Historic Saltwell race to continue

Against all odds, a battered and bruised Saltwell Harriers plan to host the 84th running of their road races next month.

Against all odds, a battered and bruised Saltwell Harriers plan to host the 84th running of their road races next month.

Thanks to the commitment of members of the Gateshead club the historic event will not be allowed to fold, as has been the case with many other road races in the region.

In January of this year, when the club sat down to sort things out for the staging of next month's programme, Northumbria Police informed the club that they would support the event after the success of the 2005 race.

However, due to a change in policy, the police then said they were not prepared to support Saltwell's promotion if last year's course was to be used.

Saltwell Harriers chairman and race organiser, Keith Wood, said: "Unless we were prepared to make changes to the course and apply for a full road closure on parts of a new route, which would cost a huge amount of money, then the race would fold."

First run in 1911, the well-established Saltwell event has only failed to take place due to two World Wars and in 2001 when the course was under a one-foot blanket of snow.

Wood added: "Our members felt that too much history was attached to the race and they did not want their event to join the many that have fallen by the wayside due to safety concerns.

"This is a race that has attracted many of the leading runners in the country, including possibly the best road runner Britain has produced, Elswick's Mike McLeod (pictured) , who won Saltwell 17 times in succession.

"Saltwell's event is part of Tyneside culture, and when it was held on its traditional Boxing Day date, huge crowds would gather.

"So, despite all the barriers being put in our way, the club decided to find ways to make sure the race continued."

The OK for the race was only given last week, and after all the hard work done behind the scenes, Wood is naturally looking for clubs to show their support for the event on December 17.

One thing that looks to have disappeared for good is the climb up the perilous Chowdene Bank - probably a blessing in disguise for most competitors.

The new course will be a traffic-free three-lap event starting in East Park Road and finishing in Saltwell Park.

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