Liam Taylor will be the favourite to take the title in the Sunderland Harriers 29th running of the Ernie Johnson Memorial Penshaw Hill Race tonight.
The race is in Johnson’s honour after he came to the rescue of the event when his company North East Vending became long-term sponsors.
The course is exactly the same as the one used in the first staging of the challenging race in 1991.
Sunderland Harrier Taylor has won the event once before when defeating Penshaw kingpin Brian Rushworth in 2011, but lost out to the 49-year-old the next year.
This would be Rushworth’s final victory, the international having won the popular event an amazing 18 times, with Taylor having his only win eight years ago.
The Springwell athlete came close to winning over the last two years when finishing runner-up twice.
He suffered defeat to North Shields athlete Scot Ellis and last year to Kurt Heron.
Now the path looks clear to notch up another win after showing improved form.
He won the recent Pier-to-Pier race from South Shields to Roker just a couple of weeks ago and has recently finished runner-up in three 10km events in the Valentines 10km, Dalton Park 10km and the City of Sunderland 10km.
The Penshaw course record is held by Rushworth (15.04) from 1996, and 16 minutes has not been beaten since 2003 when Rushworth won in 15.41.
Taylor recorded 16.52 when defeating Rushworth.
Other Sunderland Harriers with a chance of a place in the frame are Michael Barker, Steve Rankin and Callum Thom. Nikki Woodward is the club’s leading woman.
The race starts at 7.15pm and the prize presentations will be in the Monument Pub, Penshaw Village at approx 8.45pm.
A field of over 4,500 will be “Gannin Alang the Scotswood Road” and on their way to Blaydon in celebration of the famous song in the 38th Blaydon Race on Sunday....