North Shields Poly Grand Prix, 2021-22

The NS Poly Grand Prix has been a fixture on the running calendar for a good few years, and is a firm favourite with some Claremont Road Runners. Laurie Johnson sampled its delights for the first time this year and sends up this report:

Tuesday 5th April saw the culmination of the Winter Grand Prix Handicap, hosted by North Shields Poly.

Taking place once a month through autumn and winter, down by the sea in Whitley Bay, a group of hardy Claremont runners braved elements usually on the chillier end of the spectrum over a 5.5k course.

Typically, the mainly flat course follows the road past the links, before turning off onto the promenade at Spanish City. After ambling along for a few minutes, there is a brief dip down to sea level, before surging up the ramp back to the prom, and returning north to the start, this time taking in the beach-side of the links.

A picturesque location for a race, not that there’s much to be seen at 7pm on a windswept November night.

The Grand Prix actually began with a 10k at the end of August, held at Blyth Links. With evening sun bathing the runners in a warm glow as they strode through the dunes, there was little to hint at what lay in store over the coming months.

Although every event in the series was reliably cold, the nadir was reached early on, with the October race featuring 40 mph winds and horizontal rain. In the midst of the monsoon, Rose Hawkswood romped home to victory, a full minute ahead of second place.

November saw Catherine Young finish as first lady, while December’s race was cancelled because of wind warnings (seemingly forgetting the conditions from two months earlier).

Despite inconsistent attendance due to a combination of illness, injuries and work commitments, Claremont recorded impressive and improving individual performances in January, Mark Anderson and Paul Robinson finishing 7th & 8th fastest respectively out of a 159-strong field.

Claremont scored a second win of the series in February, Lena Webster-Costella following the lead bike into victory, 2nd place again trailing behind by well over a minute.

Presumably irked at her thunder being stolen by a team-mate, Rose was at it again the following month, taking 1st for the second time. Janet Palmer also came home in an impressive 7th place.

The final event (aka The Fairbairn Cup) in April saw a return to daylight running on a clear but blustery evening, an extended course of 8.4km starting and finishing at St Mary’s Lighthouse. A great final effort by the assembled Claremont contingent was followed by a buffet and prize-presentation at the Crescent Club in Cullercoats, with accompanying creaky banter between those on mic duties.

Due to the unavoidable fluctuations in participation, the two Claremont teams finished in 21st and 30th place, but Lena and Rose both won snazzy red North Shields Poly Handicap jackets for their outstanding victories.

Thanks to North Shields Poly for staging a great event. Congratulations to all those who took part for their sterling efforts, shout out to all who gave lifts, and finally to Paul for doing all the unenviable registration and admin duties. Entry for the 2022/23 series is due to open in June, I would heartily recommend anyone taking part for a great race experience.

16Laurie Johnson3567
19Rose Hawkswood3696
20Tara Hipwood3787
40Janet Palmer4236
75Paul Robinson5116
119Sarah Bowen5944
136Mark Anderson6486
150Maria Duenas6754
158Julie Cross6914
171Nina Jensen7104
189Dave Roberts7464
192Lena Lou7665
220Catherine Young8623
221Roberto Marzo8642
231Anthony Liddle9072

Tom Tinsley -