Club night ambles up to Northumberland and the renowned endurance hotbed of Morpeth Harriers

Founded in 1946, Morpeth Harriers’ roots are firmly in the North East’s harrier tradition and major individual successes have been in the endurance events.

The club president, Jim Alder, is the best known of these, winning the 1966 Commonwealth marathon and a bronze in the 1969 European marathon. Mark Hudspith clinched a fine bronze in the 1994 Commonwealth marathon and last year Laura Weightman won medals at both the Commonwealth and European level over 1500m.

Other Morpeth athletes making major championships teams have included Ian Hudspith, Jared Deacon, Nick McCormick and Dave Camp, who still holds the club steeplechase record with 8:32.2 from 1974. Jonathan Taylor has more recently gained international honours over cross country.

Background

For many years Morpeth have been one of the country’s most successful distance running clubs. They have more wins in the men’s
National cross country relays than any other club and in 2013 won the National cross country senior men’s team title, this year’s Northern championship and the recent National 12-stage road relay for the first time. Similarly, there have been many team titles and medal winning performances by the club’s young athletes.

The club’s successes have been built on a stable administrative platform. Former secretary and president Ernie Slaughter has been a member since 1947, while others such as Tom Horne, Peter Carmichael, Doug Cockburn and the late Bill Woods have given many years of service.

The club secretary, Mike Bateman, has been in his role since 1975. However, in more recent times others have taken over the reins: David Swinburne combines the chairman’s post with that of men’s team manager and George Patterson is a very active press officer.

Coaching

Although Laura Weightman is now coached by Steve Cram, it was the club’s own coaching structure that took her to three successive English Schools 1500m titles. That structure continues to produce many successful distance runners as shown by the club’s dominant performances in this winter’s North Eastern cross-country championships.

Morpeth were in the British Athletics League from 1985, but the lack of track and field facilities was always a handicap and the club finally lost its place in 2001. However, a 25-year campaign paid dividends in 2012 when a synthetic track opened in the town, enabling the club to move forward on the track and field front. Progress has already been made with the club developing a big pool of sprinters under the guidance of Eddie Hedley and Josie Goodfellow.

Club stalwart Paul Reed has returned to work with a promising group of shot and discus specialists, while Dave Thomas and Vina Desai are steadily building up the club’s resources in javelin, hurdles and jumps. This all-round development helped Morpeth to win the North Eastern Youth Development League in 2013 and they were a close second in 2014, and the senior team are now moving back up the league structure.

Sessions

Sprint coach Hedley’s sessions revolve around a winter programme that includes three sessions in the gym, using speedball and circuits with medicine balls, plyometrics and core development exercises. The younger athletes are allowed to develop their strength and techniques at a pace that suits them. This work is supplemented with two track sessions, one with the emphasis on drills to improve running technique and one for speed endurance, typically 6x150m at 80% effort with a walk-back recovery.

At the end of March the athletes head out to the track full time with three to five sessions weekly depending on the athlete. The first few weeks are spent on speed-endurance work, gradually increasing the speed until running fast sessions off the blocks. During the competitive season the emphasis is on fast block work with one session of speed-endurance and drill-technique maintenance. A typical mid-season workout would be 4x30m, 2x50m and 1x80m handicaps.

» Would you like your club featured? Contact david.lowes@athleticsweekly.com with some history and details of a typical spring session at your club and we’ll do the rest!