The rain and the cold failed to put a dampener on the second staging of the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League at Aykley Heads on Saturday.

While two of the four Harrier Leagues have been postponed so far this season, at Druridge  Bay and the Lambton Estate, due to flooding of the car parks, there was no chance this event would be another casualty.

While the gruelling course was mud-bound and the heavy rain continued to fall, athletes responded to the fixture in big numbers with nearly 1,000 senior athletes turning out. And Sunderland Harriers played their part in the men’s race with 22 athletes toeing the line in the 11k handicap race.

Mud Bath At Aykley Heads.

It was not long before they showed up at the head of the field with both Chris Jackson and Michael Laws, running from the slow pack, with a five minute start, out to steer their club to a leading place in the team race. And Over-40 veteran Jackson maintained his momentum to finish a well deserved third in 44.08, behind the winner Alex Mirley of Elvet Striders, also from the slow pack, who recorded 41.23 for one of the best times of the day.

He was followed by runner-up Newcastle University student, Chris Larkin, from the medium pack, with a two-and-a-half-minutes start, who clocked 40.12 for the joint fastest time along with Gateshead Harrier fast packer Conrad Franks who charged through the field to finish eighth.

Michael Laws dug deep through the mud to take seventh after a troublesome few years with injury to finish in 45.20, then came Sunderland fast man Steve Rankin in 22nd with the eighth quickest time of the day (41.43).

There was a long wait before the next runner to cross the line to finish with Callum Thom in 87th (47.12) and he was quickly followed by Craig Gunn in 97th  (44.46) and Andy Powell 100th (44.51).

The six counters amassed 162 points to finish fourth team to keep alive the club’s league challenge. Gateshead won on 87pts followed by Elvet Striders 133 and Tyne Bridge 136.

Sunderland Harriers women equalled their men’s team position in their Second Division contest where they are also in with a shout of league honours and promotion.

It was former double Northern 800m champion, Over-45 Bev Martin, that led the way, running from the slow pack and finishing 21st (36.13), Jennifer Tomlin from the medium pack was the second team counter in 84th (36.47) followed by Over-45 and medium packs Judith Thirlwell in 96 th (37.04) and final scorer was team manager Colleen Compson in 101st (39.40).

The winner (31.48) was Stocksfield’s slow pack runner Over-40 Claire Davies, who became the first runner from the recently formed club to win an event.