Mark Hood and Kevin Calvert eye Blaydon boosts

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SUNDERLAND Harriers’ leading runners, Mark Hood and Kevin Calvert, will be competing in the big Blaydon Race on Saturday for different reasons.

For Hood it will be another comeback race after a further injury spell out of the sport, while Calvert will be looking for consolidation of his improved form.

Hood, the three-time North East Cross-Country champion, has been beset by injury problems throughout his career. This will be Hood’s first race back since he competed in the North East Harrier League at Alnwick in March.

Calvert makes his second appearance in the Blaydon Race that has attracted the usual contingent of African athletes bidding to win the £1,000 first prize.

That makes a leading place in the race that has attracted an entry of 4,000, keenly fought for.

Hood’s best finish at Blaydon was fifth in 2007 – he was eighth in 2008 and 13th last year. Calvert’s one and only appearance was last year, when he finished 48th.

Hood said: “I want to get back in the loop of racing again on a regular basis. I’m not expecting anything special, just a solid run.’’

Calvert, who has been concentrating on his first track season, switches to the roads again determined to knock spots of his last year’s performance. A place in the first 15 is not beyond the much-improved athlete as he continues to build a platform for further improvement.

Ethiopia will again be well to the fore, with 2007 winner Tewodros Shiferaw, Tyneside 10k winner Tadele Geremew and Wallsend’s Yared Hagos, last week’s Raby Castle 10k record breaker, expecting to fight it out among themselves for the victor’s glory.

Super veteran Ian Hudspith, the 41-year-old Morpeth Harrier, could lead the North East contingent in the battle for a top finishing place. The recent winner of the Middlesbrough 5k was fifth last year and won in 2009.

The women’s race sees Clapham Chaser Justina Heslop going for her fourth victory to equal Blaydon Harrier Jill Hunter’s record.

Sunderland’s Alyson Dixon (Chester-le-Street), second in 2010, and Ethiopians Getenesh Tamirit and Kidist Yincheneku will provide the challenge.

Because of redevelopment at the Blaydon Shopping Centre, the finish will be on the playing fields at Shibdon Road, the area used for the Blaydon Harrier League fixture. The Derwenthaugh Marina section will be reduced in distance so that the total race distance will still be around 5.9 miles. The race starts at 6pm.

H Sunderland Harriers’ over-45 team – Brian Rushworth, Paul Merrison and Paul Collins – bid for the North East road relay title at Bedewell Park, Hebburn, tonight.

H Postal entries for the North East Vending Penshaw Hill race, held next Wednesday at 7.15pm, close on Monday. Entry forms can be downloaded on the Sunderland Harriers’ website – sunderlandharriers.org.uk

H The Lambton Run, a multi-terrain race held over 10k approx, at Lambton Park, on Sunday, June 24, is still accepting entries. Contact event co-ordinator Katrina Quinn on 551 5191 or email katrina.quinn@safc.com