Weak Winter sunshine and unseasonably mild conditions - that would have seemed impossible only days previously in the midst of the snowfalls that descended on the North East - greeted the 176 runners at the 58th Blyth Sands Race on Sunday morning.
Run this year on an incoming half-tide that made it impossible to get round the seaward side of the notorious groynes without taking an early bath, the race was once again dominated by older male veterans who were able to take advantage of generous handicaps.
Indeed this year’s race was won for the second year running by leading Over 70 veteran Mark McNally of Elswick Harriers who took advantage of his 11 minutes off scratch to once again best the field in a time of 24 minutes and 39 seconds.
He was followed home by Over 60 vets Ian Brown of Tynedale and Peter Grey of Alnwick who went toe to toe for most of the five mile course, with Brown just getting the nod at the finish.
First home for Morpeth was another O/60, Gavin Bayne, 10th overall in 28m 1s. He was followed by Neil McNanany, 2nd O/55 and then 7th O/45 Gary Hall, 40th in 31m 5s. With four to count for the team, Morpeth’s final counter was another O/60, Richard Sill, 42nd in 31m 8s. Sadly however, Morpeth were squeezed out of the team prizes this year.
Just out of the counters for Morpeth were two athletes on their way back from injury. Still not fully up to speed, Paul Waterston was 49th in 31m 53s and 7th O/50 ; in his first proper race after a wretched six months, meanwhile, Peter Scaife was third O/55 in 37m 4s.
Morpeth’s final veteran was Sands stalwart – having run the race more than any other local competition, by all accounts - and sometime winner, Archie Jenkins, 131st in 39m 59s.
First woman home this year was Over 40 vet Stephanie Maclean-Dann of North Shields Polytechnic Harriers in 27m 27s with clubmate O/50 Kath Davis second in 27m 34s and O/55 Heather Robinson of Jarrow third.
NSP also claimed the team prize, with local outfit Blyth Running Club proudly taking second and Heaton Harriers third. Fastest runner on the day off scratch was Kurt Heron of Ashington Hirst.