Last weekend saw the Mo Farah show descend upon the North East for the
Great North weekend of athletics – beginning with the Great North 5k on a dismal Saturday morning,
concluding with the Great North Run on a much sunnier Sunday morning.
The veneration of Great Britain’s most decorated, and successful,
runner commenced with his jogging of the 5k event,
before an honest victory over the half-marathon distance on the Sunday.
The circus surrounding Farah, and the exhausting overkill of attention given to charity,
may have overshadowed some brilliant performances by the North East’s leading athletic lights,
but did not completely veil them from us: not least the performances of the
North East’s leading athletic club, and National 12-stage Road Relay champions, Morpeth Harriers.
Morpeth were led home by club stalwart, and heartbeat of the club’s senior men’s team
for over two decades, Ian Hudspith, clocking a superb 1:06:08 to finish 15th overall.
Morpeth’s NECAA 10K champion, and brightest prospect, Carl Avery, demonstrated
his pedigree by setting new figures of 1:08:47 to place 25th. Avery’s previous best for the distance was 72:00,
set in the same event twelve months ago. Avery had hoped to ‘dip under 68:00 if [he] had a blinder’,
but also said of his performance that he is ‘satisfied’, and credits the work of his coach,
Jimmy Alder, for his unrelenting progression toward the pinnacle of NE distance running.
Avery added: ‘hopefully this will give me (and the other lads)
great strength for this coming XC season – bring on the mud. It has been a while.’
Ryan Stephenson provided consummate support, clocking 1:11:04 to finish 33rd,
to round off a solid summer campaign on the roads. By contrast,
Morpeth’s Andy Lawrence and Karl Taylor were less satisfied finishing
42nd (1:12:35) and 52nd (1:14:45) respectively.
Lawrence had hoped to improve on his previous best of 70:14
(set at Reading in March), but found that ‘warm, and, at times, windy’ conditions
were compounded by ‘tough, undulating later sections of the course.’
Using Jimmy Alder-style rhetoric, Lawrence intimated that ‘it was not a great day at the office.’
Taylor, with a 10k PB of 32:10 (2013), and a half-marathon best of 72:00 (set at Druridge Bay earlier this year),
had hoped to set new figures, but arrived late, owing to public transport issues,
and described his performance as ‘below average’.
An encouraging start to what promises to be another winter of Morpeth dominance over the country and the roads.
Other notable performances were: Lewis Timmins 71st (1:16:46); Matthew Boyle 86th (1:18:13);
Mark Snowball 180th (1:21:16); Michael Skeldon 462nd (1:26:38); Andrew Richardson 787th (1:29:54);
Steve Haswell 1103rd (1:32:28); Michael McKean 1449th (1:34:29);
Mark Crosby 1603rd (1:35:22); Anthony Wilkinson 1865th (1:36:47);
Hamish McAllister Williams 1888th (1:36:54).
In the Elite Women’s event, won by Mary Keitany in a time of 1:07:32,
Morpeth’s Josie Cram posted a time of 1:29:55, which points toward another
successful winter for one of the club’s leading female competitors.
In the 5k event, the curtain-raiser to a fantastic weekend of athletics competition,
Gateshead’s Jed Marshall produced a convincing victory on a rain-drenched Quayside,
clocking a time of 15:40 in testing conditions. Marshall was made to work, however,
as Morpeth’s Kevin Calvert signed off his summer campaign with a respectable
clocking of 15:50 to finish second. Calvert described his run as ‘solid, but nothing special.’
That said, on an undulating course, uninspiring on the hairpin stretch from
the Swing Bridge back to the Millenium Bridge, Calvert can be well satisfied with his labours.
Jordan Scott was next home for the club, clocking 16:37 for 6th place,
which, to lend Taylor’s analysis of his own race, was below average.
Closing out the Morpeth effort was Adam Shewry,
who crossed the line in 23rd place, in a time of 18:46.
The Junior event, ran on the Saturday afternoon, saw Tynedale’s Max Pearson
execute a race strategy which has enabled him to prevail in each age category
of the Junior event over the past four years, but this was his first as fastest overall male.
Pearson said of his strategy that he ‘sat in for 2k, pushed the pace on, and with 1k to go,
on the steep hill opposite the Swing Bridge, kicked and made a run for home.’
Pearson produced a convincing victory over nearest rival Oliver Dickinson of Wells City,
clocking 12:42 to Dickinson’s 13:04. The precociously talented Pearson intimated that there was more to come:
‘As per usual, it was an incredible event to participate in, and I will be back for my last year, next year.’
Congratulations to Max, who illustrated that he has both the attitude and ability
to attain the heights of Hudspith and Avery. In the same race,
Morpeth’s Lewis James clocked 17:38 to place 53rd.
In the Junior Boys’ ‘Blue Wave’, Morpeth’s Ross Charlton
clocked an excellent 14:32 to cross the line in 6th place.
Charlton was supported by Alex Cunningham 11th (15:08);
Dan Melling 24th (15:48); and Sam Bradley 76th (17:48).
In the Junior Boys’ ‘Green Wave’, Morpeth were led home by Thomas Cunningham,
who posted 15:01 for 9th place. Further support was provided by: Dylan Davies 20th (15:48);
Jack Barrett 36th (16:40); Dylan Gooding 51st (17:14); Reece Garrett 116th (18:57;
Harry Clark 206th (21:00); and Josh Gair 247th (21:41).
In the Junior Boys’ ‘Orange Wave’, Morpeth’s Jack Livingston finished in 13th place,
clocking a time of 16:59. Livingston was supported well by: James Tilley 22nd (17:35);
Alfie Clark 157th (20:30); Thomas McKenna 296th (22:34); and Evan Eaton 392nd (24:07).
In the Junior girls’ event, Morpeth’s Holly Peck produced a brilliant performance
to finish 2nd in a time of 15:44), 24 seconds adrift of winner, Beatrice Drummond of Mullingar Harriers,
and 13 seconds ahead of nearest rival Emily Chang of Chester-le-street.
Peck was supported by Antje Hall, who crossed the line in 206th (24:25).
Mo Farah’s winning time of 59:22 – exceptional in anyone’s money – over world-class opposition
should be, at the very least, applauded, and celebrated as Great Britain’s greatest distance runner
continuing on his apotheosis in the sport. With that said, however, it can be asserted that the performances
of the North East’s own athletes merit just as much attention. If not because they end World Championship-winning seasons,
then because they demonstrate the strength in depth, as well as pedigree, of the region, in their own back yard.
Report by Jordan Scott