Ronnie Walker Memorial 10k, 23rd December 2023

A blustery account from Mark Anderson:

“Billed as England’s Oldest Road Race, the Ronnie Walker Saltwell Harriers 10k takes place on the Saturday before Christmas, in Saltwell Park, Gateshead. It’s been a highlight of my running calendar since I took up racing and this was the sixth time for me. I was joined on the start line in sky blue this year by Izzy Neatour, Nina Jensen and Laurie Johnson, with Richard Slack there in his South Shields vest.

Unlike previous years where the weather was cold and crisp, we were bestowed this time with unseasonably warm conditions, but with a stiff westerly breeze. Also complicating matters were new traffic calming measures at the start. With over 350 runners taking part and having to squeeze through, the street furniture provided hazards normally seen only in road cycling races. Having negotiated those we were off!

The course is not flat, a fact to which anyone who has ever run Saltwell Parkrun will attest! Three and a half laps of the park mean three ascents up to Joicey Road at the south end of the Park, but for me it’s the short, but steep climb past the bandstand that brings the most pain – it follows a longer undulating climb and is immediately preceded by a sharp left hander, which makes it difficult to carry over any speed, producing a feeling of sudden slowness, sapping motivation and looming large in the mind on the approach. Fortunately the wind was blowing up the hills, rather than down them and there was the usual vociferous support from the marshals, some accompanied by festive music (I exited Whamageddon one year thanks to this…)

After a rather lonely second lap which I spent mostly running on my own, I picked up a group of other similarly paced runners on the final one and spent it exchanging places over that lap, which helped to push me on, added to by the sight and sound of Paul Robinson who turned out to cheer us all on. As a result, I finished only 8s off my course PB set in 2021. Laurie was hampered by a stitch but still came in under his target and Izzy and Nina both had good runs.

We all received the race memento of a whiskey miniature and a small engraved glass from which to drink it. For me a good end to a calendar year of racing.”

39 Mark Anderson 38:33
65Laurie Johnson 40:59
98Izzy Neatrour 44:07
207Nina Jensen 52:21
Laurie Johnson -