BRIAN Rushworth and Michelle Holt made it a golden double for Sunderland Harriers in the Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers’ Old Monks multi-terrain race at Hart Village yesterday.
Super veteran Rushworth, having his first race since September, won the tactical 5.5-mile event in the fastest time set on the course (30.57). And Holt finished 24th overall (36.40) to win the women’s race by more than two minutes.
Having been on the injured list for most of last summer with an Achilles’ tendon injury, Rushworth was taking his first tentative steps back into competition in a record-breaking field, with 237 finishers.
It is an event he has won before and he was racing over known ground that, no doubt, played into his hands as he dealt with the stiff challenge of young Durham City Harrier James Askew.
The 20-year-old, the winner of the Newton Aycliffe 10k last summer with a best of 32.35 for the distance, set off like a sprinter and rapidly opened a 100-yard gap over the chasing group that included Rushworth.
But, as they moved off-road and into the hilly woodland section, with slippery slopes to negotiate, the 49-year-old, the 10-times North East cross-country champion, came into his own.
Despite giving away 29 years to his younger rival, Rushworth was at home in the heavy conditions and the gap gradually began to close.
“I knew I had to make my move here,” he said. “I could sense he was not going that well over the muddy ground and I pushed on up and down the hills. where I managed to get to the front.
“It was a really tough race and I was shattered at the finish. But I’m delighted to return with a win.’’
Askew, who recorded 31.13, said: “I was catching him on the roads, but on the country I just couldn’t hold him.’’
Billingham Marsh House runner Gary Grounds was third (32.32), Richard Parker (Tynedale) was fourth (32.44) and Nicholas Barber (Billingham) was fifth (32.57).
Holt, who led all the way to beat second-placed Joanne Lee of Tynedale (38.52), said: “I didn’t enjoy the course. It was very slippy through the woods and it was difficult to get a grip in places. But it’s always nice to win.’’
Steph Scott of Tynedale was third (39.27)
Sunderland also had Paul Redman in sixth (33.15), new member Craig Isherwood eighth (33.30), Steve Graham 10th (33.59), Alan Hodgson 19th (35.23), Michael Hill 53rd (39.12) and Vince Emmett 84th (42.01). Bill Kirk of Sunderland Strollers was 120th (45.10).