SUNDERLAND Harriers will be under a bigger threat when they defend the City Club Challenge title in the Sunderland Festival of Running on Sunday, May 4.
The organisers have changed the format and the prize structure of the competition, which incorporates the 10k and half marathon, to attract even more running clubs from throughout the North East and beyond.
Since its launch in 2011, the Sunderland City 10K has grown into a popular established road race.
Introduced last year, the Sunderland City Half Marathon will follow a flatter route with fewer turns, offering runners an opportunity to post fast times early in the summer season. Both races start and finish outside the Stadium of Light.
The Sunderland City Challenge is being sponsored by travel company Holiday Discount Centre and offers three cash prizes, with the first prize also including a trip for four to Ireland.
The North East based online travel company is offering improved awards for the top three clubs.
The winning club will receive £500 and will get to send a team of four to the Rock n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon in August. The prize includes travel and accommodation. The second team prize is £200 and the third team will win £100.
To qualify for the Sunderland City Club Challenge, each club must have a minimum of three finishers in each event, one of whom must be female.
The team with the lowest cumulative time from their best three performances in the 10K and Half Marathon, will be crowned Sunderland City Club Challenge winners.
Steve Cram, founder of the Sunderland City Half Marathon and 10K, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Holiday Discount Centre on board as an event sponsor and their has come up with a great prize for the Sunderland City Club Challenge.
“I am sure that competition to win a team trip to the Dublin Rock ’n Roll Half is going to be very fierce.
“The challenge has always been an important part of our races in Sunderland and I look forward to seeing clubs from all over the region, and further afield, battling it out for the honours.
“We are really happy with the new route for the half marathon. It’s a flatter and more straightforward course and it should appeal to club runners who are determined to post fast times in the first half of the year.
Since the launch of the Running Festival in 2011, the Harriers have won the Club Challenge every year.
Last Year, the competition based on cumulative times, saw the city club beat Tyne Bridge Harriers by over 22 minutes. Gateshead were third and Sunderland Strollers fourth.
They also provided the winners of the 10k and half marathon in Weynay Ghebrisalasie (32.51) and Mark Hood (1.11.06). Nathan Reed was second in the 10k (34.17) and Craig Isherwood was third in the half marathon (71.51).
Amy Coulson 45.35 for the 10k and Paul Redman’s marathon time (2.52.56), added to the winning team score.
Mark Hood is undecided if he is going to defend his half marathon title or go in the 10k, but Isherwood intends to run the half again.
Reed will go in the 10k and team manager Albert James will ensure his best runners are equally distributed in both events to ensure the bid for the title is strong.
Michelle Avery and Emily Hope are the probable women for the team with Avery in the half marathon and Hope in the 10k.
H Sunderland Strollers Rachel Ball (PB 3.27.03), Michael Edwards debut and over-50 Kevin O’Neil (PB 3.11.18) contest the Manchester Marathon on Sunday.
Sunderland Harrier Noel Hitchcock bids to beat his personal best of 2.49.58.
The Strollers are also sending over-50 Phil Watson (PB 3.31.00) and John Davies to the Blackpool Marathon.
H On Sunday Blyth stage their 10k road race which also hosts the North East Championships. (10am).