Harriers eye title hat-trick

Ian Dixon.
Ian Dixon.
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SUNDERLAND Harriers bid for their hat-trick when they contest the 321 Club Challenge in the Festival of Running during the Marathon of the North events on Sunday.

The Wearsiders have won the challenge each year since the event was created in 2011 – and they will field a team quite capable of continuing their run.

A minimum of six club members must take part and at least one member must be female.

Three runners must complete the 10k, two runners must complete the half marathon and one runner must complete the marathon.

£500 will be awarded to the winners, £200 for second place and £100 for third.

The organisers combine the fastest three recorded 10k times, the two fastest half marathon times and the fastest marathon time.

At least one performance will be the time of one of the female club members.

Weynay Ghebresilasie will lead the Sunderland team in the 10k as he continues his fight back to fitness following a two week stay in hospital for a viral infection. Last year’s race was won by Wallsend Harrier Yared Hagos in 30.46.

In support of Ghebresilasie, who makes his 10k race debut, will be Nathan Reed, Michael Barker, Steven Graham, and Ian Dixon.

Reed is in good form and will be bidding for a top five finish. Barker has injury problems so will face a fitness test before deciding to race or not.

Dixon, at the age of 37, makes his 10k debut and the former footballer is quite capable of a top 20 spot after only months in the sport.

Mark Hood is clearly the fastest runner in the field – with a time of 66.33 to his name – in the half marathon and should lead the field home.

Craig Isherwood could make it a one-two for Sunderland as the Pallion man continues his improvement to more success.

Graham Lancaster and veteran Alan Knebel will be waiting in the wings in case of any slip-ups by the leading two.

Michelle Avery will again be the female support and could crown her appearance by leading the women back to the finish at the Stadium of Light.

In the marathon, Paul Redman will carry the Harriers’ flag and he will be out to match his performance of last year when he was only one of 19 runners to break three hours.

He clocked 2.54.40 to finish sixth. Ron Wills who clocked 2.41.05 in the 2002 London Marathon returns to the classic distance for the first time since then.

A time of around 3.30 will be more than welcome for the 53-year-old High Barnes runner, who is making a rare competitive appearance.

The half marathon and marathon starts at 9.30am from the Stadium of Light. The 10k is off at 10.00am.

To complement the Marathon of the North, Half Marathon of the North and 10k, the organisers are also staging a young athletes events on Saturday afternoon.

Junior Miles of the North is a series of one mile junior age group races for nine to 15 year-olds. All races take place in Mowbray Park, prior to the Events of the North pasta party

Entries close for all events at midday on Friday and are available on the race website at www.marathonofthenorth.co.uk