LITTLE-KNOWN runner Paul Wilson won his biggest ever race with victory in the redspottedhanky.com Marathon of North from the Stadium of Light yesterday.
The Hartlepool Burn Road Harrier, who could only finish ninth in his own clubs low-key Old Monks race in January, made it a winning debut over the classic distance.
He went into the race with only one performance close to the marathon distance to his name – the East Hull 20-miler, where he finished seventh in a modest 1.58.17 in March.
But past form went out of the window in his first test over the classic distance, taking the race by the scruff of the neck and winning by nearly three minutes in 2.43.32.
After passing the 20k marker at Grangetown in 1.14.30, he held a 90 seconds lead.
And as he passed through Backhouse Park and Barnes Park the gap continued to grow, reaching 30k (Stadium of Light) in 1.52.54, ahead of the eventual second and third placed athletes, Andrew Pearson (New Marske) 1.53.55 and Ian Bloomfield (Chester-le-Street) 1.57.31.
Now down on to the seafront and to the turn at Whitburn, the novice Wilson was in full flight, sniffing his first ever race victory.
Racing like a true champion, he negotiated the final hilly section of the course through Roker Park and then just ahead of him was the Stadium of Light and the crowds at the finish.
He breasted the tape and gasped: “That was a really tough course, there were some steep hills, but I suppose it suited me because I won.’’
Pearson recorded 2.46.30 for second and Bloomfield, at the age of 59, astonished onlookers by taking an amazing third place in 2.51.25.
That performance, over a course that everyone thought was tough and challenging, was remarkable.
It would have won the Fulwell-born Bloomfield the over-55 title on the much faster London Marathon course.
The former international, with a best during his heydays of 2.17.42, was delighted with his performance on this, ironically, his 59th marathon.
“I was running well until Whitburn before I slowed to seven minute, 10 seconds mile pace. I was struggling, but I knew I did not have far to go.
“This race was always in my plans, it is my home town and I wanted to do well.’’
Now the Chester-le-Street athlete has bigger plans ahead: “I’m going to have an attack on the over-60s British marathon record in San Sebastian in November.
“It comes just a couple of days after my 60th birthday. The time I have to beat is 2.46.46. I think I’m capable of doing it, as it is a much faster course than Sunderland.’’
Sunderland Harrier Paul Redman kept the Wearsiders’ flag flying with a gutsy sixth place (2.54.40), moving through from ninth at 30k.
It was also his lucky day as he was told he had won the draw at the marathon treadmill test during the build-up to the race at The Bridges.
He won two tickets for the Manchester United game next Sunday, a £100 Bridges shopping voucher and a Steve Cram signed world mile record-breakers picture.
Sunderland Strollers had Paul Roper in 23rd (3.02.34), Kevin Blyth 37th (3.07.47), Steve Rankin 49th (3.12.15), Ken Girwood 68th (3.18.38), Steve McMahon 69th (3.18.40) and Paul Dunlop 75th (3.19.45).
The women’s race was won by Susanne Hunter (Blyth) in 3.24.53 from Catherine Young 3.25.37 and Jessica Riches (3.26.59).