One of the region’s most stimulating and picturesque running events returns for a second outing in 2012 – and competitors have been issued an Olympic-sized challenge.
The Run Northumberland series held against the backdrop of some of the county’s most iconic landmarks attracted more than 1,000 club and recreational participants this year .
But with the London Olympics just over seven months away, the race is on to double the number of runners with organisers Team Decathlon hoping to strike gold with a target of 2012 for 2012.
With an extra fixture added to the half marathon and 10K programme that proved such a success in 2011, Team Decathlon’s race director, former England and GB athlete Richard Hunter, hopes runners of all ages and abilities can be encouraged to pull on their training shoes and step-out in support of one of the North East’s newest sporting contests.
He said: “This year we had just over 1000 entrants over four races, which was fantastic for an inaugural event like this.
“We are now hoping as games’ fever begins to build that even more people will be inspired to take part in what must be one of the country’s most scenic series of runs.
“We are committed to making Run Northumberland an event we can all be proud of. This year’s four races attracted club and recreational runners from across the North East and with the extra date added we are confident we can achieve our goal of attracting 2012 runners for 2012.
“Not only will you be showing your support for promoting running in Northumberland, but in your own way you will be getting behind our Olympic athletes who will be striving for gold on home soil and be part of an Olympic legacy that will hopefully live on long after the London games are over.”
The 2011 series included a half marathon – one of only a handful in the North East – and three 10k events at Bamburgh on the spectacular north Northumberland coast and the National Trust’s Wallington and Cragside estates.
Next year’s itinerary will get off to a racing start on March 25 with the Wallington Morpeth half marathon which will take competitors along the banks of the River Wansbeck and on the roads around Scots Gap and Cambo before finishing under the property’s iconic Clock Tower.
This will be followed by four 10k races at Cragside on April 14, Bamburgh on June 17, a return to Wallington on September 9 and newcomer Matfen on October 14.
Richard hopes that those who thought their running days were behind them can be encouraged to lace up their trainers again and put their best foot forward not just for the joy of getting fit but in aid of the North East Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF), Run Northumberland’s adopted charity for 2012.
To this end, a number of new activities have been added to Run Northumberland’s itinerary at each venue, including children’s and family races aimed at getting people of all ages and abilities off the sofa and out into the open air exercising.
A series of running workshops are also being planned to help people with their training, while the Bamburgh date will also again include the North East Veterans’ Championships.
Richard hopes families will take up the challenge of getting fit together.
“Our events are fun, friendly and all-inclusive. We cater for everyone and the 10k races especially are ideal for club runners as well as novices and younger runners.
“Runners, joggers and walkers of all abilities are all welcome to join in and enjoy the courses and atmosphere all the events are sure to serve up.
“What could be nicer than running against the backdrop of Bamburgh Castle or traversing the traffic-free carriage track around Cragside with its wonderful views over the estate and further afield to the stunning Simonside Hills?
“People can take the courses at their own pace and hopefully enjoy their surroundings at the same time.
“So, if you are in need of a New Year challenge or just want to lose a few pounds after all the festivities, why not get motivated by signing up for one of the Run Northumberland races.”
The aim is to turn the Run Northumberland series – which is supported by the National Trust, Run Britain and Venator International – into an annual summer programme and develop it into one of the UK’s biggest and best supported race events for fun runners and club athletes.
Richard said: “Run Northumberland is an exciting new event for the county and for the North East. A major sporting event such as this has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the local economy and improve the profile and image of Northumberland at a national and even international level.”
He expects the Wallington 10k on September 9 to be especially popular – falling as it does just a week before the Great North Run. “It will be a good chance for Great North Run competitors to get in some last minute competitive practice and experience the thrill of being part of a big race along the quiet roads around Cambo and Scots Gap.
“From my experience running on roads is becoming more difficult in built-up areas and a lot of clubs find they now can’t run them. Certainly at club level a lot of races are being taken off the roads because of safety concerns and put on to all terrain areas.
“The famous Morpeth to Newcastle New Year’s Day road race down the A1 was last held in 2004 and the Heaton 10k Road Race is now run on the traffic free footpaths on the Town Moor in Newcastle.”
- For more information on the Run Northumberland series and the Children’s Heart Unit Fund, go to www.runnorthumberland.org. The half marathon costs £25 to enter for non-club runners and £23 for UKA club members. The 10K races costs £13 and £11 respectively.