Grand Prix runners get back on track

Graham Smith.
Graham Smith.
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THE North Eastern Grand Prix gets the track season under way at Monkton tonight.

The feature event will be the North East 10,000m championship which starts at 6.20pm.

For years now the event has suffered by lack of entries, while 10k events on the road are putting out race full signs.

This is a problem throughout the country and not just confined to the North East.

This year in an effort to combat the problem, the 10,000m has been taken out of the North Eastern championship programme and moved to the Grand Prix.

There were just five athletes in last year’s championship with Gateshead’s Conrad Franks taking the title in a time of 32min 59.4sec, so the track and field committee decided to take it out of the main programme to see if it would attract more competitors.

This time, 15 athletes have entered with 12 men and three women.

Morpeth Harrier Peter Newton is the leading light. He won the race in 2012 in 30.27.3.

The race offers an opportunity to athletes to achieve a time over an accurately measured course that can be compared to other times in the few other 10,000m track races, which happen in other parts of the UK.

Sunderland Harriers, while having a fine tradition in this event, will again see none of their endurance runners involved in the race.

Graham Smith (pictured) still holds the championship record from 1984 (29.32.5), while Paul Campbell was also under 30 minutes with his win in 1990 (29.46.9). Smith went on to clock 29.20.6 in 1985,

London club Highgate Harriers have created a unique 10,000m celebratory event to stimulate interest in the 25 lap race.

The inaugural event in 2013 had the largest number of racing participants (67) of a 10,000m track event over the past 10 years and nearly 80 per cent of runners achieved a PB.

The success of the 2013 event has seen athletes from around the UK and the North East sign-up for the next event on Saturday, May 10.

Included in the entry is Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon, who will bid to beat her personal best of 32.53.

Also, London 2012 Olympic Triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee will compete against the country’s best 10,000m specialists.

In addition to the elite races they will also hold three open 10,000m races to accommodate aspiring club athletes in an effort to put the 10,000m race back on the map.

Entries for the grand prix tonight are £2.50 for each event. All under-17, juniors and seniors compete together in seeded races, which include 100m and 1500m.

Athletes of the match awards are announced after each fixture. Grand prix points are six points for first place down to one point for sixth.

Awards are presented to the first six in each category at the end of the season and athletes have to compete in at least three meetings.