Rio Olympians and this year’s Commonwealth Games marathon team-mates Alyson Dixon and Sonia Samuels clash in the Ronnie Walker Saltwell 10k on Saturday.
Sale Harrier Samuels defends her title while Sunderland Stroller Dixon competes for the first time since 2016 in England’s oldest road race.
The Silksworth athlete, who has just arrived back from a promotional trip to India, is a five-time winner of the popular event which takes place in around Saltwell Park in Gateshead.
Her fastest time on the tough course is 35.08 which is just three seconds outside Durham City Harrier Rosie Smith’s record from 2014. Samuel’s recorded 35.41 last year.
In April’s Commonwealth Marathon on the Gold Coast, Samuels finished fifth (2.36.59) to Dixon’s sixth (2.38.19) and all recent form points to another close contest between the pair.
Samuels has recently been concentrating on cross country but she did finish ninth in the Valencia 10k in Spain on December 2 (34.07). Dixon’s fastest recent 10k came in the Heaton Memorial 10k at Newcastle where she won in 35.27 on November 11.
While the women’s race looks as though it will be decided between the Olympians, the men’s race looks wide open.
Recently-crowned North East cross country champion Greg Jayasuriya (Middlesbrough and Cleveland) will be making his race debut and looks the favourite.
Also entered is Gateshead Harrier Conrad Franks, Durham City Harrier Dan Jenkin, Tyne Bridge Harrier Marc Fenwick and Sonia Samuels’ husband Nick, plus Daniel Bradford from Shettleston Harriers and Morpeth Harrier Lewis Timmins.
Sunderland Harrier Oliver James will be on the start line and he could be involved for a place in the frame. The Tunstall runner is back for the Christmas holidays from Louisville University in America where he is studying dentistry.
This will be his first race since the Sunderland 5k in July and has recently just returned to training after studying took precedence.
Clubmate and top veteran Ian Dixon will want to erase his performance of the North East Cross Country championships where he dropped out after leading early in the race. Despite the indepth Saltwell prize list, Dixon is the only leading veteran from the Harriers’ entered so far, especially with the veterans having their own team race.
North East botanical drinks company Fentimans are supporting the race with over £2000 in prizes.
There is a £300 first prize for the winning men’s team (three to count) and they all must be seniors while the veterans’ team prize is £100.
Women’s teams can made up of both seniors and veterans. Individual prizes for the first three are £150, £125 and £100 and go down to eighth for both male and females.
Race starts at the south end of East Park Road at 11.30am. Race numbers can be collected at registration in Saltwell Towers.
Presentation will also be held in the Saltwell Park Towers.
Sunderland Harriers are taking entries (£2) for their Christmas Pudding Run on Boxing Day at Silksworth Sports Complex.
The Run, organised by club secretary Nathan Reed and club secretary Jason Waite, 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 10.15am.
Prizes will be presented in Cavalier.
The Whitby and Loftus Poultry Run saw Richmond’s and Zetland’s Marc Scott, the first Britsh finisher in last week’s European Cross Country Championships in ninth, win the race (41.41) from a class field.
In second place was Sunderland 5k winner Dominic Shaw of New Marske (41.55) and in third was Greg Jayasuriya with 43.05.
Sunderland Strollers placed Chris Dwyer in 24th (50.15) and Andrew Forbes 25th (50.27).
Sunderland Harrier Alice Smith (52.47) was fourth woman and Stroller Wendy Chapman was fifth (53.57) in the race won by Holly Archer of Cambridge and Coleridge (48.42).