Sunderland Harrier sets new best just weeks after epic 156-mile run

Matt Jones
Matt Jones

Sunderland Harrier Matthew Jones, just a few weeks after completing the world’s toughest race, the daunting 156 mile Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, improved on his personal best for the half marathon yesterday.

Competing in the Chester Half Marathon, he finished eighth in 72.50 to slice 47 seconds off his previous best set in Edinburgh last year.

Sunderland Harriers came from behind to win the Wallsend Gordon Smith three-stage road relay.

The 35-year-old, the winner of the Hull and Kielder Marathons in 2015, has ambitions of competing in the next Commonwealth Games for Wales. He needs a qualifying time of 2hr 18min and his next step towards that goal is the Bournemouth Marathon in October.

Also at Chester, was fellow GP and clubmate, Matt Devlin, making his debut over the distance, finishing a creditable 15th in 75.56.

It is nearly a year since he was spotted finishing in the first 10 in the Strollers Pier-to-Pier race and was signed up by the Harriers. He has made much progress and his latest result is another step in the right direction.

Sunderland Harriers came from behind to win the Wallsend Gordon Smith three-stage road relay.

Teams were made up of one veteran over 40 and two senior men. It was veteran Michael Thompson, who opened for the royal blue vests, finishing sixth overall in 10.22 before handing over to new club captain Andy Powell (10.03) who charged through to second behind Elswick.

Nathan Reed was the man who stole the show by cutting down Elswick and lifting Sunderland into first with the day’s s joint second fastest time of 9.54.

Elswick’s Tadele Geremew was the quickest of the day with his first leg of 9.35 and Gateshead’s Conrad Franks equalled Reed’s time.

Sunderland finished in 30.19 with Elswick second (30.36) and Gateshead third (30.51). The Sunderland B team were tenth with veteran Alan Hodgson (11.38) Michael Edwards (10.32) and Jake Jenson (10.30).

In the Masters’ Road Relay Championships at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday, Sunderland Harriers finished fifth in the over-55 event after being in second place going into the final leg. The team was Paul Collins (17.50), Paul Merrison (17.36) and Steve Coxon (19.05).

The over-45s ended 27th with Michael Thompson (16.07), Dean Phillips (19.34), George Harden (19.23) and Alan Knebel (17.49).

The Sunderland over-35 women’s team had a solid performance in finishing 14th in their event.

The quartet was Nicola Woodward (19.36), Colleen Compson (21.35), Vicky Younger (21.10) and Judith Thirwell (20.23).

Morpeth Harriers won the men’s over-40s race with three of their athletes, Peter Newton (14.31), Ian Hudspith (14.40) and Chris Smith (15.05), the fastest runners in the relay.

Sunderland Harrier Noel Hitchcock finished third (28.20) in the Locke Park 5 miler at Redcar.

Houghton Harriers youngsters set a bagful of personal bests in the British Milers club paced races at Chester-le-Street.

They were under-15s Henry Johnson (2.09.1), Matthew Cleugh (2.10.7), Will Bellamy (2.18.2), Lydia James (2.26.8), Anna Pigford (2.27.3). Under-13 Nicole Phillips 2.33.6. Under-17 Adam Middleton (2.16.9).