SUNDERLAND Harrier Mark Hood, the only runner to complete the full course during the half marathon and marathon in the Sunderland Festival of Running, hopes the recent negative publicity about the races does not damage the events future.
The adverse race issues hit national newspapers, TV and radio and they all had a field day in making the most of the situation at the expense of the organisers of the Sunderland Festival.
Hood said: “I just hope all this publicity about the short course does not put the future of the event in jeopardy. Steve Cram and his team have done a great job in bringing a big event like this to the city. Sunderland needs an event like this.
“It was unfortunate that the event has been dented by the short course problem and I feel for the runners behind me who did not get their correct time for the full distance.
“It was a fantastic feeling for me running through the streets of Sunderland and getting a lot of support. The whole experience of the race day was tremendous.’’
The 31-year-old won the half marathon by 43 seconds in 1.11.07, after being 90 seconds ahead at the ten-mile marker at Barnes Park.
Hood, a 66 minute half marathon runner, said after finishing the race: “I was surprised the group behind me had closed me down. I pushed on over the final miles and I thought I had extended my lead.”
On finishing the race, he missed out on the applause of the crowd, as he was hidden among the 10k finishers at the end of their race. Another problem the organisers could have done without.
While Hood was surrounded by three cyclist outriders and a lead car, the pack behind were running alone and Hood was out of their sightline.
It was near the finish at the Sheepfolds, outside the Stadium of Light, where the race went wrong, with the group behind Hood missing out a circuit that took in Wilson Street and Brooke Street. This resulted in the rest of the half marathon and marathon runners following suit, cutting off 264 metres of the course.
The runners immediately behind Hood found their finishing times were around a minute faster than they should have clocked.
Although some of them knew immediately on finishing that they had run a short course, as they were wearing a garmin (a satellite navigation watch) which showed the shortened distance.
Now Hood, a Chester-le-Street school teacher, and three times North East cross country champion, is preparing his next races through the summer.
“I’m looking to the Blaydon race on June 9 as my next big race, but I want to get a 5k in before that,’’ he said.
On October 27, he intends to pace his former clubmate, Patrick Martin, to half way when he makes his marathon debut in the Frankfurt Marathon.
“I’m looking to go under 70 minutes as Patrick wants to dip below 2hr 20min,” he added.
H Sunderland Harriers travel to Sutton Coldfield on Saturday for the National Veterans’ Road Relay Championships.
The team for the six-stage race is Brian Rushworth, Brian Bewick, Paul Merrisoon, Paul Redman, Jon Dobson and Tim Field.
H Tonight the second North Eastern Grand Prix is staged at Monkton at 7.00pm. The Wallsend Harriers’ Gordon Smith Relays also takes place.