Warm spring sunshine was tempered by some strong March gusts, but such conditions proved no match for the in-form George Lowry, who placed 10th on the first long leg, posting a time of 23:55 for the 8k double lap of Birkenhead Park – after cutting it with the leaders on the first of the two laps. On second leg for Morpeth was the mercurial Joe Armstrong, who looks to be transitioning from winter to summer in fantastic form following a 14:54 PB in the recent Armagh 5k road race. Armstrong produced a strong leg, elevating Morpeth from 10th to 8th on leg two – clocking 11:52 for the 4km short leg. Leg three (the second long leg) saw Andy Lawrence – currently in full marathon training ahead of London – enter the fray. Morpeth workhorse T.E. Lawrence consolidated the work of Armstrong and Lowry, by handing over to James Young in 8th place with a clocking of 24:48. Lawrence said of his run later: ‘I don’t care what they say, child birth is nothing compared to mile 23 in the marathon’ – as he headed off for a 14-mile cool down. Animal.
Avery – ‘very much’ Morpeth’s ‘leading light’ – produced an absolute stonker of a performance to bring Morpeth home in third place on the third long leg. Avery’s clocking of 23:11 was 2nd fastest of the leg behind Leeds’ Northern XC Champion, Emile Cairess, and the 5th fastest long leg clocking overall.
Morpeth were not only into the minor medal places, but chasing down Sheffield in second place.
It was now the turn of Phil Winkler on leg six to continue the Morpeth charge,
and the Leeds-based Northumbrian showed all of his pedigree by closing the gap
on second place to a mere seven seconds with a clocking of 12:00.
Morpeth were now perfectly poised to make an assault on the medals, and had the optimum firepower on leg seven (the fourth and final long leg) to launch the barrage on Sheffield in the form of Ady Whitwam. Whitwam showed all of his military valour in chasing down Sheffield, but was overtaken at the midway point on the leg by Liverpool’s A. Rutherford. Whitwam’s clocking of 25:20 brought Morpeth in just outside of a minute behind Liverpool.
The ever-improving Tom Innes illustrated his senior pedigree as he showed tremendous spirit in consolidating 5th place for Morpeth Harriers on leg eleven, with his clocking of 12:42 proving to be quicker than his leg at last year’s edition of the race. Innes handed over to Jordan Scott on last leg, who managed to clock 12:38 for the final leg of the day – cracking haircut, even better anchor leg.
Collectively, Morpeth produced their highest finish in the Northern Championships since their bronze medal winning performance of 2016. Not only can the Morpeth team be well satisfied with their performance, but they can also be as optimistic heading into the National 12-stage Championships at Birmingham on Saturday, April 6th, with several of their top runners set to return. This includes the enigmatic Ian Harding, who has recently placed 1st and 2nd in a 10k and Half Marathon respectively in Lebanon over the past week. As club president, Jimmy Alder M.B.E. said of Harding after yesterday’s event: ‘
That man could be so, so good, but if there was a rocket to the moon, he would be the first name on that list.’
Report by Jordan Scott
Photos courtesy of Phil Winkler and George Young