Joining Sunderland Harriers to lose weight opened-up new avenues for Allan McManus as his athletics career took on a more responsible role.

While he may not hit the headlines with his performances, he more than makes up with that by his contribution to the club through his group training sessions at Penshaw monument.

This has led to many new recruits joining the royal blue vests and as a result the clubs cross country ranks have been swelled.

Allan Mcmanus - Monumental Leader.

He started with the Harriers in doing a taster session for beginners and quickly progressed to be invited back to the Harriers to join one of the progressive groups.

The 41-year-old trained alongside clubmate Vikki Cotton in training for his first Great North Run and after that they did a few road races but never really found a love for them.

“We did our second GNR the year after which was a disaster and nearly put us off running completely,’’ he said.

“Previously we had done a one-off multi-terrain race, the clubs Penshaw Hill race, which we enjoyed immensely.

“We decided to do more of what we liked and try a bit more off-road running to get our mojo for running back and started using the tough Penshaw Hill course to do this’’.

They started going regularly to Penshaw and running the course which they realised would make a good training venue.

“It wasn't long before we could see the benefits of the weekly Penshaw sessions and our improvement was noticed by others.

Vikki gaining wins in the Washington 10k Trail Outlaws race and the following week in the Sand Dancer multi terrain 10k which I also got my 10k PB of 41:43.’’

The Town End Farm runner added: “It was then that the Monday Penshaw sessions started to really take off with more runners wanting to join in the sessions, winter and summer and head torches being used when dark.

The added Thursday road sessions at the club base at Silksworth was also becoming more popular and successful so it was then he was asked by the Sunderland Harriers committee to consider taking his England Athletics Run Leaders course, which he duly passed.

The qualification is designed to provide novice athletes with a safe and enjoyable running experience.

“Since then we have encouraged many people to join in the cross country season, in representing the club and also in trail races throughout the summer months.

The sessions are designed to cater for all kinds of abilities, meaning nobody is left behind.

"We have kept up to date with all recent Covid restrictions liaising with England athletics in ensuring we can carry on, doing what we have been doing, safely and within the guidelines at all times.

“The groups have been split into smaller numbers with the help of Darren Fletcher and George Harden, making sure everyone is kept safe. It has been hard but we have safely managed and kept within all the guidelines.

Runners have slowly returned to the sessions after seeing how we have kept things simple and organised.

A couple of races have been going ahead with Covid restrictions in place and we have taken part in some, the most recent being the Chapel Gate fell race which was particularly brutal.

“Despite all the current difficulties we have managed to maintain our training and when athletics gets the green light we should be ready for the return to competition.’’