ENDURANCE running in the region is flourishing to such an extent that promoters are having to reject entries.
And it’s not just the big established events like the Great North Run and the Blaydon Race that are having to turn people away, but a number of smaller club races are also experiencing a huge upturn in activity.
An example of this was last weekend when Alnwick Harriers’ Coastal Run received over 1,000 entries, attracting runners of all abilities from throughout the UK.
The Newburn River Run, the Tynedale 10k, the Pier to Pier, the Raby Castle 10k and the North Tyneside 10k have similarly experienced an exceptional upsurge in entries in recent weeks.
One of those who made the trip to Northumberland to compete in the Beadnell to Alnmouth run was Jason Henderson, having heard on the grapevine how good an event it was.
And he didn’t go home unhappy either even though he fitted in the race between reporting on the English Schools’ Championships in Birmingham and the British Grand Prix in Sheffield.
“What a delightful event,” said the Newquay and Par runner after crossing the line in just under an hour-and-three-quarters.
“The views from the coastal tracks are really stunning. It’s no wonder so many people want to run the event.”
Kevin Carr, the North Eastern Counties Road Racing secretary, is convinced that the Government’s emphasis on health and fitness is one of the reasons behind the increase in numbers.
“The rise in entries has been very noticeable over the past year or so,” said Carr, who also overseas the permit applications by road race promoters.
“In the past when the Great North Run was approaching we would see people out on the street jogging.
“Now that is no longer a rarity. You see people, who are not necessarily club runners, out running throughout the year.
“It’s certainly boom time as far as endurance running in the North East is concerned.
“Everyone seemed to be out jogging in the 80s, but a slump followed with the advent of keep-fit gyms on every high street.
“Now it all seems to have changed once again with entries for most events growing all the time.
“And the good thing about it is many of those runners have decided to join clubs which is certainly encouraging.
“The Low Fell club, for example, has seen an influx of new members which is being repeated, though not on such a large scale, in many of the region’s clubs.
“It’s certainly boom time as far as the endurance side of the sport is concerned.
“However, it may be that promoters will have to keep an eye on things in the future as far as safety is concerned.
“It’s a good position to be in so let’s hope that the growth in numbers will eventually produce a flow of athletes of national and international standing.”
Many years ago road racing was confined to the winter months, but now there are events midweek and every weekend.
Track and field competition is still in full swing, but road runners can look to the likes Morpeth 10k, Hetton Lyons multi-terrain, Sedgefield multi-terrain run, Darlington 10k, Exhibition Park 5k, Saltburn 10k and the Jarrow and Hebburn multi-terrain run, all of which take place in August.
No doubt the friendly atmosphere generated at most of the promotions has a lot to do with the growth in numbers.
Some years ago athletes turned up to race and went home immediately after crossing the line.
Now all that has changed, with many groups staying on long after they’ve finished to have a chat about their performance over a drink.
Whatever the attraction is, it’s certainly working – and long may it continue!