Harriers get back to basics

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IT’S back to the bread and butter of cross country running in the North Eastern Harrier League on Saturday – following the record-breaking English National Championships in London.

Sunderland Harriers were among a small band of North East clubs that made the long journey to London last Saturday and they were greeted by a quagmire of a course.

The championship saw a record 5,283 club runners finish the 10 races. This was nearly 600 up on the previous best.

There were 2,005 who finished in the senior men’s race, beating the previous best of 1,948 finishers from 1995, when the race was held in Newark.

The women also saw a record of 865, while the younger age groups also saw a significant increase in numbers at Parliament Hill Fields.

The Harrier League has also been in record form with numbers turning out breaking all records. The senior men’s field at Cramlington in October saw 591 finish the 10k race.

And the women also broke new ground with 354 finishers at Aykley Heads in November.

It is not expected that these numbers will be breached at Alnwick on Saturday, but the traditional, old-fashioned cross country course at the Pastures, in the shadow of Alnwick Castle, will still provide plenty of competition as the league heads towards its conclusion.

Sunderland Harriers, one of two clubs that have never been outside the first division, appear to be heading for a middle of the table position.

They are sixth in the league, but cannot afford any slip-ups in the two remaining fixtures.

Sunderland Strollers are involved in promotion and relegation struggles in the senior divisions.

The Strollers are fourth in the men’s second division and appear to be too much off the pace in the promotion run-in.

They have 18 points compared to leaders Crook and Tynedale who both have 10 points.

The Strollers’ women are third off the bottom of the first division with Blackhill Bounders and Birtley below them.

Sunderland Tri club are third in the men’s third division and Houghton Harriers are sixth.

Sunderland Harriers will be led by Craig Isherwood, who recorded the second fastest overall time at the last league meeting at Bedewell Park.

He finds himself in contention for a league individual grand prix award after his best season over the country.

It was highlighted at London at the weekend when he achieved his finest result in the National Championship.

Sunderland are also in contention in the under-17 men’s league where they have a five points lead over second club Morpeth.

Also back from London is Mark Smith, who will lead the club, running from the fast pack at Alnwick.

Following the National Championships, Sunderland Harriers cross country grand prix has seen significant changes at the top of the table.

With only the Alnwick and the Wrekenton Harrier League events to come, the contenders for a top five prize with their points scores are: Paul Redman 50 points, Craig Isherwood 48, Alan McManus 46, Judith Thirlwell 45, Tony Allinson 44, Dean Phillips 42, Fred Judson 39, Dave Savage 37, Lucie Forster 36, Barry Marley 36 and Vikki Cotton 36.

Parking is available at the Alnwick Garden car park and is only a short walk to the start.

Directions: Head North on A1 for approx 25 miles towards Alnwick. Leave the A1 at the B1340 exit (sign posted Seahouses/Alnwick/Denwick), turn left onto the B1340 and the course is approx a third of a mile on the right.

There is no parking available on the course, but drop offs are allowed.

The first race for under-11s is at 12.15pm. The senior women are on their marks for 1.10pm and men are off at about 2.10pm.