NS Poly Grand Prix, 31st March 2023

The 2022/23 North Shields Poly Grand Prix drew to a close this Friday, on a bitingly cold blustery evening.

Despite the clocks having gone forward the weekend before, the grey, intermittently drizzling skies offered little brightness, and the cruel wind whipping in off the North Sea did nothing to suggest Spring is imminent.

The weather may have been a factor in the surprisingly sparse turnout, especially considering the fixture doubles as the Poly’s Fairbairn Cup event, with a number of new runners added to the start list.

Shivering away at the start line, we were glad to get going and encourage some warmth back into our bodies. As per, this final fixture followed the extended course of 8.4km/5.2 miles, starting and finishing at St Mary’s Lighthouse.

The race began pleasantly enough, running up from the lighthouse with a tailwind. The first real buffeting came at the familiar turn towards the seafront by Spanish City, a substantial headwind hitting us as we tried to slalom through rollerblading hockey players, apparently having some kind of photoshoot.

The usual dip down to sea level and back up before the turning point, spelled the last relatively calm portion of the race. From here on in we seemed to be constantly battling against the raging gale, the nadir being reached along the lengthy promenade stretch, with the wind skimming spray off the waves into our grimacing faces, and the pace counters on our watches suggesting we were almost going backwards.

Slogging up the last couple of slopes, the final two kilometres saw the usual bunching as handicaps concertinaed together, with much overtaking as runners made their bid to finish a few positions higher.

The home stretch to the lighthouse, as ever, lasted longer than expected, the finish line still seeming agonisingly far off as we rounded the final bend. I had Dave Roberts in my sights for the last 5 minutes, edging closer, but alas not quickly enough.

Paul Robinson crossed the line to whoops of encouragement in an unexpected last place, revealing after that he’d had to make a stop for one of his trademark toilet malfunctions.

Thoroughly battered by the elements, a few of us made our way to Cullercoats Crescent Club to find a waiting Lena, who’d decided she wasn’t quite up to running this evening, but a free buffet was worth the trip!

For the second year running, Lena (twice) and Rose both won stylish NSP training tops for their victories in individual races. Despite missing three of our 8 runners, The Full Claremonty stuck the landing and held on to 3rd place in the team standings.

The Claremont table overflowing with raffle tickets, it was Maria who struck lucky, winning a pair of Puma trainers, slightly more lurid in colour than she might have wished for!

As we tucked into our ‘fusion’ buffet of curry, rice, sausage and chips, it was announced that entries for next seasons competition would be opening in June. I for one will be signing up to do it all over again.

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Some final notable statistics (because what runner doesn’t love stats?):

  • A whopping FIVE of our 16 runners maintained a 100% record (up from only 2 last year), attending every race in the series – Dave, Maria, Nicki, Paul, Tara.
  • A further four only recorded one DNA – Laurie, Luke, Mark, Rose.
  • Making their debuts in the Grand Prix this season – Ben, Rachel.
  • We unfortunately lost Ben completely after November, due to yet another frustrating injury setback.
  • Special mention to Jacob Easton, who sadly bowed out altogether after suffering an issue during the opening 10k at Blyth in August.
  • February saw the best turnout, with 14 runners starting. January was the lowest with 10.
  • In the team standings, The Full Claremonty sat in 2nd place after GP 2 in October, dropped to 3rd after GP 5 in January, then remained there until the end. Rock’s Stars took a more ‘rags to riches’ approach, climbing from 27th place in October to 11th in March, finishing in an impressive 7th.
  • Dave showed impressive form and resilience in the individual overall points table, his positions from GP 2-6 reading: 4th, 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 1st, before dropping to 10th in March, finishing 8th. Maria could be found lurking just inside the top 10 during November and December, and Tara made a late surge, climbing from 20th in February to 5th in March, finishing 6th, the highest-placed Claremonter.
  • As previously mentioned, in individual races, Lena took first place in both December and February, with Rose triumphing in March.
  • For bragging rights, our top 3 fastest runners (based on best recorded time across the series, GP 2-7) were – Mark (20:12), Paul (21:03), Laurie (21:32).
  • In the battle for supremacy, Mark only lost out to Paul in October, but for some extra perspective, there was only 1 second separating them in November, and nothing in it in December, before Mark’s frankly dizzying improvement over the remaining races.
Fairbairn Cup Results
PositionRunnerRace TimeRun Time
6Rose Hawkswood 58:5552:25
42Tara Hipwood 1:02:0443:34
43Maria Dueñas 1:02:0536:35
49David Roberts1:02:2436:14
52Laurie Johnson1:02:2934:39
76Nina Jensen1:02:5941:29
78Mark Anderson1:03:0332:53
79Nicki O’Brien1:03:0437:54
93Luke Woodend1:03:3444:44
94Janet Palmer1:03:3948:49
132Paul Robinson1:08:0638:16
Final Placings
PositionRunnerTeamPoints Races Attended
6Tara Hipwood The Full Claremonty 3318
8David RobertsThe Full Claremonty 3548
24Mark Anderson Rock’s Stars 4347
30Nicki O’Brien The Full Claremonty 4488
36Maria Dueñas Rock’s Stars4808
73Paul Robinson Rock’s Stars 5928
81Laurie Johnson The Full Claremonty 6087
90Lena Webster-Costella Rock’s Stars 6415
95Rose Hawkswood Rock’s Stars 6447
103Luke WoodendRock’s Stars6607
105Nina JensenThe Full Claremonty6676
107Rachel HurdmanThe Full Claremonty6705
164Ben HardyThe Full Claremonty7993
176Janet PalmerRock’s Stars8565
192Tom Tinsley The Full Claremonty8924
Laurie Johnson -
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