Mark Hood ready for the task

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MARK HOOD faces an onslaught from Morpeth Harriers as he bids to win the Sunderland 5k for the fourth time at Silksworth Sports Complex tonight.

The 29-year-old is Sunderland Harriers’ main hope in the race that always attracts a good class field in the chase for fast times and North East Championship medals.

This will be Hood’s first race since he limped home to finish 13th in the Blaydon Race in June. The injury prone athlete has now put his problems behind him and is currently in his best phase of training for years.

“I’ve been running up to 95 miles each week for the last month and the training is starting to pay off,” said Hood.

“Some of my timed sessions have been as good as I’ve ever done and now I have to show my form in a race. This race will be hard to win as it is a good field. I’ve won it three times, and I would love to win it again.’’

Hood won the title in 2006, 2008 and 2009 with his fastest time of 14.45 being recorded in his last two wins. He emerged as Sunderland’s favourite after the Manchester-based Martin brothers, Patrick and Jack, changed their racing plans.

The Morpeth club have Peter Newton, Matt Nicholson and Chris Sampson, down to run, and they are all runners that Hood has beaten previously.

On current form Newton will be the favourite to lift the North East title. He beat Hood at Blaydon by three places, clocked a personal best of 30.24 to finish 13th in the London 10k and won the Middlesbrough 5k in 14.52.

Sampson, who works in Spain as a school teacher, finished second to Hood in 2006, recording 15.01, while Nicholson is the defending champion. He won the race last year in the slowest ever time in the races 17 year history, clocking 15.12 with Newton eight seconds behind him. The course record is held by Martin Scaife (Morpeth) with 14.23 from 2004.

In Hood’s favour, he knows the course like the back of his hand and he is a proven winner, taking on all-comers and coming out on top. Probably his most impressive victory was when he saw off Mongolian Olympian and Morpeth Harrier Serod Batochir by 12 seconds in 2009.

“I’m keen to get back to way I was before my injuries and hopefully this is the race where I can start,’’ added Hood.

The women’s field is also building-up into a good class field, although with entries on the night, this race, like the men, could see some top line additions to the field.

Already down to run are Aiveen Fox, Sarah Wilkinson (Morpeth) Alex Snook (Gateshead), Angela Hibbs (Ch-le-St) and Sunderland Harrier Michelle Holt.

The race last year was won by Blaydon Harrier Hester Dix in 17.00. The course record is held by Chester-le-Street’s Freya Murray with 16.13 from 2008.

Late entries are available tonight from the ski lodge from 5.30pm at Silksworth Sports Complex. The race starts at 7.15pm.

H Patrick Martin finished third (3.58.4) in the British Milers’ Club 1500m at Monkton. The race was won by Andy Wiles (New Marske) in 3.52, Morpeth’s Lewis Timmins was second (3.56.7) and Durham’s Michael Grimes was fourth (3.58.9).

Martin’s clubmate 15-year-old Michael Wilson won the B race in a personal best of 4.15.8.

H Houghton Harriers easily won their Northern division two Young Athletes match at Whitley Bay.

Their top performers, all with a grade four standards, were winners: Under-13 boys 1500m – Alex Brown (5.15.6), Under-15 boys shot - Owen Barrass (10.77), Under-15 Girls javelin - Georgia Rushworth (20.78) and Under-17 Girls high jump – Rachel Scott (1.49).

Result: 1 Houghton Harriers 658, 2 South Shields 505, 3 North Shields 383, 4 Tynedale 303, 5 Gateshead B 97.