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England’s oldest road race - The Saltwell Harriers 10K - celebrates its 106th anniversary

Mark Hood.
Mark Hood.
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The Saltwell Harriers 10k, England’s oldest road race, celebrates its 106th anniversary on Saturday.

With the race full signs being up since the beginning of December, it shows that the event is still as popular as ever.

It reached its peak in 1984, the year of Mike McLeod’s 11th consecutive win, when there were over 780 entries. That was on the old course that took in the notorious Chowdene Bank before traffic on the highway forced a route change.

This time the maximum number is 500 on the relatively new course that weaves its way around and inside Saltwell Park.

The race was known as the Congers Road Race up until 1970, before the Congers went out of existence and Saltwell Harriers stepped into the breach and they have been at the helm ever since.

The Chowdene course was the one that Elswick’s Olympic 10,000m silver medallist McLeod set his amazing record of 16 successive victories (1974-89), including three course records.

One of the most famous battles that took place on Chowdene Bank was that between McLeod and Steve Cram in 1987. Cram was impressive on the steep incline but McLeod’s acceleration when they reached Durham Road was even more so and he went on to finish in a record time of 29.16 for the 10k course with Cram 22 seconds behind.

In 1964, Houghton Harrier and Tokyo Olympic steeplechaser Ernie Pomfret won the men’s race.

Ryan McLeod, Mike’s son, has won the race twice in succession in 2007 and 2008 and won the 2011 race at Saltwell Park in a course record.

Sunderland Harriers have had two winners of the famous race in Malcolm Price, in 1997 and 1998, and Mark Hood (2005 and 2001), when he outkicked fellow Under-20 Mark Slesser of Jarrow and Hebburn in a superb sprint finish.

On Saturday, 2016 Olympic Marathon runner, Sale Harrier Sonia Samuels heads the women’s field and her husband, Nick, is in the men’s race.

Gateshead Harrier Conrad Franks is another leading light, while Houghton Harriers will be depending on Lee Dover for a good performance. Sunderland Harriers’ sole entrant so far is Linda Mudford.

The race is on an undulating course through parkland paths and closed roads. Course records are: Male: Ryan McLeod 30.57 (2011). Female: Rosie Smith 35.05

Race registration will be in Saltwell Park. There will be changing facilities available at Gateshead Leisure Centre. Presentation will be held at race registration in Saltwell Park. The race starts at 11.30am.

l Sunderland Harriers are looking for a big turnout for their Christmas Pudding Run on Boxing Day at Silksworth Sports Complex.

The Run will be a sealed handicap and will be held over the Sunderland 5k course.

The sealed handicap was a regular feature of North East road races up to and including the 1960s before they ceased.

Results will be decided using handicaps given to the athlete and deducted off their actual time. Even the person who finishes last has a chance of being declared the winner.

The course is the Sunderland Harriers 5k course and the Run starts at 10.30am.

Prizes will be presented in Cavalier. Prize winners must be in attendance to receive their prize.

Albert James, Eddie Maddison, and Nathan Reed will be taking entries (£2) before race day so handicaps can be given before race day.

l Debbie Smith and Catherine Purdy were lucky in the Sunderland Harriers draw for a place in the London Marathon.

l The Dalton Park 10k, postponed because of ice on the course on Sunday, will now take place on Sunday, January 21. If you entered the December 17 event, your entry is automatically valid for this new date. You do not need to contact the organisers or to enter again.