Veterans get their time in the spotlight

The Morpeth Harriers Grand Prix award winners, including Lesley Chapman (centre).
The Morpeth Harriers Grand Prix award winners, including Lesley Chapman (centre).

The 9th annual Morpeth Harriers Grand Prix awards, sponsored for the third year running by Phil Walker Wealth Management, was held in the comfortable surroundings of the Cygnet Lounge at the White Swan in Morpeth.

With growing interest not just nationally but internationally in Veteran – now more commonly referred to as Masters – races, Pam and Tony Woodcock set up the Grand Prix initially to recognise and celebrate the achievement of the club’s vets.

The format provided the chance for club veterans of both sexes to take part in a competition that would be a level playing field based on gender and age, with scores weighted accordingly.

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, the Grand Prix has now grown to include competitors not yet classed as veterans, since all scores are based on the age-grade percentage tables provided by the World Masters Athletics organisation.

This year’s competition was fierce as ever, with winners and runners-up in all three divisions and an overall percentage winner.

In League One it was a close-fought battle between leading male veteran Paul Waterston, who has won the competition previously on several occasions, and Pam Woodcock herself. In the end, Pam’s final score of 84.35% over the six qualifying races narrowly bettered Paul’s 83.81.

Having just stepped off the plane from Majorca some three hours previously, where she had been watching daughter Charlotte competing in the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, it was certainly an emotional occasion for Pam who was a first-time winner. Charlotte’s event was in fact the seventh in an epic series of 15 challenges undertaken by Pam and her family – Team 15 in 15 – to raise £15,000 in 2015 for pancreatic cancer research following Tony’s untimely death from the disease last year. Details of how to contribute to this are included below.

John Butters and Tom Straughan went toe to toe in division two, with Over 35 veteran Butters (81.29%) narrowly pipping Straughan (79.84%), although both will have the satisfaction of renewing their rivalry in the top division this year.

The best overall performance, however, came from leading female veteran Lesley Chapman in division three. Her renewed commitment to training and racing over the last year was reflected in an overall score of 84.68%, the highest of the year, and she therefore took the overall prize. Ever improving Lorna Macdonald was runner up with 73.01%.

Thanks must go to competition sponsor Phil Walker, who continues to work tirelessly on behalf of the club’s veterans, and a special thanks also to John Butters, who assiduously calculated all the scores and upgraded the tables with diligence.

Harriers who wish to take part in this year’s competition can still do so, by providing details of their date of birth at the club or by email. Entry is free.

Details of how you can support Pam and team15 in 15 can be found at the website