An intrepid trio of Tyne Bridge Harriers (well, two TBH’s and an honorary member) ran in the Nissan Sunderland 10k Run for Japan this Sunday, eagerly anticipating a fast flat course around the Nissan assembly plant, with two laps through the body and paint shops and around the export assembly compounds.
Paul James of Nissan and Wallsend Harriers had done a great job pulling together the logistics, and an ITV news crew from Tyne Tees were there to record the event.
Like Steve Ovett in Oslo 1980, Sparrow Morley, Emily Collinge and Dan Birchall were sensing that the local conditions and flat course could bring out season best performances, and under the steely gaze of ‘Shades’ Kirtley, warmed up among a strong field of club runners.
Fifteen minutes to go, and Sparrow Morley, using Deka’s Textbook of Race Preparation, consumed two Cadbury’s cream eggs, a packet of Haribo and a can of Coke, on the basis that “it makes me go faster”. However, the main concern was whether the blustery conditions would derail attempts for SB performances – although later unanticipated events would prove much more disruptive….
At the start line, the Tyne Tees cameras were spotted 50 yards ahead of us, and never missing a marketing opportunity, two TBH vests were clearly visible in the middle of the front row for the start for the ITV screening later in the day. Once the Nissan LEAF electric car was in place at the head of the course as the pace car, there was a minute’s silence in memory of the tsunami victims, and then the bid for SB performances commenced….
The Flying Sparrow shot off right from the start and joined the front-runners, clocking close to 5:30 mile pace. The Haribos were clearly having an effect. Could this be Sparrow’s day? Emily Collinge and Dan Birchall ran in tandem for the first two miles at 6:00 – 6:15 pace, before Emily sensed an opportunity to be leading lady and pushed on ahead. Conditions were not easy, however, with a strong wind to contend with on long stretches of the course. Still, at the half-way stage, all three runners were in a great position to record SB’s, until disaster struck at the 3.5 mile mark….
The leading pack including Sparrow was inexplicably directed in the wrong direction, and once the marshals had realised their mistake, an incredulous Emily found herself suddenly in a new leading pack, following the LEAF pace car. Because of the error, Sparrow had to run an additional mile, as well as spend valuable time trying to find the correct route. In the meantime, Dan was clocking the mile markers and to his own astonishment was sensing that his first sub-40 was there for the taking…
Emily was indefatigable and picked off the runners in the new leading group one by one, and by the time she hit the final straight, behind the pace car and in front of the TV cameras and cheering crowds she had built up a commanding lead, and ‘took the tape’ in a brilliant 38:09, a SB and not far from her PB.
… and this is how she did it (another shades production)
A minute later, Dan turned the corner and came home as first V45, with a PB time of 39:28 and a first sub-40 to his name.
The delight of our two runners was dampened when they heard the disaster that had befallen Sparrow, who steamed down the straight shortly after, dramatically passing two Wallsend runners in the last 20 yards. But it was nevertheless a fantastic performance from the Sparrow, who must have been running at SB pace.
The course was excellent, and in less windy conditions the times could have been even better. It remains to be seen if the race will be staged again, but despite marshalling issues, it’s a course that has the potential to become a classic. It certainly provided another memorable day for the Tyne Bridge Harriers.