Saltwell Harriers’ ton of fun

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SALTWELL Harriers have been reflecting on their 100th anniversary of their annual road race which took place last Saturday.

And it was fitting that the man who presented the prizes was Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Mike McLeod who won England’s oldest road race for a record-breaking 16 consecutive times from 1974 until 1990.

McLeod’s son Ryan is keeping the winning success in the family after his victory in 2007 and 2008 before claiming his hat-trick on Saturday in a new course record of 30.58.

Only two Sunderland Harriers have received a mention in the history of the race, put together in a booklet by Saltwell stalwart Walter Fraser.

Malcolm Price won the 10k race twice in 1997 (30.05) and 1998 (30.52), Mark Hood was also a double winner. He triumphed (32.07) in 2001 in the rearranged April race and in 2005 (32.00).

When Hood won in 2001 he was still an under-20 junior and clinched the title by inches from Jarrow and Hebburn’s fellow junior Mark Slessor with both athletes recording the same time.

Houghton Harriers’ Olympic steeplechaser, the late Ernie Pomfret, won the race in 1964 and ambulance man Ian Archbold, of the now defunct Washington Athletics Club, was the first winner (30.28) after McLeod’s remarkable winning sequence ended in 1990.

McLeod’s course record on the old Saltwell course (29.16) was established after a titanic struggle with Steve Cram in 1987. Cram headed his rival up the notorious Chowdene Bank but it was McLeod’s amazing acceleration that took him clear of the former one mile world record holder on Durham Road. Cram finished 22 seconds behind but it was still the sixth fastest time ever on the former course.

Many other notable performances are listed including an eight-year unbeaten run by Saltwell’s John Anderson and the successes of the Elswick Boak brothers Bill and George in the 1950s, while marathon great Ron Hill (Bolton) tasted victory in 1966.

When Jack Potts claimed his second of his three victories in 1937, 67 runners competed. In 1984, the year of McLeod’s 11th victory, there was over 780 entries. Saltwell closed entries on Saturday when a field of 400 was reached, due to the constraints of the course.

The first race in 1911 was organised by Gateshead Congregational Harriers (Gateshead Congers), and was held on Boxing Day, December 26 for the next 59 years. Saltwell took over the race from the Congers in 1970. Over the years the course has changed on a number of occasions as well as in distance. It is now held in and around Saltwell Park.

Walter Fraser said: “Despite the demise of many road races, the Saltwell race survives. It’s overcome a change of ownership, the occasional road works disruption and increasing safety restrictions that have threatened the race. This is no doubt due to the steely determination of the club that the race is still here for the runners. We are delighted that we celebrated the 100th anniversary.’’

H Sunderland Strollers completed the Graeme Clazey doorstep marathon on Sunday in bitterly cold weather.

Phil Watson, Graeme Clazey, Kevin O’Neill, Malcolm Cox, Kevin Blyth and Terry Topping managed to complete the distance in a time of 3.46.38.

They were well supported with drinks and energy gels by Julie Clazey and encouraged by Lesley Watson, David Machin and Trish O’Neill who followed them on bikes. They all agreed that it should become an annual training run.

The run came about after the Luton Marathon in December, 2009, was cancelled through a crash on the course in the icy weather.

Clazey, who had been standing on the start line, had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and he did not want to disrupt his record of running at least one marathon every year since 1990.

So a marathon from his own doorstep was hastily organized to maintain his record.

H Sunderland Harrier Hollie Lancaster won the under-15 indoor 60m in a personal best of 8.24 at Gateshead. Her mother Cheryl won the senior shot (7.14). Houghton Harrier Ben Mitchell won the under-15 shot (9.25) and Owen Barrass took the under-17 event (10.99).