IT was definitely a hearty and healthy start to 2014 in Morpeth, with a record field of 170 finishers taking part in the annual Morpeth 11k Road Race on New Year’s Day, writes George Patterson.
First home to the modified finish line on the Stanners was Morpeth Harrier Lewis Timmins, who was having his second win in the event, once again sponsored by the Benfield Motor Group.
The race started at 1pm at the bottom of Dogger Bank, but route modification was required because of the extensive flood barrier works being carried out in the area immediately surrounding.
Timmins won the event in 2011, however, admitted things were much tougher second time around, having being closely pursued throughout by some worthy opposition that included his close friend and training partner Paulo Pinheiro.
While Timmins eventually claimed his victory in 34m02s, Pinheiro, a former Portuguese junior international, running for Benfica AC, celebrated by finishing a close second in 34m04s.
Third place went to former winner Nathan Shrubb, also of Morpeth Harriers, who produced one of his best runs for some time to finish in 34m19s.
Not far behind him in fourth place was clubmate and 2013 winner Ross Floyd, who had been hoping to retain his title and add to his Woodlawn Pudding Run victory at Whitley Bay on Boxing Day.
Floyd’s finishing time was 34m19s, just 12 seconds ahead of fifth-placed Matthew Nicholson, another Morpeth Harrier.
The leading five had run in close contention throughout, along with sixth, seventh and eighth-placed athletes Dan Jenkin of Durham City, plus Ade Whitwam and Richard Morrell of Morpeth Harriers, with the last three only becoming detached just before halfway.
Jenkin eventually finished in 34m52s, Whitwam in 35m01s and Morrell in 35m27s.
Ninth and 10th places went to Morpeth’s Michael Dawson (35m39s) and Sunderland Harrier Kevin Calvert (35m50s).
Just outside the top 10 finishers, Morpeth Harriers also had five other leading performers in close contention.
Karl Taylor, who has been nursing a slight injury following the North Eastern Cross Country, came through well to finish in 11th place in 35m59s.
Two places and three seconds behind Karl came Thomas Straughan.
Struggling with a head cold, Andrew Lawrence battled on to finish in 15th place in 38m36s.
One of Morpeth Harriers most improved athletes Sam Hancox ran well to finish 17th in 38m58s.
Mick Thomsen, who certainly rose to prominence during 2013, finished 21st in 39m14s.
It was also good to see Morpeth Harriers Men’s Road and Cross Country team manager David Swinburne back in action. He came home in 26th place in a time of 39m52s.
Veteran Men’s category winners were as follows: Geoff Prest (Trafford AC, first Over 40, 18th) 38m59s, Phil Walker (Morpeth Harriers, First Over 45, 25th) 39m44s, Gregg Penn (North Shields Poly, First Over 50, 35th) 41m01s, Gavin Bayne (Morpeth Harriers, First Over 55, 39th) 41m45s, and Frank Devlin (Gateshead Harriers, First Over 60, 79th) 46m52s.
First woman to finish was international marathon star Alyson Dixon of Sunderland Strollers, who finished 14th overall in 37m47s.
Second place in the women’s race went to Jarrow and Hebburn’s Alex Snook, who finished 13th in 40m29s.
Claire McKitterick of Charnwood AC, who took the runners-up spot to Morpeth Harrier Delyth James in 2013, was third woman home, when she finished 38th overall in 41m38s.
Fourth woman home was Gina Rutherford of North Shields Poly, who finished 54th overall in 43m16s.
The fifth, sixth and seventh women finished in close succession to each other.
They were Michelle Ford of South Shields (67th) 45m08s, Clare Briggs of North Shields Poly (70th) 45m33s, and Lorna MacDonald of Morpeth Harriers (71st) 45m54s. Eighth woman home was Morpeth Harrier Kate Chapman (78th) 46m33s. Ninth woman finisher was Alison Cummings of North Shields Poly, who was 82nd in 47m07s, and the top 10 women were completed by Tara Florence of PB Fitness, who finished 95th overall in 49m10s.
Category winners in the woman’s race were McKitterick (First Over 35) and Cummings (First Over 45).
Unfortunately, the event did not totally escape the predicted rainfall, however, it was when runners were in the finishing stages that it arrived, accompanied by a slight crosswind.
Morpeth Harriers would firstly wish to thank their race director Kevin Bray for his organisational work carried out before, on the day, and after the event.
They would also wish to thank the main race sponsor Benfield Motor Group for their generosity, plus press officer George Patterson for his additional sponsorship.
Start Fitness are to be thanked for prizes, plus competitor race numbers.
Morpeth Harriers would also wish to thank race referee Les Venmore and members, officials and friends for volunteer course marshalling and event stewardship on the day.
Morpeth Rugby Club are to be thanked for the use of their headquarters on Mitford Road for race registration and presentation purposes.
The Red Cross and Ted Phizacklea are to be thanked for their very valued medical assistance to the event.
Finally, many thanks to the results team and catering volunteers for helping towards the overall success.