SUNDERLAND Strollers defend their team title in the fifth Run Sunderland Festival on Sunday May 3.
The Sunderland City 10k and Half Marathon start and finish at the Stadium of Light, and the Strollers will be chasing the £500 first team prize.
The organizers said: “We are proud to announce the successful Athletic Club Challenge returns to the Sunderland City 10K and Half Marathon.
“We urge all club runners to enter to maximise the chances of your club benefitting from the £500 first prize.”
“To qualify, clubs must have a minimum of three competitors in each event and at least one of those three must be female.
“The team with the lowest cumulative time from their best three performances in the 10K and Half Marathon, will be crowned Sunderland City Club Challenge winners.”
The Strollers last year also won a trip to the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Ireland when they beat their local rivals, Sunderland Harriers, to the title.
The Harriers had won the title for the previous three years, but the Strollers got a head start through Alyson Dixon’s superb sixth place (74.36) in the Half Marathon, sealing their win.
Michael Edwards in 14th (79.53) and Michael Laws 17th (80.42), supported Dixon in the team contest.
In the 10k, the Strollers placed Steve Rankin in fourth (34.54), Andy Powell 10th (36.59) and Gillian Ritchie 151st (46.37).
But this time the Strollers will face a greater threat, as all their men in their winning team have transferred to Sunderland Harriers over the last few months.
Steve McMahon, another leading Stroller, has also switched clubs and is likely to be in the Sunderland team on May 3.
Their performances have seen significant improvement and their previous best times in the Sunderland 10k and Half Marathon should come under revision next month.
They will join Craig Isherwood, Michael Barker, Kevin Jeffress and Jessica Fox, who were part of the Sunderland Harriers’ team that finished runners-up to the Strollers in 2014.
The Harriers will be looking for good performances from their women over the 10k and Half Marathon to ensure they are in the shake-up for first team prizes.
The female team is the weakest endurance section of the club, although with significant numbers turning up for training at their Silksworth Sports Complex base on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, it should be just a matter of time before they turn the corner.
The prize list for the Club Challenge is first team £500, second £200, third £100.
All Clubs affiliated to the national governing body will be eligible to compete.
Since the launch of the Sunderland City 10k in 2011, the annual festival of running has become an integral part of Sunderland’s events programme, as well as a key date on the region’s sporting calendar.
The Sunderland City Half Marathon and 10k routes are mainly based in the city centre and along the coastal road.
The course is very accessible for spectators, designed to encourage even more people to lend their support to the runners.
Event founder Steve Cram said: “The Half Marathon and 10k are now significant sporting events for both the city and the wider region.
“Once again, we’re really looking forward to seeing thousands of people pounding the streets of Sunderland, being cheered on by thousands more enthusiastic supporters.”
The entry fees for the Half Marathon will be £32/£34 and for the 10k they will be £23/£25.
There will be prizes for leading runners in several categories and all finishers of each race will receive a medal, technical t-shirt and goody bag.
The event organisers are expecting around 4,000 people to take part in the events.
For more information about the events, or to book a place on one of them, visit www.sunderlandcity10k.com.
The Blyth 10k Road Race is on Sunday (10am). There have been over 400 entries received. The entry limit is 600.
The start and finish is at Quay Road, Quayside, Blyth, NE24 3AR.
Ample parking near to start. No changing facilities. Entries on the day, if limit is not reached.
Course records: Men – Peter Newton (Morpeth) 30.33, 2011. Women – Rosie Smith (Durham) 34.12, 2014.
Also on Sunday is the Shildon Memorial track and field meeting.