Sunderland Harrier Mark Hood continued his fightback to full fitness in the Riverside parkrun at Chester-le-Street on Saturday.
The 5k course was revamped to cut out a muddy grass section, but it still had icy conditions to contend with and marshals to run around to turn the 240 runners up the other side of tight pathways.
Apart from the conditions that slowed times, this did not concern Hood too much, as his main aim was to put in a performance that would give him the confidence to move forward with his training.
He managed to do that by beating his time of the previous week by 65 seconds to finish in 19min 5sec for seventh place. This was more than four minutes outside his best of 15.01, set in 2013, but, more significantly, the foot injury that has bothered him since 2013 seems to be on the mend.
Hood, a three-time North Eastern Counties Cross Country champion, said: “I’ve just got to be careful and manage it. I’m getting out training once and sometimes twice a day and the fitness is gradually improving.
“It is a slow job, but I feel I am getting there.’’
The 34-year-old’s last race for the Harriers was in June, 2014, when he won the Lambton Challenge at Burnmoor.
Clubmate and marathon man Noel Hitchcock finished third in 17.35 in the event won by Durham University student Robin Linten (17.09).
The Sunderland parkrun was won by Sunderland Harrier Andy Powell in 16.20 – two seconds outside his best. Clubmate Michael Laws was second (17.12) and Michael Edwards finished third in a PB of 17.26. The first woman was Michelle Avery in sixth (16.33).
The fastest parkrun time in the North East was clocked by 45-year-old veteran Ian Hudspith, with a clocking of 15.20 at Newcastle’s Town Moor.