This year saw the introduction of a veteran mens V50 event which took place at the same time as the ladies 4 stage event meaning that two races took place for the first time in many years.
The new event started proceedings and with 2 Masters Internationals in their team in Ian Crampton and Rob Hand, the smart money looked to be on Durham. However, it was North Shields Poly that led after leg one through Kevin Capper, in a time that ended up being the 5th fastest of the day. With Crampton on leg two though, Durham were starting to make their mark on the race and at the halfway point they had a lead of 40 seconds from Morpeth who had Billy Gilroy, one of the club's top performers back in the 1990s, putting the Northumberland club in the silver medal positions with the 4th fastest time of the day.
With such a comfortable lead it seemed as though victory would be a formality for Durham. Sunderland's Paul Merrison had other ideas though, making up almost a minute on leg three and taking the Wearsiders past Morpeth and into 2nd place. Going into the last leg Durham had a lead of 22 seconds and with stalwart Brian Rushworth chasing down Rob Hand, an exciting finish was in prospect. Hand though, is an experienced athlete and held his nerve. Rushworth closed slightly but not enough to mount a serious challenge and it was Durham who claimed the inaugural V50 title by 19 seconds.
Rushworth claimed the fastest leg of the day by 1 second from Crampton with Hand just 2 seconds further down. A great race which set the mood for the rest of the day.
The senior/veteran ladies race over 4 legs took place in conjunction with V50 Relay and it was almost a double for Durham City but a strong Jarrow & Hebburn team were always going to be hard to beat.
Similarly to the recent Durham Cathedral Relays, Rosie Smith put Durham into a commanding lead from leg one. Lydia Turner gained more senior experience with the 17 year old bringing Birtley home in 2nd place. With a lead of 49 seconds on second place and 90 seconds on favourites Jarrow & Hebburn, Durham looked to extend their lead on leg 2 and it was Chloe Price who maintained the lead. Wallsend Harriers moved into second thanks to Stacey Rogers who was making her first competitive appearance since June 2012 with Elaine Leslie moving Jarrow into 3rd. It was all to change on leg 3 though as Angela Hibbs, making a welcome return to action after a hip injury, overturned the deficit and moved Jarrow into a 47 second lead. With Alex Snook on the anchor leg, in good form after her fastest time at Wrekenton last weekend, the result was never in doubt. The winning margin was 55 seconds at the line, with Aiveen Fox helping to add silver medals to the gold medals her V50 teammates had just won.
In the battle for 3rd place, Birtley's Tracy Millmore held off the challenge of Wallsend's Danielle Hodgkinson who had the distinction of running the 3rd fastest time of the day.
Fastest time of the day went to Sunderland Strollers' Aly Dixon. Being in the middle of 100+ miles a week training did not stop Dixon whizzing round to the only sub 12 minute clocking of the race. Her time of 11.43 took the Strollers from 9th to 6th on the last leg.
Going into the final leg, Jarrow held a lead of 42 seconds but a great effort from Andrea Banner took the Newcastle club past their South Tyneside rivals as Elswick ran out victors.
For full results of the V50 men and Senior/Veteran Ladies click here.
The men's race, ran over 6 legs, was as eagerly anticipated as ever. With the likes of Ian Hudspith, Ricky Stevenson and Weynay Ghebresilasie seen warming up, a cracking race and times looked to be on the cards. Spectators were not disappointed and in the end it was 2 of the region's biggest clubs - Morpeth and Sunderland - that battled it out at the head of affairs.
The first leg was an exciting race in itself as New Marske's Russ Best just got the better of Durham's Dan Jenkin in a frantic sprint finish, their times placing them 3rd and 4th fastest overall once the results were processed. Morpeth's Junior athlete Jonny Nisbet was having one of his first outings in the senior ranks and brought Morpeth through in 9th place.
Richmond were holding onto 2nd place from Morpeth B with Sunderland maintaining the 4th place they had after the first leg.
Timmins extended Morpeth's lead to 41 seconds at halfway on a leg that seen a solid run from Gateshead's 18 year old Barry Maskell which was the 10th fastest of the day and not far behind some of his more experienced rivals.
With such a comfortable lead, you may have thought that seasoned pro Ian Hudspith would have a comfortable run round. Hudspith tends not to race easy though and the 42 year old extended Morpeth's lead on leg 4 with Gateshead moving into the silver medal positions thanks to a good run from Norman Woodcock winner Marc Elliot.
It was left to Matty Nicholson and Graeme Taylor to ensure a Morpeth victory of more than 90 seconds in the end. The minor places were still up for grabs though, as was the honour of the fastest time. With Ricky Stevenson taking over in 5th place for New Marske, just 30 seconds behind Northern U20 XC Champion, Weynay Ghebresilasie from Sunderland, a great race looked set. Ghebresilasie is still an unknown quantity though having settled in the UK after competing at London 2012 for Eritrea. He actually managed to pull 2 seconds out of Stevenson and must line up as favourite for the National U20 Cross Country title next week. His time of 10.23 was fastest of the day.
The vetaran mens race was the closest of the day with just 41 seconds separating the top three teams. North Shields Poly lined up as favourites - with Iain Twaddle back in form, Guy Bracken just becoming the 2nd fastest ever V50 over 3000m indoors and experienced athletes Sean Maley, Gary Moore and the evergreen Tommy Brannon in their team, the smart money was on the North Tynesiders.
Iain Twaddle put North Shields into the lead after the first leg but Neil Wilkinson of Morpeth was keen to spoil the party and by the end of the second leg it was Morpeth that held a 20 second lead over the Poly with Tyne Bridge Harriers close behind in 3rd.
Morpeth extended their lead on the third lead with a good run from Fergus Bates. At halfway it was Morpeth with a slender lead from North Shields and Tyne Bridge.
Little changed on leg 4 as Morpeth maintained their lead through Phil Walker but with Tyne Bridge and North Shields having very strong runners on the last couple of legs it was still anyone's guess as to where the title would go. Paul Hilton had moved Tyne Bridge into 2nd place as anticpataion grew amongst spectators and supporters of the rival teams.
Gary Moore, so reliable for North Shields Poly over the years, took the lead for North Shields Poly for the first time since the first leg. It was not a winning lead though and with International runners Guy Bracken and Steve Cairns ready to do battle on the last leg for North Shields and Tyne Bridge, it was a race that did not look as though it would be settled until the final lap of the final leg.
As it was, Bracken ran the fastest veteran time of the day (excluding Ian Hudspith who raced as a Senior), a time that rivalled many of his younger Senior rivals. Now 50, Bracken is running better than ever and he led North Shields Poly to a 24 second victory. Morpeth were comfortable bronze medalists.
For Senior and Veteran mens results click here.
Another great day of racing, with so many International runners competing it made you proud to be part of a region that has so much talent at its disposal.
Well done to everyone that took part.