Famous 10-mile road race in Cumbria celebrates a major milestone this weekend and has featured a number of well-known winners over the years
The 70th running of the oldest 10-mile road race in Britain will take place on Saturday (Nov 20) starting at William Howard School in Brampton. Organised by organised by Border Harriers and first run in 1951, the annual event has only been interrupted twice, by foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 and by the Covid pandemic in 2020.
It attracts entries of between 700-800, with over 80% being club runners, with team entries from the North East of England, Cumbria and Scotland. Around 75% are veterans, with athletes returning year after year.
The race has an illustrious history after having been won by some of Britain’s top road runners. The first five races, from 1951 to 1955 – run over a distance of just over eight and a half miles – were all won by Elswick Harriers’ Bill Boak.
Bill, now in his 10th decade, is from Carlisle and still lives in the city just a couple of miles from the finish.
Morpeth’s Jim Alder won the race in 1963, 1964 and 1965 while Alan Murray (Edinburgh Univ) also had a hat-trick of titles in 1965, 1969 and 1970. Five male athletes have taken the title twice – Gerry North (Blackpool & Fylde) 1959 and 1960; Nick Sloane (Blackpool & Fylde) 1973 and 1975, John Calvert (Blackburn) 1977 & 1978, Steve Cram (Jarrow & Hebburn) 1984 and 1987 and Border’s own Mike Scott 2001 and 2005.
Another household name, Ron Hill, representing Bolton United Harriers, led the field home in a brisk 46min 40sec in 1974, while the following year Nick Sloane set a course record of 45:50. UK 10,000m champion Carl Thackery established one of the fastest marks toward the end of the 20th century in 1991, recording 46:29.
Hayley Haining from Dumfries (Kilbarchan AAC) is the only three-time winner of the women’s race, in 2004, 2005 and 2007 (when her 54:31 run saw her finish eight overall). Longwood Harriers’ Sue Gaskell won in 1982 and 1984, Border’s Lorna Irving in 1983 and 1986, Lynne Harding (Houghton) 1994 and 1996, Glasgow University’s Sandra Branney in 1997 and 1998, City of Glasgow’s Lynne McDougall in 2000 and 2001 and Joanne Zakrzewski (Dumfries RC) in 2013 and 2015.
Angie Pain, bronze medallist in the 1990 Commonwealth marathon, holds the women’s course record of 51:51 which she set in 1989.
There is a comprehensive prize list. A cash bonus is offered if the winner of the race can beat 49 minutes and of the women’s race 55 minutes. Until 2019 five men in the previous 30 years have run sub-49min – Yared Hagos (Wallsend Harriers) 47:51 in 2011, Michael Openshaw (Birchfield Harriers) 48:35 in 2002, Malcolm Price (Salford Harriers) 48:30 in 1999, Sunderland’s Brian Rushworth 47:37 in 1993 and Carl Thackery’s 46:29 in 1991.
Hayley Haining dipped below the 55min mark in both 2005 and 2007 when recording 54:50 and 54:31 respectively. The 2018 winner, Sunderland Strollers’ Alyson Dixon, missed out by an agonising two seconds when clocked at 55:01.
The last two events, run in near perfect conditions, have again seen very fast times posted. Liverpool Harriers’ Charlie Hulson ran 47:24 in 2019, chased home by Philip Sesemann of Leeds City in 47:45.
The 2021 race was run over a re-measured course, adjusted by around 80 metres, as redevelopment of The Sands Leisure Centre necessitated moving the finish line. Andrew Heyes (Hallamshire Harriers) spread the field soon after the start, finishing with well over half a minute in hand in 48:42 while Leeds City AC’s Heather Townsend was first women home in 56:50.
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