So it was great that the 2013 venue was right on our doorstep as Herrington Park, Sunderland played host to the event for the first time in 6 years.
The only other worry before the event was around car parking. At the 2011 Northerns a nearby field was used for parking but due to the muddy conditions many vehicles were stuck for hours. This year organisers arranged free bus travel from a local business park about 3 miles away and although some were skeptical beforehand, the system was efficient and well managed and credit must go to the organisers.
Just spectating around different points on the course you would see some of the big names in athletics and despite the conditions, there was a great atmosphere. It was nice to see former Champion Brendan Foster lending his support as well as Steve Cram who took in the event with his Marathon of the North promotions team.
There were also top runs from Gateshead's U15 pair Joe Armstrong (10th) and Phillippa Chambers (16th) in their respective races. Using the strength and experience gained from a couple of local races against senior opposition, Birtley's Lydia Turner just missed out on a top 10 spot with 12th in the U17 women's race.
There were high hopes for Sunderland's Eritrean export Weynay Ghebresilasie in the U20 men's race. Lining up as one of the favourites, on a course he had been training on in recent weeks, Weynay was in the lead group for much of the race but struggled in the conditions towards the end and picked up the bronze medal, the region's first of the day. Not too far behind was GB International Calum Johnson of Gateshead in 11th place. Chloe Price of Durham City Harriers led the area's U20 ladies, finishing 23rd in a race won by top European athlete Emelia Gorecka of Aldershot.
Closely behind Morrell was another Morpeth athlete, Lewis Timmins in 15th place and by the time Matty Nicholson crossed the line in 21st for Morpeth, spectators and team managers were trying to work out positions in an attempt to see which team would would be crowned champions. Leeds City were looking good and by the time the first 30 runners had finished, both clubs had 4 runners home. Tipton were also packing their runners tightly and it was obvious that it was going to go to the wire after Tipton were the first team to close in a team, having 6 in the top 50 places. With Greame Taylor having the run of his life in 46th and Ryan Stephenson closing the 6 man team in 52nd, early signs were good, it was just a case of waiting for the results to be calculated.
As it was, Morpeth were crowned National Cross Country Champions by just 16 points from Leeds City, who had Whitley Bay based Carl Smith in 16th place.
For good measure Morpeth also won the 9 man event with Nick Swinburn, Ian Hudspith and Ian Harding making up the team. A delighted Morpeth Chairman, David Swinburne told North East Runner "What a fantastic day for the club and a great feeling to win the title in the North East after so many near misses. There were so many brilliant runs by the lads - not just the lads who scored but all the others too. Not often you have runners of the calibre of Ian Hudspith, Nick Swinburn and Ian Harding not counting in the 6 man team. I'm very proud of the lads."
You can see a videos from all the events clicking here.
A fitting way to finish a tremendous championship. Yes the conditions were tough but cross country isn't supposed to be easy. It was certainly a 'true' cross country course and each and other competitor who managed to get round the course in those conditions deserves the utmost credit.
Full results can be found by clicking here.