Packs add to league appeal

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THE Start Fitness North East Harrier League gets under way on Saturday when Blyth Running Club stages the first meeting of the season at East Cramlington.

The popular fixture combines events for all age groups with handicap races defined by running packs.

In the senior men and women’s events, there are three packs of fast, medium and slow with promotion to the quicker packs gained through performance.

This unique North East format is admired throughout the country by other counties, as it encourages participation whatever the athletes’ ability. This idea makes the North East Harrier League extremely popular with fields of more than 400 contesting the men’s race.

The women have seen their fields increase four-fold during the last few years after the handicap system was introduced to them.

Women’s secretary Vicki Thompson said: “Numbers have already exceeded expectations, with record fields expected over the coming months. It’s incredible the entries that I’ve received so far.”

Sunderland Harriers’ senior men have been the most dominant club since they celebrated their first win in 1980. They have won the title a remarkable 23 times since then and, when the league was split into divisions, they are one of only two clubs to have retained their first division status. Sunderland’s last win came in 2010, they finished third last season and fourth in 2011.

Also in the first division are Sunderland Strollers who just avoided relegation last year in finishing third from the bottom.

Houghton Harriers have been promoted to the second division. The Strollers are in the women’s first division and the Harriers are in the second.

Start Fitness is supporting the events with their individual grand prix and by presenting a commemorative polo shirt to athletes, if they competed in the Sherman Cup/Davison Shield, finish five of the six league fixtures and take part in the North Eastern Cross-Country Championships.

Sunderland Harriers have their own cross country grand prix included, with prizes to the first five, with awards valued at £175, £150, £125, £100 and £75. The the early leaders are: Michael Hill 8pts, Nathan Reed 8, Paul Redman 8, Len Christopher 7, Dean Phillips 7 and Steve Graham 7.

The under-11s will open the proceedings at 12.15pm followed by the under-13 boys’ race at 12.30pm. The senior men’s race is scheduled at 1.15pm and the senior women about 2.15pm.

The course is at East Cramlington Nature Park. From the A19 at Moor Farm roundabout take fifth exit A189 signed Ashington. Travel to first exit and take slip road (signed East Cramlington), at junction turn left. After a mile, East Cramlington Nature Reserve is on your left. Changing, toilets and registration are at Cramlington Juniors Football Club.

Follow directions as above, but instead of turning second left to East Cramlington, go straight on for about a quarter of a mile and changing rooms are on the right.

There is no parking at the football club. Parking could be limited due to unsuitable ground conditions within the nature reserve. There is no parking on the main road.

H Sunderland Strollers finished 11th team in the Robotham’s Round Rotherham 50 mile trail race.

The race was an undulating mixture of old railway line, pavement, canal and riverside paths and muddy farmer’s fields.

In perfect conditions, Malcolm Cox was 131st in 10.48.56, Jill and Jon Kisler finished 162nd and 163rd in the same time (11.40.15).

There were 262 finishers. The race was won by Duncan Harris of City of Chester Triathlon Club in 6.29.29.