Great Good Friday!
It was a sterling effort by Elswick Harriers to stage their annual Good Friday Relays. Frantic discussions had taken place in the days before as to whether it would go ahead. An electric pylon was being refurbished and this was on the usual, looped course. A new route was quickly sorted (2.25 miles for the senior and veteran men and women) and the 2012 race was saved!
Leodhais had a 1.25 mile sprint in the under 13 boys’ race. This is not his ideal distance, he would much have preferred a few hills, grass and a bit of mud too. However, he whipped around the race in a time of 7 minutes and 15 seconds. It’s great to see Leodhais battling in various different distances and terrains. Well done!
The first leg runners of the senior and veteran men and women’s relay race set off together at 11.40am. Paul Hilton and Kevin Jefress were side by side in the first mile. Paul’s experience and relentless determination drove him on to a superb time (11mins 45secs) and the 1st veteran to cross the line on the first leg. He handed over to Keith Smith. Whilst nursing a niggle and not having decided to run until the previous day, Keith set about his task with gusto. He ran strongly to almost match Paul’s time with 11mins 49 seconds.
I always suffer from nerves before races but when it comes to a relay it’s ten times worse! The fear of having a poor run and letting your team mates (and close friends) down actually drives me to perform at my very best. I’ve never had a bad run in a relay event. Usually the nerves disappear as soon as I start my leg but today I was still feeling that way for the first half mile! Kenny Mac shouted at me to keep as close as I could to the Morpeth runner as he was currently in second and we were clear in third place. I did my best, 11 mins 54 seconds, and handed over to the Flying Scotsman. Morpeth were holding a 13 second advantage over us.
All around the 2.25 miles, I was cheered and encouraged by Tyne Bridge members and supporters. It really lifted me and spurred me on. It’s not just my opinion, it’s a fact that TBH had the biggest and most enthusiastic presence around the course.
Kenny set off with the Blue and White of Morpeth firmly in his sights. He knew that he had less than 12 minutes to close the gap on one of their star runners, Phil Walker. The gap stayed roughly the same until Kenny hit the final half mile. Phil Walker was tiring and Kenny was winding his pace up to the maximum! As he came into the final 400 meters Phil’s form had gone, he looked tired. Kenny’s long legs were drawing him closer and closer to the silver medal position. As Kenny passed the TBH supporters he got not a single word of encouragement…we didn’t want to warn Phil Walker of his heroic charge. As finish line drew nearer, one spectator was heard to remark, “He’ll never catch him.” Phil Walker made a fatal mistake of pausing just before the line whilst Kenny dipped forward at full speed and burst over the finish line to take second place, as Morpeth’s website report later reported, “by a whisker.” Thank goodness for Kenny’s whiskers!
Paul and I obviously hadn’t worked hard enough as we were able to sprint across to jump onto Kenny. But first there was to be a stewards’ enquiry. Had Kenny crossed the line before Phil? Very sporting behaviour from Phil Walker as he conceded that, in his opinion, Kenny had beaten him to the line. One of the officials later told me that, following a discussion, it had been decided that we had grabbed second and Morpeth were third.
The vets B team finished 5th which was a great performance. Dave Embleton and David Appleby had particularly good runs.
Senior men had a solid performance in the absence of some of our super sprinters and finished 15th.
A few words about our amazing women…I’m sure they will enjoy writing their own report about their achievements. They finished an incredible 4th. It’s been said before, but its worth repeating, the TBH Ladies have come on in leaps and bounds (literally!) in 2012. Fresh from their promotion to Division 1 in the Harrier League, they are now showing that they’re a force to be reckoned with on the North-East roads.
I’ve written mainly about the veterans’ race as that was the one I ran in. However, I was quite taken aback by the scale of the Tyne Bridge presence at this event and by the camaraderie of our club. The roar that greeted Steve Allerdyce as he came around the final corner was immense. Some people must have thought he was leading the field!
Last year this was the first event that we took part in as a team in the North East, how far we have come! The future’s bright, the future’s black and white!