Brian Rushworth, at the age of 49, will be looking to win his 18th North East Vending Penshaw Hill race title tonight, writes Kevin Carr.
During the 22nd running of the Start Fitness assisted Penshaw race, the Sunderland Harrier has only suffered defeat twice.
It took the younger legs of international fell runner Nick Swinburn in 2008 and Sunderland Stroller Liam Taylor last year to unseat the King of Penshaw Hill after titanic battles throughout the three-mile gruelling hill races.
The only other time his name has not appeared on the roll of honour was in 1993 and 2002 when illness and injury forced him out of the race.
The Penshaw race always sets off at breakneck speed, as the first runner to reach the monument first on the opening lap wins the prime award.
Again, Rushworth has always featured in this contest and has rarely been beaten in the 17 times he has contested the race since he started out on his race bonanza at the age of 28.
But last year it was Taylor who laid down the gauntlet when he set off to win the prime prize to reach the famous monument first on the opening lap. The Barnes barman was in full flow, while Rushworth set off at a steady pace, picking his way through the field.
Maybe the time has come for Rushworth (left), as the years creep up on him, to bow out of this contest and concentrate on the race ahead of him.
He said after last year’s race: “That must be one of the hardest races I’ve ever run. I was on my knees coming up the hill at the finish. I was exhausted, but I had to give it a go.’’
With Taylor suffering from long-term injury problems and Swinburn having indifferent form of late, it could be left to a couple of Rushworth’s clubmates to lead the challenge. But with late entries still open until just before the race, you just do not know who is going to show.
Nathan Reed and Kevin Calvert are two athletes that could provide the opposition for the record-breaking 10-times North East cross-country champion. Reed, 20, showed improvement when he finished runner-up in the recent Angel of the North multi-terrain race, while Calvert, if he has recovered from his Blaydon Race exertions, where he finished 21st, could provide a stumbling block to Rushworth. He got the better of him in the Sunderland 10k in May.
Last year’s women’s winner was Leeds City athlete Claire Duck, who overhauled leader Michelle Holt not far from the finish.
Duck has not entered but Holt will be going for her fourth win.
The race starts at 7.15pm and late entries are available at the bottom of the hill. The prize presentation is in the Monument pub, Penshaw Village.