Sunderland Harriers begin the defence of the North Eastern Harrier League First Division title at Wrekenton on Saturday.
The Wearsiders won the title for the first time since 2010 at Wrekenton in March this year.
But, this time, the event clashes with the Kielder marathon, half marathon and 10k weekend and Sunderland may be slightly weakened by the doubling up of the fixtures.
Team manager Albert James, the architect of Sunderland’s victory, is in Kielder, after booking his accommodation immediately after last year’s event and before the Harrier League fixtures were determined.
His absence and leadership will be greatly missed, but he has put in place a strategy that should lighten the blow and delegated the management to other team members.
The league has been struggling to find venues for the other five fixtures that can cater for the growing number of athletes and spectators that attend the events.
Car parking availability, with places for up to 1000 cars, is now one of the main issues for a club who volunteer to host an event.
Sunderland Harriers were forced to give up their popular Farringdon course a few years ago due for car parking problems.
Also, the course was proving too small for the growing number of athletes taking part.
A total of 3641 runners are so far registered to take part this season and this will rise significantly as the season progresses.
Sunderland Strollers and Wearside Athletics network have come forward to host a fixture and this will be held at Herrington Country Park on Saturday, January 7.
There is also a new fixture on Saturday, November 26 at Thornley Hall Farm, Peterlee.
It also doubles up with another event held there on Saturday, February 11. The other dates are: Sunday, October 9- Druridge Bay and Saturday, March 4 – Alnwick.
At Wrekenton on Saturday, Sunderland Harriers will be relying on slow pack runners Jason Waite, Mark Head, Matthew Davison and Paul Blakey, in the six-to-count 10k approx handicap race.
Rio Olympian Alyson Dixon will compete in the Kielder 10k on Saturday. The Sunderland Stroller holds the women’s course record with 35.59 from 2012.
Sunderland Harrier Under-20 Jessica Fox defends her title won in 41.02 last year. The 10k is sold out.
Michael Barker added the Trail Outlaws Penshaw Pieces of Eight half marathon on Sunday to his list of trail race victories this year.
The Sunderland Harrier recorded 1.31.07 to defeat Dan Richardson of North Shields (1.35.27).
This trail win is added to his first place finishers in the Fulwell Quarry 10k and Washington 10k.
He finished second in the Penshaw Pieces of Eight 10k in June to Luke Adams (South Shields).
Barker’s clubmate Steve Gordon was 13th on Sunday (1.48.12) and Steve Rankin was 18th (1.51.37). Vince Emmett was first Over-60 in 2.02.25. Michelle Avery was third woman to finish in 1.56.46.
Sunderland Stroller Chris Dwyer was eighth (1.44.42) and Lyne Valentine was first Over-60 woman in 2.09.33.
Sunderland Harrier GP Mathew Devlin, who has moved to Bristol, finished 27th in the city’s half marathon in 76.40.
Sunderland Harrier Over-35 Nicola Woodward and Over-60 Houghton Harrier Alan Readman both won gold in the North East Masters’ Pentathlon Championships at Monkton.
Woodward performances were: Shot (6.59), long jump (4.05), 200m (31.7) Javelin (22.36) and 800m (2.36.4), where she achieved her highest score of 600pts.
Readman scores were: Discus (23.34), long jump (4.42), 200m (28.7), javelin (22.31) and 800m (2.52.6). His best event was in the 200m where he scored 682 pts.
Other Houghton medallists were Luke Carrol third in the Under-17 Men’s pentathlon, Steve Eccleston bronze in the Over-70s and Liz Page third Over-50.