A record field of enthusiastic runners turned out for the annual Morpeth 11k (approx) Road Race on New Year’s Day.
The race was sponsored by Morpeth Harriers’ long-serving press officer George Patterson, who was celebrating his 65th birthday, with additional help coming from Start Fitness.
Another two people with very good reason for celebrating in style were Elswick Harrier’s husband-and-wife pairing of Tadele Geremew and Justina Heslop, who lifted the respective Men’s and Women’s titles.
Geremew was forced to work extra hard for his title, being hotly pursued throughout by Morpeth Harrier Carl Avery.
In fact, it was Avery who made the first decisive break, just after the 3k point on the steady climb out of Mitford heading up to Mitford Steads, and only Geremew managed to cover the Morpeth man’s move.
The pair reached the Whalton Road for the return journey to Morpeth very much together, with a chasing group of seven or eight runners now some 200 metres adrift.
As Avery and Geremew made the Golf Course turn together, neither appeared to be wilting or wanting to give way, and their lead over the rest had now strengthened to around a minute.
It was only in the very final run-in to the finish line on the Stanners that Geremew managed to gain a very slight lead, but Avery still maintained his determined pace as he just lost out for victory by the slender margin of three seconds.
The prevailing head wind laced with intermittent showers had obviously put paid to any ambitions of fast times, and Geremew was more than pleased to achieve a winning time of 34m58s, some 50 or so seconds adrift of Morpeth Harrier Lewis Timmins’ 2014 winning time.
A superb battle had developed for the third spot, with Morpeth Harrier Sam Hancox just managing to outpace clubmate Thomas Straughan, with both being given identical times of 36m18s.
Including Avery, Hancox and Straughan, the host club had no less than six finishers among the top 10 in the event.
Fifth place went to North Shield Poly’s Graeme Cook (36m38s), who, despite numerous challenges, had managed to fend off the close attentions of Morpeth Harriers’ hot young talent Elliot Kelly, who in his first ever 11k Road Race, can feel well pleased in finishing sixth in 36m53s.
Kelly was well clear of seventh-placed Michael Dawson, formerly with Morpeth Harriers, now North Shield Poly, who clocked 37m49s.
Morpeth Harriers newcomer Chris Smith, formerly Wallsend Harriers, had an excellent run when finishing eighth in 38m14s.
Ninth place went to Sunderland Harrier Ian Dixon (38m50s) and the top 10 finishers were completed by Morpeth Harrier Paul Waterston, who also produced an excellent run to finish in a time of 39m03s and as first Veteran Man.
It became a glorious day for Elswick Harriers, however, when Justina Heslop came home in 12th place in 39m39s to easily take the Women’s title.
Heslop, running in the company of some very good male club athletes, was never troubled in her category and she finished a good 12 places and around a minute-and-a-half clear of her closest rival Jo Gascoigne Owens of Alnwick Harriers.
Third place in the Women’s race went to Morpeth Harrier Vicky Gibbs, who finished 28th in 42m03s, however, three places behind Vicky was North Shields Poly’s Jacqueline Penn (42m29s), who was given the first Woman, not a Veteran finishers award.
Special mention must go to Morpeth Harrier Pam Woodcock and her two daughters Rachel and Charlotte, who were using the event as the first of their 15 in 15 Challenges in support of a pancreatic cancer charity, in honour of late husband and father, Tony, former Northumberland County Council Planning Officer, who sadly passed away in September 2014, after a brave fight with the disease.
Pam finished 138th in 54m43s as first Over 60 Woman, Rachel finished 154th in 57m34s and Charlotte completed the trio to great cheers as she finished 182nd in 74m41s.
Race director Kevin Bray added that he was very pleased with the way the event had went and wished to thank officials, members and supporter friends of Morpeth Harriers for their tremendous respective efforts on the day, some setting out the course from 8am in the morning and for course-marshalling the event. He especially wished to thank those who contributed to such a fine selection of cakes, which had certainly added to the quality of the club’s catering on the day and to make the after-race presentation so much more pleasurable.
Morpeth Harriers would also wish to thank Morpeth Rugby Club for the use of their premises as race headquarters and to the Red Cross for their First Aid provision on the day.
Catterick-based Morpeth Harrier Ade Whitwam engaged himself in some pre and post-Christmas UK globe-trotting in search of athletic competition, when he took part in events in Walsall, West Midlands and Witham in Essex, all within a space of 12 days.
On Sunday, December 14, he won the Sneyd Striders Christmas Pudding 10-mile Road Race in a time of 52m52s, which put him 76 seconds clear of his closest rival.
He also finished second in the Witham Boxing Day 5-mile Road Race, posting a finishing time of 25m32s.
Morpeth Harriers’ U20 athlete Phillip Winkler made a very positive start to 2015, when he became the first leading finisher of the New Year in the Druridge Bay Park Run on Saturday.
Winkler also set new figures of 17m17s on the course, in what was his first occasion of being first over the line in the event.
Three other Morpeth Harriers were also prominent finishers. Jim Alder was ninth over the finish line in 20m17s and Mark Crosby and Graeme Leathard finished in 13th and 14th places, with Crosby posting new figures of 20m59s and Leathard clocking 21m08s.
Meanwhile, at the Newcastle Park Run held in Exhibition Park, Morpeth Harrier Matthew Boyle finished fifth, clocking 17m46s, which was 18 seconds adrift of his best on the 5k circuit.