Harriers: Time up for big race

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SUNDERLAND Harriers have been forced to bow out of hosting a North East Harrier League fixture at Farringdon – through the popularity of the event!

At the annual meeting of the league, officials were informed that after 41 years of being an integral part of the league fixture set-up, the Harriers have decided to call it a day.

They were forced into this position after the senior men’s fields started attracting more than 400 runners for the cross-country race.

The league programme consists of nine events with ages ranging from under-11s to veterans, but it is the senior men’s and veterans’ race that gave the hosts the major problem.

The tight Farringdon course was being pushed to its limits and it was finding it hard to cope with the bigger fields in the men’s race that were being attracted to the Start Fitness-sponsored league.

Sunderland Harriers club secretary Michael Hill said: “It was not a decision we took lightly. We thought this was the right move, although it is a blow to us after 41 years of organising this event on behalf of the league.

“Parts of the course, through the wooded section and approaching the stream, are the narrower stretches of the course that gave us most concern.

“There is nowhere else where the runners can go.

“The club is extremely proud of its remarkable run of 41 years of putting on a fixture for the league. It’s a record that will be hard to match.”

Pulling out of the Harrier League promotion will not have any bearing on the club’s Open Cross-Country Races that are also held at Farringdon. They will take place as normal on Saturday, September 8.

It was in 1971, when the Harriers were based at the Grindon Boys’ Club in Grindon Lane, that they first decided to organise a fixture on behalf of the league. They put forward their case to the league committee and the venue at the Barnes Park Extension in Ettrick Grove was the beginning of their long association with the Harrier League.

In 1979, the club decided to move the cross-country fixture to Farringdon and it proved to be one of the most popular courses on the circuit.

At the annual meeting, delegates were sorry to hear that the Farringdon fixture would be no more and they showed their appreciation to Sunderland with a round of applause.

The list of Harrier League fixtures decided at the meeting are: September 29 – Sherman Cup and Davison Shield, Temple Park, (South Shields). October 27 – Cramlington (Blyth), November 17 – Shibdon Pond (Blaydon), December 15 – Bedewell Park (Jarrow & Hebburn), February 9 – Wrekenton (Saltwell), March 2 – Alnwick (Alnwick), March 23 – Prudhoe (Tynedale).

H The North East Athletics League takes place tonight at Gateshead at 7pm. The Hamsterley Forest 10k trail race is on Sunday, starting from the visitor centre at 10.30am.

H Postal entries for next Wednesday’s Sunderland 5k at Silksworth Sports Complex (7.15pm) close on Monday. Entry forms can be downloaded from www.sunderlandharriers.org.uk