Dennis Lawther

Dennis Lawther 2014 presentationDennis Lawther, Saltwell Harrier. Died October 2014 aged 66 years.


Eulogy given on behalf of Saltwell Harriers by Keith Wood at Whitley Bay crematorium 16/10/14.


This eulogy was written by Keith Wood with the assistance of members of Saltwell Harriers.


On behalf of Saltwell Harriers I have been asked to paint a picture of Dennis’ time as a loyal member of Saltwell Harriers for 40 years.


Dennis was a character, there is no disputing this fact and he knew he was too. Dennis did not hold any official positions in Saltwell Harriers that I am aware of, but Dennis was the self appointed un-official agitator of Saltwell. It would appear that he put as much effort into challenging the decisions of the club officers as he did trying to run faster.


Without doubt Dennis was a decent runner during his time with Saltwell; completing the 14.25 miles from Morpeth to Newcastle on New Years Day 1979 in a time of 1 hour 13 minutes, testimony to his athletic prowess. Over the years he wore the Red and White diagonal strips then the Red and White hoops (the members reverting back to the original design of the club vest after flirting with modernity during the late seventies an dearly eighties) of Saltwell in many races across the north east and further a field.


When I was asked by Dennis why we did not enter a team into the Elswick Good Friday relays, I told him there was not enough interest from club members. So Dennis entered Saltwell Harriers himself and ran as a team of one. This was typical of his dedication to running races.

As the years go by and we get older we tend to get a little bit slower too. This did not deter Dennis. He had completed a number of London marathons and was enter again just a few years ago, this last one being probably his fastest time, though there is some dispute as to whether or not he completed the full course. When challenged he just gave one of the mischievous smiles he was known for.


Look at any photo of the start to the Blaydon Race, Great North Run or other big north east race and you will spot Dennis on the front line. He always exaggerated his estimated finishing time to ensure he got an elite number. Olympic athletes would find themselves rubbing shoulders with this bloke in a Saltwell vest until one of them would say ‘alright Dennis’. These antics resulted in a letter from UK Athletics to the Saltwell Harriers honorary secretary, not with a complaint but congratulating the club on having a member with one of the top 20 marathon times in the UK at that time.


Dennis loved the camaraderie of the Harriers and local athletics. Often he would come up to you on some wind swept cross course and say with his mischievous smile, ‘Did I ever tell you about…..’ more often than not his story would include a well know athlete such as Jim Alder of Morpeth Harriers.


Dennis will be remembered in many ways by Saltwell Harriers. Firstly by his insistence on challenging officialdom. He knew how to play standing orders. ‘Excuse me mister chairman’, ‘Point of order mister chairman’. These challenges were always raised in a soft quite un-aggressive tone of voice. His letters to the club secretary are legendary, nearly always written on the back of a previous letter or gas bill (he was always keen to recycle!!) and he would make a point of highlighting the fact that he had used a 2ndclass stamp as he could not afford the expense of a first class stamp. He successful used utilised this hardship to convince the club officials, that his residency in Cramlington, should be classed as out of the area thereby entitling him to reduced subscriptions.


Dennis Lawther Saltwell Fell Race


I myself have a copy of a letter I wrote to Dennis dated 21st February 2002, which took almost two weeks to construct, just to ensure that I dealt with all the unfounded allegations, that he had made about certain club officials.


The picture that I might be painting of Dennis’s character is one that you may describe as eccentric.


There was much more to Dennis than that though. He was extremely loyal to Saltwell Harriers for 40 years, attending many monthly meetings, always in attendance at the AGM offering to collect Club


President Ronnie Walker on the way. He never missed the annual presentation, always dressed smart, in what I now know to be the same and only suit he has worn for 30 years. He loved to flirt with the ladies and the attention he received in return. Not one to sit by and watch, at last years presentation and despite his current health issues he was still game for ‘Stripping the Willow’ when the ceilidh band struck up a tune. Even during the onset of his Parkinson’s disease he never missed a local cross country, the club road race or fell race; offering to don a marshal’s bib to do his bit to help the club he loved.


