Park gets ready for huge event

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THOUSANDS of runners will converge on Herrington Country Park next February for the National Cross Country Championships.

Sunderland City Council and the English Cross Country Association (ECCA) are working together to stage the 2013 English Championships at the park on Saturday, February 23.

This is the second time that the event has been held in Sunderland, following the successful event in 2007.

The organisers are hoping to build on that success and that of this year’s championships held at Parliament Hill Fields in London, which attracted more than 4,000 competitors and an equal number of spectators.

Leading national cross country officials were at the park on Sunday morning to run their eye over the courses. There have been changes to the routes that were used in 2007 and the officials gave the local organisers the thumbs up to the new format.

The layout of the park with its many criss-cross tarmac and hardcore paths does not make it easy to design a cross country course covering up to a 4k lap. But the organisers are confident they have overcome the problems to develop a course, which is both a real test of cross country running and is also spectator friendly.

There have also been changes made to the car parking arrangements, due to the grassy car parks on the site being vulnerable to wet weather. A free park and ride from the Enterprise Park at Wessington Way will be used to ferry runners and spectators to and from the course.

The 350 acre site at Herrington Country Park will host a ten race programme, with male and female races for five age groups from the under-13s through to seniors.

The highlight of the day will be the start of the senior men’s race when up to 1500 senior men will start from a 100 metre wide starting area.

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: “We are all delighted that the English Cross Country Association has decided to return to the city to host the 2013 national championships.

“Their decision not only shows their confidence in Sunderland’s proven ability to stage high profile sporting and cultural events, but also in the strength and enthusiasm of the local athletic and sporting community to support the event.”

“We all look forward to welcoming competitors, spectators and visitors from across the country to take part, and the chance to show everyone again on the national stage what a fantastic venue Sunderland provides.”

H Former Sunderland Harrier Patrick Martin recorded the third fastest time when steering his club Stockport Harriers to the bronze medals in the National Cross Country relays at Mansfield. He clocked 15.21 to finish just three seconds behind his clubmate Steve Vernon, who was the fastest runner on the course.

H Sunderland Harrier Craig Isherwood won the first running of the Locke Park Charity Charge multi-terrain race at Barnsley which attracted 60 runners. The fun event was to raise money for Children In Need. Isherwood won by over three minutes, clocking 33.21.

H Heaton Harriers stage their Memorial Road Races at Exhibition Park, Newcastle on Sunday. The senior race has already nearly hit the limit of 600 runners.

Timetable: 9.45am Under-11 boys/girl, 9.55 Under-13 boys/girls, 10.10 Under-15 boys/girls, 10.25 Under-17 men/women & Under 20 Junior men/women, 11.00 Senior/veteran men/women 10 km.

At 11:00am there will be one minute silence for Remembrance Sunday to precede the main race.

10k Course records: Senior/Veteran Men: Jonathan Taylor Morpeth Harriers 30:04 (2009) Senior/Veteran Women: Clare Simpson, Chester-le-St AC 36:25 (2009).