Sunderland Harriers stage the Northern Athletics 12-Stage Road Relay and Women’s Six-Stage Championship for the first time since 2007 at Silksworth Sports Complex on Saturday.
The Wearsiders came to the rescue of Northern Athletics when the original venue at Stockport became unavailable through building work on the course.
The city club has a wealth of experience of putting on events of this type, having staged previously four 12-stage relays and four six-stage relays at Silksworth, including the National Championship in 1994.
Club secretary Michael Hill said: “We were only too pleased to give our time and expertise to putting on this prestigious event when asked if we could by the North.
“It is an important event on the endurance runners’ schedule and we wanted to ensure that we did not lose it.
“It is a tight compact course that lends itself to good spectator viewing with the start and finish on the track.
“The leading clubs from around the North will be here and it should be a quality race for all those involved.”
“There are only slight changes to the course of 2007, with the start and finish being on the track this time.
“You take in the big lake in the opposite direction to the last time we were here, then it’s up the steep hill at the back of the track to avoid the one-way traffic system before you drop back down to the track.
“There are eight short legs of approximately two miles and the four long legs are over two laps, making it four miles.”
The first 25 teams to finish are invited to the National Championships at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday, April 16.
The Elswick Harriers’ Good Friday Road Relays at Newburn was used by many clubs as the final trial for the championship relay.
Sunderland Harriers finalised their team after the race and have the maximum of two teams entered with their A team from: Andy Powell, Steve McMahon, Steve Rankin, Matt Devlin, Andy Jones, Michael Thompson, Kevin Jeffress, Mark Smith. Michael Edwards, Mark Hood, Liam Roarty, Ian Dixon and Michael Laws.
Club team manager Albert James said: “We have a couple missing in Nathan Reed, who is on holiday, and Michael Wilson. But that is to be expected during the Easter holidays.”
“It is still a team that I expect to beat our position of 2007, where we finished 11th. A place in the top 10 is our aim and anything higher will be a bonus.
“There are doubts over the fitness of Matt Jones, who missed out on the Mermaid 10k on Good Friday through a calf injury. Michael Edwards is standing-by.’’
The Sunderland women’s team is at full strength with Jess Fox, Michelle Avery, Alice Smith, Sarah O’Mahoney, Judith Thirlwell and Nicola Woodward. Sunderland Strollers have men’s and women’s teams entered.
The relay starts at 11.30am and the women’s is off at 11.35.
Runners were given an out of this world opportunity to race under the darkest night skies in England. The Trail Outlaws Dark Skies Run at Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland, took place on Saturday.
Kielder was awarded gold tier Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark Skies Association, making it the perfect venue for the ultimate starlit running challenge.
The Dark Skies Kielder Run was won by Jayson Cavill (Montane) in 3.14.22. Sunderland Stroller John Cook was third (3.24.13), and Jamie Collin was fourth (3.24.19). Houghton Harrier Steve Johnson finished fifth (3.30.26). A field of 243 finished the run. Stroller Rachael Ball was fifth woman in 3.58.51.
Congratulations to Houghton Harriers’ Matthew Lumb and Philippa Ellis for winning gold and silver medals respectively at the North Eastern Counties AA Indoor Pentathlon Championships at Gateshead.