Elswick Norman Woodcock Memorial Road Relays – 5th November 2023

by Geoff Hewitson


Hosted by Elswick Harriers, this is one of the longest established road races in the North East, in name at least. The event has undergone several changes of venue and distance throughout it’s long history. Most older runners will remember it as a 6 mile race, mostly up and down the minor road that runs through the centre of High Gosforth Park. Increased development of sports facilities within the park, such as the golf driving ranges and outdoor 5-a-side football pitches brought with it the inevitable increase in traffic. As a result, it was decided to re-route the race to within the traffic-free confines of Newcastle Racecourse itself, and at the same time reduce the distance to 5 miles (exactly 3 laps of the ambulance service road that runs around the inside of the racecourse).

Then in 2017 the format of the event underwent a second radical change from an individual road race to a mixed team relay. Each team had to be made up of two men and one lady (or vice versa) but using the same course as before. Prior to the inaugural 2017 running of the relay event, the road had been completely resurfaced, with the many potentially hazardous potholes that were a feature of the 5 mile race replaced by smooth tarmac. Each member of the team runs one lap (in an anti-clockwise direction), a distance of 1.67 miles. In 2022 the event moved from it’s traditional Saturday afternoon slot to a Sunday morning start and that was the also the case this year. It meant an early start (for our club members at least) but on the plus side, the roads were very quiet so no problems with queues on the Western Bypass!


The route is effectively a large triangle with the first side being slightly downhill, (running parallel to the home straight of the steeplechase course), the long back straight generally flat, and the third side a gradual climb with a couple of short uphill clicks. After all the wet and stormy weather of the previous week or so, we were lucky on the day to have relatively benign conditions for early November in that it was mostly dry, bright, and not too cold.

Despite several enforced changes of personnel in the days leading up to the event, our club still managed to field six complete teams spread across 4 different categories (the age category is determined by the youngest member of the team). Must say a big thank you to those members who initially offered to be on stand-by as reserves, and ended up running.

First home were our Senior A team consisting of Kieron Day, Kate Storey, and Joe Addison. They finished a highly commendable 15th place overall (one place better than last year) out of a total entry of 102 complete teams. Talk about consistency – the surviving member from last year’s Senior A team was Kieron, who ran within a second of his 2022 time, whilst the team as a whole were 2 seconds quicker!

Considering the strength of the opposition, from clubs like Sunderland Harriers, Tyne Bridge Harriers, Morpeth Harriers, Blaydon, Elswick, North Shields Poly, Heaton Harriers, Birtley, and Gosforth Harriers, this was a cracking performance. To put it into context, most of the guys in the first 10 or so teams were running around the 8 minute mark (five went sub-8), whilst the majority of their female runners were under 10 minutes.

Next home from our club, and in 27th place overall, were our Senior B team comprising of Andy Simpson, Amy Etherington, and a fine debut run for the club by Dan Staples. Our V40 – 49 team of Jon Rose, Gayle Asquith, and Kris Whitelaw finished 63rd overall, followed in 88th place by the “Family Affair” Senior C team of Phil Healey, Lisa Donaldson and Adam Newby. Coming home in 94th overall were our V50 – 59 team of Peter Coser, Denyse Holman and Frank Best, and last but not least, in 97th position, the V60 – 69 team of Geoff Hewitson, Patricia White and Andy Turnell.

One of the best aspects of these relay events is that they provide clubs such as ours with an opportunity to involve such a wide spectrum of members, in terms of gender, age, and ability. Everyone ran really well and gave their all on the day; the team spirit was, as always, fantastic. Well done to you all on your efforts, and thank you to both Brad and Lisa for sorting out the teams and handling all the last minute changes. I know only too well that organising these relay events is no easy task.

Overall, the first three teams were:

1st Sunderland Harriers 00:25:24
2nd Gosforth Harriers 00:26:33
3rd Tyne Bridge Harriers 00:26:42

And the age-category winners were:

V40 – 49 North Shields Poly 00:27:39
V50 – 59 Gosforth Harriers 00:28:59
V60 – 69 Morpeth Harriers 00:35:26