Ryan McLeod bidding for his first Blaydon Race podium finish

After missing out on a podium finish in previous years, Ryan McLeod has set his sights on winning this year's Blaydon Race

David T. Hewitson/Sports for All Pics Ryan McLeod
Ryan McLeod

It's June 9, and that can mean only one thing – it is time for the famous Blaydon Race.

The North East road race will see around 4,000 runners gather at Balmbras in Newcastle’s Cloth Market to make the 5.7-mile journey, immortalised in the unofficial Geordie anthem, along the Scotswood Road to Blaydon.

Former Elswick international Ryan McLeod is aiming to become the first Geordie to win the race since Ian Hudspith in 2009.

McLeod, who now runs for Tipton Harriers, has finished fourth at Blaydon on a couple of occasions but has never made it onto the podium.

But the 29-year-old, son of Olympic silver medallist Mike who won the first revamped Blaydon in 1981 and went on to win six more, is hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“That would be perfect, obviously,” said McLeod.

“We have a good family history in the Blaydon, and it would be terrific to continue that by picking up a winners’ medal myself.

“But first things first, I need to finish on the podium, which is something that has just eluded me in the past, when I’ve finished fourth or fifth.

“It’s always a great race, though, and I am really looking forward to it.”McLeod (pictured right) pulled out of the London 10k last month with an Achilles problem, but he is now fully fit and ready to race.

He said: “That was frustrating, because I don’t like pulling out of events.

“But as you get older, you get wiser! It was a precaution more than anything, because I didn’t want to risk ruining my season by pushing myself.

“I did some work in the pool, but I’ve been back running for a couple of weeks now and it feels fine. I’m ready to go.” McLeod will be up against stiff opposition tonight, with last year’s winner, Kenyan athlete Boniface Kiprop Kongin, back on Tyneside to defend his title, and possibly collect another £1,000 winner’s cheque. He is likely to face a challenge from fellow Africans Jonah Chesum and Peter Emase, along with Wallsend’s Yarod Hagos who finished third 12 months ago.

As well as the prizes for the first 20 runners to cross the line, there are also the Geordie awards for the first three local male and female athletes.

Hudspith picked up the top Geordie award last year after finishing fourth.

Kenyans Gladys Yator and Joanne Chelimo are favourites for the women’s race, but if Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon shakes off a heavy cold in time to run, she will be a contender.

The race gets under way at 7.15pm tonight.

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