Last year at a Harrier League cross country event held at Tanfield, near Beamish I saw him standing in the middle of the field. I was perplexed as to how he had got to this venue, due to its remote location. When I asked him, his response was, ‘This bus pass can get me anywhere’.

Dennis had a very caring nature. Without fail he would ask about the well being of Saltwell members, and my own family, in particular my two daughters whom he had watched run on a number of occasions. Walter Fraser recalls how Dennis showed genuine concern for his grandchildren after the untimely death of his daughter Julia.


A few years ago, the very officials that Dennis had given such a hard time, decided to grant him life membership of Saltwell Harriers. ‘Why you may ask’. The reason is that we had an attachment to Dennis, a unique attachment, which the best philosophers in the world would not be able to define.


When asked about how he felt about being made a life member his reply was, ‘it took them long enough didn’t it’.


Saltwell till I Die was Dennis’ signature tune. He would use this term when signing off Christmas cards and ironically those letters to the club secretary. Despite some of the frustrations he gave us; we at Saltwell Harriers all liked Dennis. He knew that we knew the game he was playing and we all played the game with a smile, though Dennis’ was by far the biggest.


From a personal point of view, I found Dennis to be a gentleman and a caring man with a passion for local athletics. I was last with Dennis at the Saltwell Harriers AGM on Tuesday 9th2014. His parting words as Walter Fraser and I helped him into his taxi were the words he said many times; ‘Saltwell till I Die’ – He was right.

Keith Wood. 16th

October 2014.

Sherman Cup Davison Shield Race Report 2014

teamSo this is the second Cross Country fixture of the season and my first having missed the first one at Cramlington because of running the York Marathon the following day. It was also the Davison Shield/Sherman Cup which means there’s no packs and everyone starts at the same time.


Conditions on the day were pretty good for a cross country race – pretty windy but warm and firm underfoot and there was only really the last section round the football pitches that was really exposed to the wind.


I have to say I love the cross country races. There’s something very basic (and many people would say mad) to running round a muddly field in the middle of winter in sometimes horrendous conditions. I love the racing , but I also love the social side too – I never get to training sessions because of work commitments so it’s always nice to catch up to people in the club the see what they’ve been up to and also people from other clubs who I know too.


Its also nice to be able to watch the ladies race & cheer on the team before out race starts.


Last year in the Sherman Cup (in Tanfield) I badly pulled my hamstring in the first 100m so I was hoping for a better performance this year. It’s only been 2 weeks since York & in the few runs I’ve done since then I’ve never felt good and I knew I’ve lost some top end speed so I was interested to see how I’d get on in the race.


At the gun everyone was off like a shot they was they always are in cross country races and there were many runners in front of me but I didn’t go all out and try and keep up with them as I knew I had to pace myself and run my own race.


I noticed one of the new lads, Hiruy, racing off into the distance in front of me and I hoped he hadn’t went off too fast.


The first half of the course has a few little ups and downs – nothing too serious (like the hill at Prudhoe which unfortunately isn’t part of the calendar this year), but enough to shake it up a bit. Theres also a short section which if you aren’t wearing spikes (which I wasn’t) there is an option of running on path (which I did).


There is then a short inclne where most of the spectators congregate and is good for a motivation boost, followed by a decline & loop round the football pitches with the wind in your face (good place to tuck in behind other runners).


I clocked my first lap at 11:20 & based on this I knew that the course was shy of 10k (the average of most xc races) so tried to adjust my pace to compensate for this. Up until this point Hiruy had been around 100 metres in front of me but now I was catching him fast & I realised he had went off too fast – I just hoped he’d be able to hang on till the end. I went past him & overtook anothe 20 or so runners on this lap. I thought I heard someone shouting out positions to other runners & head 20 something which I was happy with as a top 30 finnish would be a great time.


