Monday 11 October 2021

NEHL Druridge Bay - Race Report by Bill McGuirk


ONCE again a huge turnout was the order of the day for the second fixture of the campaign of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League hosted by Blyth Running Club at the scenic Druridge Bay. 

Just like the opening fixture at Wrekenton two weeks previously over 1,300 competitors took their chance on another brick-hard course made as safe as possible by the quick-thinking officials due to parts of the terrain being badly churned up due to the grazing cattle.

For the majority, however, it was a case of another outing in freak cross country conditions with temperatures hitting the high teens at times.

With increased entries in both the senior events from Wrekenton it was victory for harrier league debutants Lewis Roberts and Ellen Powell, both new signings for their respective clubs Heaton and Elvet Striders.


Heaton Harrier Lewis Roberts
Heaton Harrier Lewis Roberts

 The senior men faced three two-mile circuits and it was Morpeth’s Joseph Anderson who took up the running from the gun. At the completion of the first lap Anderson had a 20-metre advantage over Roberts who was followed by Tom Sursham (Wallsend), Newcastle University’s Sean Barry and Tyne Bridge duo Craig Jones and William Bowers. Meanwhile, making a forward move from the medium pack were Morpeth’s Andy Lawrence and Houghton teenager

Chris Coulson. After giving the slow pack a five-minute start leading the charge from the fast pack was Houghton’s Luke Pickering who was being shadowed by Sunderland’s Liam Taylor with Tom Charlton (Tyne Bridge) also negotiating his way through the packed field (500+) 15 metres or so adrift.

Entering the penultimate lap, Roberts eased past the leader while Jones and Barry moved into third and fourth place pushing Sursham back into fifth. All the while Lawrence and Coulson continued to cut back the deficit and as the start of the final lap approached had moved through to 12th and 14th place respectively while Taylor just held a sight advantage over both Pickering and Charlton.

Sunderland Harrier Liam Taylor
Sunderland Harrier Liam Taylor chases from the fast pack

As the final lap unfolded, Roberts continued to lead and, with a huge round of support in the home straight, came home victorious with a 26-seconds cushion over Anderson while Jones completed the one-two-three ahead of Barry. Coulson managed to outsprint Lawrence to finish in fifth place while Taylor, with the fastest overall time of the day, held off Charlton by two seconds, the pair finishing in 14th and 15th place respectively with Pickering crossing the line in 19th spot.

In the team sections, Tyne Bridge won on the day in Division One and move into second place behind Morpeth with title-holders Sunderland in third. Elswick head Division two after victory on the day after reversing the Wrekenton positions with North Shields Poly with South Shields now in third spot. Sedgefield, with victory for the second time, head division Three ahead of Houghton and Tynedale.



Former Cambridge University Hare and Hounds athlete Ellen Powell was never headed throughout the four-mile contest and was followed throughout by Birtley’s Tracy Millmore and Laura Chapman (Jesmond Joggers). The leading positions remained the same as the final circuit unfolded as Powell came home in 26min 55sec which equated to the sixth fastest time overall and 41 seconds clear of Millmore with Chapman closing up on the runner-up all the way to the line a further two seconds behind. Elswick’s Katarina Bonner proved the quickest from the medium pack working her way through to eighth place while Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson, just as she did at Wrekenton, was the fastest once again as she came home in 11th position.

Ellen Powell Elvet Striders
Elvet Striders Ellen Powell

In the team stakes North Shields Poly came out on top ahead of Elswick and

Heaton in Division One with the Poly going top of the table ahead of the two Newcastle outfits while in Division Two victory went to Washington who move into third place in the table behind Tynedale and Sunderland. Ponteland now head Division Three after winning on the day with Low Fell now in second place ahead of Blyth.



Alnwick’s Ellie Price took the honours in the combined age group holding off the challenge of medium pack runner Holly Waugh (North Shields Poly) by 10 seconds after receiving a start of 1min 15secs. Morpeth’s Abigail Leiper completed the medal awards after holding off team-mate Millie Breese. Waugh was rewarded with the fastest time of the day with Breese second quickest and Houghton’s Anna Pigford third best.

Ellie Price
Alnwick Harrier Ellie Price

Morpeth won the team section ahead of Northumberland rivals Alnwick with Gosforth in third place.



Fresh from a superb third place in the Mini London Marathon Birtley’s Chris Perkins took full advantage of a start of 2min 30secs to claim a comfortable victory ahead of Tom Slane (Blackhill Bounders) and Gosforth’s Silas Christie. Perkins was fastest overall with Morpeth’s Bertie Marr second quickest after working his way through the field from his handicap to finish 19th.

Chris Perkins
Birtley's Chris Perkins

Morpeth once again headed the team section with Blaydon finishing second ahead of Durham City.



Gateshead’s Aoife Bell had a 10-second cushion at the line over Gosforth pair Annie Hutchinson and Hannah Wightman, Bell being rewarded with the second fastest time of the day. The quickest on the course was Durham City’s Charlotte Dillon who, from a 1min 40secs handicap, weaved her way up to 11th at the line. Gateshead came out on top ahead of Elswick and Gosforth in the team stakes.

Aoife Bell
Gateshead Harrier Aoife Bell


South Shields are noticeable building up a strong young athletes’ section and it was pleasing to see Matthew Atkinson lead the field home as he held off the challenge of Blaydon duo James Gray and Maximus Murray by seven seconds.

Fastest on the course was Morpeth’s Oliver Calvert who, from a handicap of 1:40, worked his way through to an excellent 10th place. Blaydon were comfortable winners in the team section finishing ahead of Morpeth and Birtley.

Matthew Atkinson
South Shields Harrier Matthew Atkinson


Gosforth’s Millie Moat held on by just six seconds to take the gold medal as North Shields Poly’s Katy Otterson- fastest overall - defied a 1:40 handicap to finish in second place ahead of Heaton’s Mary Parkin. Second fastest on the course was Birtley’s Niamh Phillipson with Grace Carter (Durham City) next fastest. North Shields Poly claimed team success ahead of Durham City and Gosforth.

Millie Moat
Millie Moat, Gosforth Harriers


It was a Birtley one-two with victory going to Noah Williamson who finished well clear of team-mate Callum Bailey with Blaydon’s Finn Graham completing the medallists. Fastest on the course was North Shields Poly’s Oscar Makepeace who, from a 1:40 handicap, worked his way through the field to finish in 11th place. Williamson was second quickest overall with Aaron Jobson third fastest. Birtley, with Gabriel Curtis backing up Williamson and Bailey, won the team section ahead of Blaydon and North Shields Poly.


Noah Williamson
Noah Williamson, Birtley AC


Just as they did at Wrekenton Birtley twins Nell and Kitty Graham, led the enthusiastic field home, Nell getting the better of her sister by 13 seconds as Alnwick’s Emilia Waugh finished a close-up third.

Nell Graham
Nell Graham, Birtley AC



This proved to be the tightest finish of the day with just one second separating the medallists. Victory went to Birtley’s Ed Moon in 5min 55sec. Alnwick’s Andrew Bailey received the judge’s verdict for second place ahead of Elswick’s Nicholas Surtees-Brown, the winner at Wrekenton, with both athletes recording 5:56.

A tight race in the U11 boys

**A huge vote of thanks goes to Blyth Running Club for hosting a great day’s sport; to all the excellent marshals and to all the officials and the first aid team who had a number of minor casualties to deal with.


The harrier league bandwagon now moves onto to Lambton Estate on October 30 when, possibly, there will be a semblance of mud to contend with!

Bill McGuirk


Photos Thanks to Ian Harman & Stuart Whitman

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