NECAA Signal/Road Relays, 17th February 2024

Two Claremont teams turned up to Hetton Lyons Country Park this afternoon to compete in the NECAA Road Relays (also know as the Signal Relays), for the first time since 2017. The park is the former site of Hetton Colliery, connected by railway to Sunderland by George Stephenson in the 1800’s.

The race is a picturesque 2.2 mile/3.6km route over 2 laps, on tarmac roads through woods and around the lake. On arriving and setting up the tent lakeside, it quickly became clear that we were ideally positioned to take the full brunt of a strong, surprisingly chill wind. The tent had to be clung onto to prevent lift off, before the pegs belatedly arrived. Sunshine threatened at points early on, but grey clouds steadily amassed, thankfully waiting until we were driving home before bursting.

Holly Porter led the women’s team off with her now customary fast start. Niamh Garratt followed, making her Claremont relay debut, with both of them smashing out 2 mile PB’s to give their teammates Ann and Lena a good platform to maintain. Our ladies did brilliantly, especially given they had to compete with some incredibly rapid ‘old’ men.

Having failed to secure enough over 50’s to make a quartet that would’ve run alongside the women, our evergreen team of 6 in the senior men’s race spanned an age range of 30 years.

The ‘baby’ of the team, Sonam Wangdi ran a strong first leg, handing over to me on second. Having naively assumed it would be a nice flat run around the lake, it only took a minute before I was confronted with a steep, winding ascent into the woods. A brief undulation was followed by a descent out of the trees and back to the lake, the downhill being as much about recovery from the climb as picking up any significant speed.

After bending around the top of the lake, the second hill was certainly less sheer, though it seemed to stretch out a little further than one would’ve liked. Cresting the top, the course then curved round and down through the start line, ready to do it all again a second time. The hills didn’t feel quite as arduous as anticipated on the sophomore lap, possibly as I now knew what to expect.

Another making their relay debut, Eddie Smith ran well, followed by great efforts from Paul Robinson and Tom Tinsley, despite the latter still battling against a fair amount of congestion. Chris Jones gamely closed out the race, having waited well over an hour after the gun before getting his turn. The marshals stuck to their task, despite persistent intrusions onto the course from youths on scooters.

Scones and flapjacks from Gill, Tom and Ann were a worthy reward for super performances all round, maybe next year the wind will have less of an Arctic edge.

Women & Over 50’s Men
75Holly Porter
Niamh Garratt
Ann Smith
Lena Lou
Team Time
Senior Men
46Sonam Wangdi
Laurie Johnson
Eddie Smith
Paul Robinson
Tom Tinsley
Chris Jones
Team Time

Well done Tom, Gill, Lena, Paul and Sonam (and Stuart Whitman) for the many photos and videos.

Laurie Johnson -