The picturesque Cragside estate in the heart of Northumberland will on April 14 form the backdrop for the first of a series of 10k runs taking place across England’s Border county.
More than 200 competitors will line-up on Saturday for the opening contest in Run Northumberland’s 2012 10k series.
Four 10k races taking in some of Northumberland’s most iconic and historic manmade attractions are set to be held between now and mid-October.
Among the competitors expected to take part is Morpeth Harriers’ Michael Morris, who three weeks ago took top spot in the Run Northumberland Half Marathon held at Wallington.
The 37-year-old beat off tough opposition from nearly 700 athletes in the toughest and longest test of stamina in Run Northumberland’s 2012 programme to clinch the honours on March 25.
On one of the warmest days of the year so far, Michael, who was running his first race for some time, crossed the finish line in an impressive 73m 29s – a new course record.
Now he will be hoping to show the same grit and determination as he lines up alongside 220 club and amateur runners for the Cragside 10K – the second in this year’s Run Northumberland five race series and the first of the shorter distances.
It marks a welcome return to the National Trust’s Cragside estate on the outskirts of Rothbury for the sporting challenge which had its first outing in 2011.
Around 35 more runners than last year are expected to turn out for the 10k race which will see athletes of all ages and abilities putting their best foot forward on Cragside’s scenic six mile long carriage drive that encircles the world famous estate built by the great Victorian inventor and Tyneside industrialist Lord Armstrong.
Run Northumberland has seen a steady increase in club and recreational competitors across its half marathon and 10k races this year.
Cragside will be followed by Bamburgh on June 17, a return to Wallington on September 9 – just one week before the Great North Run – and newcomer Matfen in the Tyne Valley on October 14.
It puts organiser Team Decathlon on track to reach its target of 2012 competitors for 2012 over all five races in honour of this year’s London Olympics.
The race series has even been backed by North East Olympic 1500m hopeful Stacey Smith, 22, from Prudhoe, who put runners under starters orders at the Run Northumberland Half Marathon at Wallington Morpeth.
The Cragside event will see club athletes from Alnwick, Morpeth, Heaton, Tynedale, Tyne Bridge, Wallsend, South Shields, Gateshead and Elswick Harriers’ pounding the tarmac alongside competitors from the North East Veterans’ Association, Northumberland Fell Runners, Blackhill Bounders, Jesmond Joggers, North Shields Poly, Stocksfield Striders and Blyth Running Club.
But the vast majority of runners are unattached, much to the delight of Team Decathlon athletic club’s race director Richard Hunter. He said: “It’s fantastic that Cragside after just one year of hosting our 10k event is attracting such a diverse range of male and female runners of all ages and abilities.
“The youngest competitor on Saturday will be 22 and the oldest is 69 with a huge range in-between.
“Part of the aim of the Run Northumberland series is to make running fun and encourage people to get out and about and hopefully enjoy their surroundings – one of the reasons why we have chosen such iconic locations as Cragside to host the races.
“We want to not only attract people who may only do one or two races a year, like the Great North Run, but also those who often feel intimidated by the more serious runners.
“You don’t have to be a seasoned runner to take part in any of the Run Northumberland races and competitors are free to take any of the courses at their own pace.”
The Cragside 10k last year marked a welcome return for running events to the 1,000 acre estate with its formal garden, woods and open moorland.
The Cragside Canter was an annual half marathon that attracted some of the region’s finest young athletes. But that race was last run more than 20 years ago.
Now runners of all ages from across the North East are being welcomed back.
Run Northumberland in its present format launched last year and grew from two trial events at Wallington – a 10k race and a half marathon – that between them had attracted more than 600 runners.
It is hoped Run Northumberland will develop into one of the UK’s biggest and best supported race series’ for fun and club athletes.
Richard Hunter said: “Many of the runners for the Wallington Half Marathon this year came from outside Northumberland. It is great to see the county being put on the map this way and see the local economy being boosted.
“All the Run Northumberland races bring fun and excitement to the communities they are run in.”
He added: “We would like to thank the National Trust and Cragside for again hosting our 10k race. It’s a beautiful traffic free course around the carriage track set against the spectacular backdrop of Cragside house.”
The Cragside 10k starts at 9.30am and competitors will run a lap and a bit of the carriage track, which will be closed to visitors’ vehicles for the duration of the race.
- Places are still available for the Bamburgh, Wallington and Matfen 10k races. For more information go to www.runnorthumberland.org