A RECORD field of around 400 runners will greet the starter in the 21st running of the Sunderland 5k at Silksworth Sports Complex tonight.
The race, which also hosts the North East championships, will see another class field chasing medals in the men’s and women’s race.
But Mark Hood, who was Sunderland Harriers’ main hope of a home victory, has been forced to pull out with a foot injury.
The three-times winner said: “The problem is on the ball of my foot and it has been bothering me for two weeks now. I have had it before, just before the Great North Run, and it took me over two weeks to get over it.
“I’m hoping to get back to training again shortly, but I’m really disappointed having to miss out. It was one of my targets for the season and I thought I was in good enough shape to challenge for the title.’’
Hood is one of two Sunderland Harriers’ who have won the race previously, Brian Rushworth is the other with six victories. Hood’s best on the noted fast course stands at 14.39, when he finished second to Morpeth’s Nick Swinburn in 2011.
Among the contenders for the title are Tipton’s Ryan McLeod, whose best road 5k time is 14.15 but his track mark is far better at 13.41.35, tri-athletes Dan Jenkin of Durham and Calum Johnson of Gateshead, will also be in with a shout.
The women’s field includes the Morpeth pair of Vicky Gibbs and Emma Pearson plus Jarrow and Hebburn’s Alex Snook.
The course record is held by Martin Scaife with his 14.23 from 2004, the women’s record stands to Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon, who became the first woman on the course to dip under 16 minutes, recording 15.52 last year. Scaife has now retired while Dixon gives the race a miss before contesting the Commonwealth Games Marathon in Glasgow a week on Sunday.
The 16-minute mark is the bench-mark for many a leading club runner, while only two Sunderland Harriers have been under 15 minutes - Rushworth and Hood.
The Sunderland Harriers list of sub 16-minute men on the course is 16 strong. The list with the year of achievement is: 1 Brian Rushworth 14.34- 2000, 2 Mark Hood 14.39- 2011, 3 Gavin Massingham 15.08- 2008, 4 Derek Mullen 15.11- 2000, 5 Graham Lancaster 15.16- 2001, 6 Patrick Martin 15.19- 2006, 7 Richard Kemp 15.20- 2003, 8 Tom Doughty 15.21- 2004, 9 Lee Browell 15.33- 2001, 10 Andrew Lilliendale 15.37- 2002, 11 Kevin Calvert 15.37 -2011, 12 Mark Donkin 15.38 -2001, 13 Dave Grover 15.44- 2000, 14 Steve Potts 15.46 -2004, 15 Ian Haggan15.47- 2003, 16 Jack Martin 15.58- 2004.
The race starts at 7.15pm and the race headquarters for registration and presentation is Silksworth Sports Complex. The course is over two laps which takes in both lakes with the small fishing lake the first circuit to be completed. The finish is on grass, behind the Homebase store. There will be a limited number of late entries available.
H Twice Commonwealth Games marathon runner Lynn Cooper helped Houghton Harriers finish second to host club Morpeth in the Northern Athletics League division three match.
The Scottish international, 52, now spending more time coaching at the club than in competing, turned out in three middle distance events to earn Houghton valuable points.
She won the 3000m B race in 11.31.9, was second in the B1500m (5.34.3) and third in the B 800m (2.53.8). Under-17 Eleanor Daglish won the A 1500m (5.06.5) and was second over 3000m (11.19.9).
Karl Horner (44.79) and Josh Peel (40.89) won the javelin events, Lewis Thompson won the long jump (4.98) and Ian Cowell the pole vault (2.40), while Rachel Scott took the high jump (1.45) and scored maximum points along with Laura Fenwick in the 100m and 400m hurdles.