the wilder uplands of Allendale for this year’s Hexhamshire Hobble,
a handful of Morpeth’s veteran men chose instead to take advantage
of the age-related handicaps on offer in the comparatively calmer
and certainly much flatter Blyth Sands Race the same morning,(4th December)
and they were rewarded with two age category awards and a first team prize.
The annual Sands race, generously hosted once again by Blyth Running Club,
sees competitors run off age and gender related handicaps
in a 5 mile run from Blyth to Seaton Sluice and back.
In a nod to its origins (a challenge from Blyth based rowers to the town’s runners many years ago),
oars are planted in the sand at either end of the beach to mark the turning points in the race,
and as runners round them, these often give a clue to how fixed handicaps are unravelling.
In contrast with last year’s challenging full tide and consequent narrow strip of sand,
2016’s race was run on a low tide, giving competitors the chance to round
the bottom end of the three groynes on the beach (thus avoiding the dreaded ‘groyne strain’),
although towards Seaton Sluice runners reported some tricky rivulets and soft sand,
with many regretting not bringing a change of dry socks.
The race was won by Elswick Over 65 veteran Mark Mcnally
in a time of 26 minutes 57 seconds off a 9 minute handicap
with female Over 50 veteran Jacqueline Keavney
(who had travelled all the way from Richmond) in second place in 27m 8s.
First home for Morpeth was Under 18 Jake Masterman, 5th in a time of 28m 13s (the third fastest time of the day).
Next home for Morpeth in 7th place (29m 1s) was Gavin Bayne who was also the fastest Over 60 man.
Twenty years after his last appearance in the race, it was a nostalgic run for one of the club’s leading veterans
as he ruefully recalled the days when the club’s ‘hard men’
would run to Blyth from Morpeth via Bedlington – and then home again.
Not far behind him were Morpeth’s Over 50 veterans Paul Waterston and Phil Walker.
Running neck and neck for most of the race, Waterston only nudged ahead
of his training partner in the last quarter of a mile.
While Waterston (9th in 29m 28s) picked up the Over 50 prize,
it was a welcome return for Walker, 12th in 29m 28s,
in his first serious competitive outing since breaking toes in Bothal Woods over the summer,
and also coincidentally his first race in the blue and white since moving up an age category.
With Masterman not counting for the team, Morpeth’s team count was made up by
Peter Scaife, 14th in 30m 12s and 3rd O/55, and the club were in consequence
comfortably winners of the team prize ahead of host club Blyth and Elswick Harriers.
Not far behind Scaife were O/65 Richard Sill (21st in 31m 16s), Archie Jenkins (43rd in 33m 35s)
and Andrew Richardson (59th in 35m) who all also had good run-outs.