Durham City Harriers host two relays at the university sports ground,
and Morpeth Harriers always make their presence felt
at the Cathedral Relays in January,
but rarely at this Summer Relay.
Last year a Morpeth Womens team took part
and were narrowly beaten by a highly talented
young team from Birtley in the Senior event ;
this year it was the Men who entered the fray,
in what proved to be a momentous struggle
between the teams from Morpeth,
Durham and Tyne Bridge
throughout the three 3km legs of the race.
The course was in perfect condition for fast times,
with a level playing field covered by a fine carpet of closely-mown grass.
The evening was calm and warm as the first leg runners assembled for the start.
Straight from the gun, Tom Straughan was up with the leaders,
putting in a typically dogged and competitive performance,
gradually edging away from Marc Fenwick of Tyne Bridge,
and keeping Durham first leg athlete Dan Jenkin’s
9min00s fastest leg of the day within reach, finishing in 9min10s,
just four seconds ahead of Tyne Bridge.
Morpeth’s second leg runner, Jordan Scott, tasked with keeping Morpeth
in contention in the middle section of the race, made this no easy amble,
inexorably gaining ground on Durham’s Alex Mirley until the latter
found something more in the second of his two laps and stretched away.
At the end of this second leg Tyne Bridge, after their 9m14s from Tom Charlton,
were narrowly in the lead from Durham ,
with Morpeth only four seconds behind them,
thanks to Jordan’s 9min35s.
With the three contenders in such close order at the start of the third and final leg,
it was nip and tuck for the next 3000m , sharp acceleration being applied by Chris Smith
of Morpeth at all the pressure points of corners and the short slope that splits the two levels of the sports ground,
in an attempt to break the spirit of James Dunce of Tyne Bridge and James Askew of Durham.
With 300m to go, however, they were still together, and around the broad curve of the edge of the cricket pitch,
Dunce made his move. A moment later Askew responded, and then finally Chris changed gear and went hell for leather,
taking Durham and then Tyne Bridge, holding on desperately for the win
by just one second from Tyne Bridge, and six seconds from Durham.
Chris’s time of 9m04s was the day’s second fastest,
with Tom equal third fastest , and Jordan 13th fastest, together producing
a tremendous team performance against 42 other Senior Mens teams.
This was a great race with a spectacular finish, on an excellent course for a short relay which is also
easily accessible for spectators ~ perhaps in future there will be more teams entered from Morpeth.
Report by Chris Waugh