Strollers hope runners coast it

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SUNDERLAND Strollers are putting together the final touches to their preparations for their 14th annual Pier-to-Pier race on Sunday.

Around 800 postal entries have been received and the Strollers’ race secretary Phil Tweddle is expecting that this number should grow to around the 1,000 mark with on-the-day late entries.

The 7.5 miles race starts on the beach at South Shields at 10am and continues along the cliff top paths past Marsden Rock, Souter Point Lighthouse and then on to the beach at Whitburn before the leaders finish at Roker Pier just after 10.30am. Runners are free to decide whatever route to take, but they must keep off the highway.

With the leading runners nearly always leaving it until the day before entering, it is difficult to forecast any likely winners.

But Claremont’s Brendan McMillan, who has competed in all the Pier-to-Pier races and won last year (41.37) will be back again to defend his title. New Marske’s Garry Grounds, who has featured in the top three, is also a leading light.

Durham City Harrier Rosie Smith, who missed out on former Houghton Harrier Sheila Allen’s 2001 record by 28 seconds last year when she recorded 42.41 to finish eighth overall to win the women’s race, is not among the early entries.

But Michelle Holt, runner-up last year and a four-times winner, is the second fastest woman on the course with her 42.14 clocking from 2008, is expected to turn out.

The men’s course record is held by Sunderland Harrier Tim Field with his 36.44 run from 2001.

Sunderland Strollers challenge is expected to be led by Tim Allsop and veteran Steve McMahon. The leading Sunderland Harriers’ down on the entry list are veterans Paul Redman and Jon Dobson. They will meet up again with former training pal Roger Wilson, who moved to Warwickshire and competes for Stratford-upon-Avon in the West Midlands. The 70-year-old is entered under Sunderland Harriers in the Pier-to-Pier race and he goes into the event after winning his category in the Shakespeare Half Marathon in 1.41.08 last month.

Entries on the day are available before 9.30am at £17.

H Craig Isherwood again did a double of racing on consecutive days over the weekend. The Sunderland Harrier won the Sunderland parkrun on Saturday in 17.12 before heading for the Middlesbrough 5k on Sunday. There he clocked a personal best for the distance of 16.32 for eighth position in a race that had 1,063 finishers. The previous weekend he had finished eighth in the Sunderland 10k after racing to a personal best the previous day in the parkrun. His novel approach to his racing plans has also seen him competing in the parkrun before racing again in the afternoon.

Clubmate Alan Hodgson also recorded a PB at Middlesbrough, finishing 12th in 17.28.

Sunderland Stroller Derek Wright was the second over-60 in 99th (20.25) with Bill Ferguson of North Yorks Moors winning in 20 minutes exactly. Sunderland Harriers over-60s Jim Wightman was third in the category with 20.45 and Bill Bittlestone was fifth (21.32).

The race winner was Morpeth veteran Ian Hudspith in14.58 and the women’s victor was Wallsend’s Stacey Rogers (17.55).

H Next Wednesday evening the North East Athletics League takes place at Monkton and North Shields Poly hosts the Clive Cookson 10k Cup race from Monkseaton.