During the first lockdown, the Silksworth all-weather track became a hive of activity for athletes from around the North East and beyond to ensure their training did not go amiss.
They made their way to Silksworth as all other tracks in the region were closed due to Covid-19.
With no security around the sports complex facility, it was easy access for the athletes, with some travelling from Scotland to ensure their fitness was maintained.
And with the track not having been resurfaced since it was constructed in 1982, the synthetic surface is the worse for wear, and offered little comfort for the athlete. But, despite its shortcomings, the athletes were pleased to be able to train on a measured circuit.
Ironically, the track has no England athletics certificate to deliver UK athletics competition and there has been little in that regard since the track was opened in 1982.
At the opening meeting of the track organised by Sunderland Harriers in the same year, confusion arose over the different starting lines for the events as no provision had been made for the laying of a kerb around the track.
The Mill Garage sponsored event, saw Steve Cram, the world record holder over one mile, 1500m, and 2000m and Olympic silver medallist and World 1500m champion, being the headline invited athlete. The Jarrow Arrow recorded his fastest time for 400m (49.1) in finishing second.
Also invited was future 1984 Olympic marathon bronze medallist Charlie Spedding, who was knocked out of the 800m heats. Despite the torrential rain at the start of the meeting over 2,000 spectators were in attendance.
Following the difficulties encounted at the opening meeting, the AAA’s held a sub-committee meeting to iron out the concerns over the track with no kerb. The secretary of the committee said that although the start markings were in unusual places, they would still recognise any records that were broken. Shortly afterwards the kerb was laid and the track was measured at exactly 400 metres.
There was another big issue confronting athletes when in 1984 a plan to build six synthetic tennis courts in the middle of the track was planned. But this was squashed after delegates from the Harriers met the council.
In 1990 Puma sponsored an open athletics meeting, the highlight being the one-mile handicap race featuring club president George Cockburn and former 5000m world record holder Dave Moorcroft. The race was billed as ‘‘Silksworth butcher takes on world record holder!’’
Moorcroft, a regular four-minute miler, gave Cockburn a near lap start with the rest of the field spread out around the track. It was not until the top of back straight on the final lap that Moorcroft got passed the flagging Cockburn.
The race was won by Sunderland Harrier Tim Field. With Coventry Godiva athlete Moorcroft not far behind. A weary Coburn kept going to the end to finish in the middle of the field. A large crowd had turned up to watch the race.
The meeting also hosted the North Eastern 10,000m championships with a record field of fifty runners.
The track, which has many shortcomings, is still being used as the training centre for the the three local clubs, Sunderland Harriers, Sunderland Strollers and Houghton Harriers.