Paul Besford leads the way for Sunderland Harriers

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INTERNATIONAL veterans’ cross country international Paul Besford heads Sunderland Harriers’ entries for Sunday’s London Marathon.

The 41-year-old will be bidding to beat his best of 2.42.23 established in last year’s Dublin Marathon.

This will be his third race over the classic distance since making his debut in London in 2005 and clocking 2.50.43.

Besford, pictured, is rounding into good form as can be seen with his win in his category in last week’s Blyth 10k (34.02). And in early March he finished ninth over-40 in the Bath Half Marathon, recording 74.35. The highlight of his career so far came in Dublin in November when he represented England in the International Masters’ cross country championships.

Clubmate and fellow veteran Jon Dobson has been putting the miles in for his third appearance in London and highlighted his progress with 10th place (85.24) in the 14 mile Dentdale Run on March 11. His best over the distance is 2.47.06 from 2006.

Farringdon bus driver Sean Smith was also testing his fitness last month with a run out in the tough Haweswater half marathon. He finished 16th in 81.34. Smith, whose PB is 2.53.54, is targeting a time under 2.50.

Sunderland Harriers long standing club record stands to Glenn Forster who finished 12th in the 1984 London Marathon with 2.15.08. The club has seven runners that have beaten the 2,20 mark and, as well as Forster, they are Ian Haggan – 2.16.22, Calum Bark – 2.16.33, Dave Hill – 2.16.36, Malcolm Price 0 2.17.44, Chris Hallimond – 2.19.34 and Richie Tough – 2.19.59.

H Council budgets will determine if the Sunderland Park Runs will go ahead this year. The two races at Herrington Country Park and Hetton Lyons Country Park are normally held in July and August respectively. Leisure department staff are still waiting to see if cash will be available to allow the two races to go ahead.

H The Start Fitness Blaydon Race, traditionally held on June 9, has sold out once again with 4,000 places taken up within four days. Two thousand places were booked on line and were snapped up within eight hours, while the remaining 2,000 consisted of postal applications.

Race organiser Bob Houston said: “Entries are still coming in but they will all have to be returned. It’s one of the disappointing roles of organising the ‘Blaydon’ in having to send out a letter telling over 1,000 applicants they have been rejected.”

H The first North East Athletics league meetings takes place on Wednesday, April 27 at Monkton Stadium, Jarrow. Events on offer include 100m and 1500m, men’s steeplechase and 75m hurdles. Field events are high jump, shot putt, long jump, and javelin. On-the-day registration is from 6pm.Cost is £2.50 per event. The first events are scheduled for 7pm.

H The first of Gateshead Harriers promotions for young athletes from school years 3 to 6 takes place at Gateshead Stadium on Sunday, May 1 at 9am. Running events are sprints and middle distance, field events are the long jump and a howler throw. Entries can be made in advance to christopher.betts@btinternet.com or will be accepted on the day.

H Wallsend stage their 5m (approx) multi-terrain race on Sunday at the Rising Sun Country Park (10.30am). Shildon stage their Anne Marie Readshaw Open Track meeting.