memory. Danii Smyth of Heaton Harriers was credited with the fastest senior leg of 15m 47s.
But Weetslade is also very much a race with a very inclusive nature and Morpeth were able to field another six teams in total. Best placed was the B team of Andrew Lawrence (14m 35s), returning to competition as he himself admitted somewhat off the pace, Alison Brown (17m 18s) and Andrew Hebden (15m 21s) who came in in 8th place (47m 14s) only a matter of 27 seconds ahead of the C team of Lee Bennett (14m 20s), Gwenda Cavill (18m 38s) and Fergus Bates (14m 43s) who were 11th.
Notable amongst a string of good performances in the other teams was a first race in a Morpeth vest for Jill Bennett in a very respectable 18m 28s and a first relay outing in Morpeth colours for Kiwi John Clark (17m 42s).
Special commendation should also go to Paul Brown, who only received a call
to run at 5.30 pm when still at work, following a last minute drop-out, and still made the start.
Other team results were
D team: Phil Walker (15m 35s), Jane Kirby (19m 45s) and Paul Waterston (15m 53s), 31st
E team: Mike Winter on home turf (16m 42s), Jill Bennett (18m 28s) and Richard Kirby (17m 27s), 37th
G team: John Clark (17m 42s), Carol Parry (20m 24s) and Steve Haswell (16m 20s)
F team: Steve Johnsone, (17m 39s), Sue Smith (19m 59s) and Paul Brown (17m 32s)