It was the end of an era in athletics in August, when both Usain Bolt and Mo Farah bowed out from major track and field championships in London. The World Athletics Championships didn’t go quite according to script, but of course that is the beauty of sport. Nevertheless, both men won medals (including yet another gold for Farah) and the fans in the stadium gave them a wonderful send off.
Athletics is one sport that has been terribly tarnished by drugs and, in various ways, that shadow loomed over London. Nevertheless, the championships proved to be hugely popular, both in terms of spectators in the stadium and viewers/listeners on TV and radio.
There were a few North East athletes in competition, including Laura Weightman (1500m) and Aly Dixon (marathon), and the event saw another legend from our neck of the woods bow out, when Brendan Foster hung up his microphone. If you get chance, check out ‘A Life in Athletics’ on the BBC iPlayer, for a fascinating and entertaining profile of Foster. It should still be available at this link until around 11th September.
Congratulations to James Oldfield, who recently represented Great Britain at the Duathlon World Championships in Canada. James had qualified as an age group competitor (30-34) and put in a great performance at the sprint distance, which involved a 5K run, followed by a 20K cycle, and then finally a 2.5K run. James completed the course in 1:05:26 and here’s what he said immediately after the race: "Well that was no playground! The competition was awesome, with serious athletes. I learned a lot, but when you have athletes over 40 who are running sub-17 minute at 5K, it's another level. I came 11th in my age group and was fourth GB competitor home out of 30. The experience has been amazing and that's because of so many kind people who helped with funding. Thank you."
Another talented Sedgefield resident who has been performing on the international stage is Jessica Darnton. Jessica secured 88th position, out of 850, at the National Barrel Horse Association’s (NBHA) youth world championships in the USA. The sport, which is part of rodeo, tests the rider to complete a route around barrels in the fastest time. Although Jessica just missed out on the finals, she achieved her top 100 ranking with a time of only 16:78 seconds.
Speaking to the Northern Echo after the event, Jessica’s mum Clare Darnton said: “We're so proud of what she achieved. Nine countries competed and all the different counties across America too. She was just out of placing [the final] by a split of a second. She did England proud." Like James in Canada, Jessica also did Sedgefield proud. Well done!
September marks the start of the new squash season, and Sedgefield Squash Club is making final preparations.
Junior coaching recommences on Saturday mornings from 9th September with qualified coaches offering sessions for all ages from four upwards, and for all ability levels. This is available on a ‘pay as you go’ basis and spaces are available. Check out the junior section at www.sedgefieldsquashclub.co.uk or contact Simon Hill on 01740 629417.
Membership fees are now due, and new members are warmly welcomed with trial period memberships available. Courts still cost only £1.50 per player to book, making it far cheaper than other local facilities, and the courts are maintained to a high standard. Anybody interested in joining can contact Sue Smith at email@example.com. Members are reminded that to retain access to the online court booking system, subs must be paid by 15th September. The first competition of the season is the ‘Team Blitz’ on Saturday 2nd September. Quite different from other formats and great fun, the Blitz involves multiple, short timed matches where the aim is to score as many points as possible against players of equivalent standard. Add your name to the list at the club or contact Stephen Rowsby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday 17th September at 7.00pm, an interactive marking and refereeing evening will be held for club members. The mysteries of the let and stroke laws will be unravelled and explained - to some committee members for the first time and for others, not before time! Again, a list will be on display in the club for members to add their names to if they want to attend.
Look out for monthly updates from the club here throughout the autumn and winter.
Last month, I asked if there were any more ironman triathletes in Sedgefield and it turns out that there is at least one. Lopez Ugur Eken completed Ironman Bolton in 2015, raising money for Scope. Lopez also regularly competes in other much shorter distance races, but is planning to tackle another big challenge for charity next year, either a second ironman triathlon or a 100 mile ultra marathon. Talking of which…
Members of Sedgefield Harriers have been very busy over the summer, at all sorts of track and field, road, and trail events. There have been too many great performances to list here, but one of particular note was by Gary Thwaites. Gary took part in the renowned Lakeland 100, which saw him running for over 25 hours in hugely challenging Lake District terrain, covering a distance of 105 miles and almost 7,000 metres of ascent. 360 competitors started the event and only 223 completed the race. Gary finished in a hugely impressive 13th place overall – a fantastic result in an extremely gruelling event that attracts some of the best ultra-runners around.
Sedgefield Harriers will host its biggest race of the year on Sunday 17th September. The Sedgefield Serpentine starts and finishes at the cricket club and follows an attractive route on paths and trails, taking in Hardwick Park and the countryside between Sedgefield and Bishop Middleham. The race is staged with the generous sponsorship of Parsons Containers, Greig Cavey Commercial and Start Fitness, and with the support of many volunteers. The Serpentine is a well-established and popular event on the regional race calendar and usually attracts some of the best club athletes in the region.
This year, a group of runners from Sedgefield’s twin town Hamminkeln will also take part during a visit to the area. Entry in advance is £10 for those attached to a club and £12 for un-attached runners, and £2 extra on the day (subject to the event not having reached capacity). The course is suitable for all abilities. For more details visit www.sedgefieldharriers.co.uk/sedgefield-serpentine.