Norman Woodcock Memorial 5M Race Report

A hilarious report by Terry Welsh

Elswick Harriers deserve a lot of credit for their imagination in keeping this Autumn Saturday classic race going. It used to be held on the road stretching through the middle of the park between the racecourse and the golf course. But it was becoming more difficult to stage because of the Saturday afternoon traffic using the road to reach the golf course and the other sporting facilities in the Park.

Elswick transferred the race to the road that goes round the middle of the racecourse, the purpose built one along which the ambulance and the vet’s vehicle follow the horses on horse race days to attend to injured runners and riders. Three times round this road track gives you a good five mile race. It’s ideal for people like me who like the country but don’t like cross country running. There are birds singing and the rabbits running and no motor cars. However you can hear your hooves rattling on tarmac and you come back with clean shoes.

For fans of horse racing like me get to pass the big fences and  get the view, from a lower level ,that Overturn ( fans know who he is )  gets when he comes into the home strait ,sees the grandstand and the winning post and does the business. There is also that panarimic view south towards the Killingworth skyline with all of Tyneside stretching way beyond.

It’s a shame that only Luke, Chris , Sionna and myself turned up in the Claremont vests last Saturday afternoon, because a lot of you would enjoy it.

During the race, plenty bizarre thoughts went round my head about racehorses and Claremont Road Runners. If we were horses I think that we would find some things familiar and some things different. For instance, if we were four legged friends some of us would be turning up at races wearing racing aids such as blinkers, hoods, cheekpieces, breastgirths and tongue straps. Who would that be?  However training might seem familiar, with most training in stables being based on our pack system (known as lots instead of packs in stables) with appropriate pack leaders.

But the distances run would be different. The minimum distance for a horse race is 5 furlongs or 1,000 metres, and that’s called a sprint distance. What is called a marathon, the maximum distance, is only two and a half miles on the flat and four and a half miles if the horse is jumping.

Portrait King won the Eider chase this year, the longest race run at Gosforth Park. It took him  eight minutes and thirty nine seconds to run four miles  and two hundred yards. According to my racetime comparison software , he’d do a Park Run in six minutes and seventeen seconds, presumably jumping the gates.

But only six out of eleven runners in the Eider finished. Those that didn’t, fell down or surrendered because it was too muddy for them and they were tired. There was a bit of an outcry, because the finishers were exhausted and distressed.  This was over only four miles, nothing to us. True, the horses did have riders on their backs. But, unlike us, they have got four legs and powerful quarters and big hocks.

We train and run in conditions that horses wouldn’t tolerate.  A load of us cheerfully trained over seven miles in the horrible weather last Monday night. The following day, horse racing at Sedgefield was canceled because it was too wet for the horses.

Horses get driven to their races in horseboxes and, if they are worried about the race, the trainer puts a goat in the box to keep them company and stop them getting nervous. We have had some nutters at Claremont, but as far as I know, nobody has taken a goat to a race. Horses are described as tough, but when did you last see a racehorse sitting on the overnight bus on his way to run in a race ? Then getting a train back in the afternoon to do another  race the following day ?

Compared with Claremont Road Runners, I have to admit that racehorses are wimps.