CONFUSION reigned in the Heaton Harriers 10k Road Race yesterday when the record field of nearly 600 runners went off course twice during the first mile at Exhibition Park, Newcastle.
The race was halted after the field ended up running around in circles and the organisers were forced to restart it.
The start area had been moved, leading to a different route from previous years, but, to add to the confusion, the lead cyclist was too far ahead and out of sight of the field at the start.
Morpeth Harrier Ian Hudspith, the UK’s top veteran endurance runner at the age of 42, who won the race emphatically in 31.26, said: “It was a bit of a shambles.
“We never picked up the lead cyclist and there was no marshall at the first turn to tell us which way to go.
“A group of us were well clear and then they shouted for us to turn back.
“By the time I rejoined the race, I was over 100 metres behind. Then, after going around the lake and back on to the other side, I surprisingly found myself back in the lead, as those who had been ahead of me had now also gone off course.
“We had been running for about five minutes and, going out onto the Town Moor, when someone shouted for us to stop.’’
The organisers, to their credit, quickly marshalled the runners back to the start and waited about 15 minutes for the field to get their breath back before restarting the race without hardly a murmur of complaint.
Hudspith added: “I seemed to be going better after the second start than the first.
“Maybe it suggests I should do a longer warm-up!’’
In second place was New Marske Harrier Richard Morrell, who clocked 32.04, third place was filled by Sunderland Harrier Kevin Calvert in a time not far outside his best (32.47), fourth was Gateshead junior Lewis Hogg (33.01) and clubmate Conrad Franks (33.49) ended fifth. Durham City Harrier Ian Crampton was first over-50 in 13th (35.00).
Tyne Bridge Harriers won the team race, with Sunderland in fifth place.
Backing Calvert were 52-year-old Paul Merrison in 23rd (36.38), and personal bests from Alan Knebel 86th (40.10) and Dave Lancaster 123rd (41.35). Houghton Harrier Shaun McGrath was 99th (41.02).
Sunderland Strollers had Ian Skelton 136th (42.05), Bill Kirk 205th (45.02), Martin Welsh 295th (48.26), Dave Foster 309th (48.55) and Stephen Allen 310th (49.10).
Alyson Dixon celebrated her debut appearance for Sunderland Strollers by winning the women’s race in a comfortable 11th overall (34.30).
Her quick transfer from Chester-le-Street meant that she did not have time acquire a new club vest, running the race in her own colours.
The marathon international had new Heaton recruit Lorna Young a long way behind her in 29th (37.07). Then came Tracy Millmore of Birtley (38.53) and junior Chloe Price of Durham City (39.05), Sunderland Harrier Rachel Moore was 49th (48.25), Sunderland Stroller Gillian Ritchie finished 55th (49.58).
Oliver James showed a quick turn of pace to win (16.00) the under-17 and under-20 5k. The Sunderland Harrier got the better of Johnnie Nesbitt (16.02) and Washington’s Gateshead Harrier Barry Maskell (16.04), to get his winter season off to a good start.
Sunderland’s Sophie Burnett (Birtley) won the under-15 girls’ race.