The Echo has been pivotal in bringing three former Sunderland Harriers together again after a period of nearly 60 years.
All three former Monkwearmouth Grammar School pupils, Ian Halliwell, Allan Dodds, and Graeme Kent were featured on the Harriers’ photo call of 1963.
Kent is the latest one to reminisce about his time at the Harriers after both Halliwell and Dodds, who both live in the States, looked back over their time they spent at the Club.
[The photograph shows Graeme Kent on his way to victory in the Sunderland Schools 880 yards championship in 1964]
The get togethers on zoom was sparked after Halliwell donated a 1920s Sunderland Harriers lapel badge to the club. Now Mick Newton is the last remaining one that featured on the photograph that his former club mates would like to get in touch with.
Kent said: “I well remember my first road race as a Sunderland Harrier proudly wearing the royal blue vest for the first time in the boys’ race at Heaton in 1962. Several of us were running for the first time and not sure what to expect. We were in awe of seeing senior athletes such as internationals John Anderson, Jim Alder, and Ernie Pomfret."
“Unfortunately my feeling of exhilaration only lasted a few seconds after the start, as someone clipped my heels from behind and I watched the whole field go by from ground level!”
But that did not dampen his enthusiasm as he went on to have a fair amount of success in the boys’ races, finishing sixth in the Gateshead Congers Boxing Day Road Race in 1963 and was runner-up in the Harrier League at Gosforth Park.
Being in the same age group as Brendan Foster he had many a tussle, beating him in the Harrier League at Houghton and in a cross country match at his school.
While studying at Newcastle University and then working in the hotel and catering business for Thistle Hotels at Leicester and Horley in Surrey, he stopped running. Only to start training seriously again whilst doing a post-grad Library Diploma at Aberystwyth in 1976.
“I eventually ended up in Wolverhampton where I have been for the last 40 years. Returning to running at the start of the running boom was quite a shock. I'm sure many of today's club runners don' t appreciate the strength in depth that we saw in races in the 80s.
My best 10 miler was in theTipton 10 in the early 80s when I clocked 54.20 and wasn't even in the first hundred!
“I ran for Wolverhampton and Bilston in the 80s and 90s, never reaching great heights. I clocked 75 mins for the half marathon and did a 2hr 49min marathon. I'm lucky enough to be still able to run at the age of 72, but gave up competing a few years ago.
“The writing was on the wall and finally sank in when both Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus left me for dead in the final mile of my last Great North Run. Still, I am proud to have 21 GNR t-shirts filling up my wardrobe”
He was thankful of the encouragement he received at the club and school. “We certainly needed it as running was not fashionable or popular in those days. We had to suffer a fair amount of verbal abuse when out training.’’
“One of the great things about sport is the friendships you gain by sharing the pain, joys and disappointment it inevitably brings when it is an important part of your life. We runners all know the pain a session of hill reps brings, or the joy of a personal best time, or the disappointment of an injury just before a race when in the form of your life!’’