Sunderland Harrier Stephen Jackson recorded a personal best time in the Cheshire Elite Marathon in a race which saw some outstanding times. The 37-year-old recorded 2:26:37 to finish 27th, compared to his previous best of 2:29:05 set in the Manchester Marathon in 2019.

He said: “Just after the turn of the year I began a marathon block of training and have been consistently running one hundred miles each week since January. I had spoken to my coach Glenn Forster and we decided that even if the race didn't go ahead because of Covid restrictions, the training would not be wasted for later in the year."

"In a way Covid gave me an opportunity to get my head down and train as there wasn't much else to do. By March I knew I was in fairly good shape. The big unknown was around race sharpness, like everyone else I'd missed the whole cross country season and hadn't really raced for over a year. I did manage one tune up race over 5k and also ran in the North Eastern relay Championships and I was happy with my performance on both occasions."

Covid Restrictions Fuel Marathon Success.

“At the beginning of the race week I spoke to Glenn and decided I would go through halfway in 74 minutes and try and push on in the second half, if my body allowed. Due to Covid the race set off in small waves and I ran most of the race in a group with the Irish woman international Aoife Cooke, who went on to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with her run of 2:28:36."

“The conditions were really good and the course was a triangular loop, almost perfectly flat. We went through half way in around 1:13:30 and I went as far as 21 miles in a fairly tightly knit pace group. I was feeling pretty good for the last three or four miles and managed to pick up the pace a little. I ran a 5:20 26th mile which gave me a bit of confidence as there must be more to come over this distance."

“For now, I'm going to give myself a week or so to recover and look forward to training as a group with the Harriers again. Hopefully, I’ll tackle some shorter races over the summer with the target of breaking fifteen minutes for 5k before the year is out.”

The race winner was Jake Smith who went into the event as a pacemaker but ended up winning the race in 2:11:00, on his marathon debut. New Zealand’s Callan Moody was second (2:11:39). 47 men ran under two hours. Gateshead Harrier and National Cross Country champion Calum Johnson won the half marathon in 1:03.44 for the second fastest time in the UK this year behind Mo Farah.

Sunderland Harrier Michael Barker, who ran the fastest leg over 3000m at the North Eastern Counties Cross Country Veterans’ Relay Championships earlier this month, returned to action in Northumberland on Sunday. This time the 40-year-old took on the much greater distance of 10-miles and finished in third place in the Run Nation Matfen 10-mile road race.

He said: “I sat in behind Gateshead Harrier Conrad Franks, who had a 20 seconds lead on me for the first four miles but then I had a two-mile blip when the hills got the better of me and suffered a bit of cramping in my upper leg. I had dropped 20 seconds on mile five from my other mile splits when the North Shields runner took me and kicked on. I lost another 30 seconds on mile six but then I got my act together from mile seven but by that point I was well down. I think 10 miles was maybe too far based on my current fitness, 10k would have been a more realistic test but overall I’m happy and its good running in the bank.”

Result: 1 Conrad Franks (Gates) 54:59, 2 Rhys Durrant (NSP) 55:46, 3 Michael Barker (Sun H) 56:54, 4 Jordan Scott (Morpeth) 57:26. 1st Over 55 19th Ed Sweeney (Sun H) 64:55.

Craig Gunn led a small group of Sunderland Harriers home in the Darlington Croft 5k, finishing fourth (15:48) behind the winner North Shields athlete David Green who finished in 14:57. Sam Thurlbeck who recorded 17:13 in 20th, clocked a PB in knocking 32 seconds off his previous best. Clubmate Michael Edwards was one place behind in 17:14 and Michael Rodenby, making his club debut, was 43rd with 18:34.