SUNDERLAND Harrier Brian Rushworth will defend his North East Vending Penshaw Hill race title tonight following his dramatic win last year.
The 50-year-old Penshaw kingpin is one of the leading entries on the programme, but there is always a chance that a surprise package will turn up tonight with a late entry.
That happened last year when fell running international Nick Swinburn lined up on the start line as the clear favourite to lift his second title after turning up unexpectedly.
But it was not to be. It was Rushworth who claimed his 18th title in the 22nd event after he seized the initiative after the 24-year-old Swinburn went off course.
The Morpeth Harrier, the 2008 winner, had won the award for the first athlete to reach the monument first on the opening lap. But after turning around the pillars of the famous monument, he suddenly darted down the hill, in true fell runner style, heading back to the start.
He had gone off course. It was only the shouts of the spectators that brought him back on to the right track. Rushworth had now found himself in the lead, facing an almighty battle to hang onto his surprise 18 seconds gift.
Swinburn closed him down rapidly, but it was a dogged Rushworth that just prevailed by three seconds, to pull off one of the most astonishing victories of his athletics career.
Although now 50, Rushworth is far from a spent force and he is still expected to be involved in the sharp end of the race which is on course for one of its best entries in years.
Sunderland Harrier Michelle Holt again lines up as one of the favourites for the women’s race having won the title four times.
The race starts at 7.15pm and late entries will be taken at the bottom of the monument. The presentation of awards will take place in the Monument pub afterwards. The presentation night will also include the awarding of prizes to Sunderland Harriers cross country grand prix winners and the presentation of the under-17 women’s Harrier League trophy to winners Sunderland.
H Sunderland Harrier Craig Isherwood, third in the Sunderland half marathon, lines up as one of the favourites in the inaugural National Trust Durham Coast Half Marathon on Sunday.
The event is sold out with 250 runners expected. The best places for viewing the race, as well as at the start and finish lines, are: Cotsford Field near Lime Kiln Gill car park in Horden, Hawthorn Dene, Castle Eden Dene and footpaths around Easington Colliery, Blackhall Colliery and Blackhall Rocks.
The race starts at Nose’s Point, Seaham at 10am and the challenging hilltop route ends at Crimdon Dene, near Hartlepool.
National Trust ranger Wayne Appleton, the event organiser, said: “I’m really looking forward to the big day. We’re hoping it will become a regular date in the local running calendar, attracting competitors from far and wide to the Durham coast.
H Crook athlete Markim Lonsdale, 14, went to the top of the under-15 UK rankings for 800m after clocking 1.55.8 in winning the B race in the British Milers’ Club Grand Prix at Durham on Monday night. Sunderland Harrier Nathan Reed finished fourth in a personal best of 1.56.3. There were also PBs for Birtley athlete Lydia Turner, 16, (2.15.5) and Houghton Harrier Ben Mitchell (2.09.2), in winning their races.
H Houghton Harrier Steve Todner had a hat trick of win s in the North East Veterans Athletics League at Monkton on Monday. He won the V50 100m (13.4), 200m (27.5) and 800m (2.30.0). Sunderland Harriers had wins through Georege Harden V50 1500m (5.08.2), Sandra Jackson W40 200m (30.7) and Graham Lee V45 200m (26.9).
H On Saturday, the County Schools track and field championships take place at Monkton and also on Sunday nearly 4000 runners will compete in the Blaydon Race from Newcastle to Blaydon (3.00pm).