On the third lap I pretty much held my position – overtook a few & got overtook by a few & finnished in 35-51 (for what Scott reckons was 5.7 miles). I then back to the finnishing funnel to cheer the rest of the team coming home.


In the end I must have either been deaf or hallucinating as I ended up in 86th place, nowhere near 30th but the best I’ve felt running since York and no injuries/niggles following the race which is always a good thing.




Results from the race can be found here

Sherman Cup – Saturday 25th October

Just to let you know that Saturday is the Sherman Cup/Davison Shield Cross Country fixture – this year held at Temple Park, South Shields. In case you don’t know it, Temple park is just off the John Reid Road in South Shields (Post code NE34 8QN for anyone using Sat Nav). Approximate start times are 1.10pm for the ladies race and 2.15pm for the men. There is parking onsite although as with all Harrier League fixtures, we would encourage you to car share.


I can’t be there on Saturday but will make sure someone is there with all of the race numbers. And just to note – as there is a cross country fixture, this means there is no cross country training on Saturday morning


Enjoy the race…am thinking it’s going to be muddy!!



York Marathon

R Brooks - York

The marathon is a gamble.


Those are the words of Pete Pfttzinger in his book advanced marathoning and I couldn’t agree more. For me today it didn’t pay off, but there were still a lot of positives to take from the race and a new pb of 2:56:16.




The marathon is such a difficult race to master – you can do a 5k or 10k pretty much every week, and probably a half marathon every couple of you wanted to. Its also easy to run the distance in training and get a good idea what your capable of in a race.


The marathon is different.


You will never run the full distance in a training run as it simply takes too much out of you, and massively increases the risk of injury. Its also only reasonable to run a couple in a year if you want to achieve your best as it takes so long to train and recover from them.


So if a 5k race goes badly you can easily do another the week later. Not so the marathon – it may be another 6 months or a year before you can attempt another.


My target time was 2:50 and I thought I’d have a chance of achieving it based on a solid block of around 6 weeks training before the race and my Great North Run time of 1:18:01. I was aware though that I had only managed to get in around 5 long runs over 16 miles, the longest being 20 miles and ive only ran a handful of times in the past 3 weeks due to an ankle injury.


That works out at 6-29 pace per mile and that gave me my first dilemma – do I start off at that pace and try and hold it, pushing on in the last few miles if I could.


Or do I start off slightly faster to give me a buffer and also the chance of a better time if I felt good later in the race?


I decided on the latter.


First few miles through York city centre felt good, and it was great to see fellow Saltwellians Jim, Gemma, Graeme and Lyndsey cheering me on early doors. My first couple of mile splits were around 6-15 and I had to slow myself down as I didn’t feel confident I could hold that pace for the rest of the race.


The route snaked out of the city centre and into the misty country roads and by 10k I had settled into a pace of around 6-22 per mile which I felt comfortable with.


By the time I went through halfway in just over 1-24 I was starting to tire a little, but was still able to maintain the pace. I was starting to wonder though how much longer I would be able to, and then answer would come pretty soon.


When I got to around 16 miles the tiredness was becoming stronger and my pace was starting to slip down to 6-26/27. I knew once it got to 6-29 my target time was gone as I knew I wouldn’t be able to make up any time in the remainder of the course and just tried to hang on.


18 miles came and the tiredness was joined by stinging pain in my quads which I knew would get worse before the race was over.


20 miles and the pain had spread to my calves too – a lovely combination. I was really suffering now and all hopes of 2:50 had gone. I was also increasingly being overtaken by other runners which further demoralised me and I just wanted the race to be over and the pain to stop whatever time I got.


At 23 miles I saw the Saltwell crew which gave me a boost and I vowed to push on and keep going as long as I could. The urge to stop was almost unbearable but I knew that even at this pace (I was down to over 7 minute mileing now) I would still break 3 hours and I vowed I’d give it my all to get there.


24 miles came, then 25 – shut up legs, shut up legs I kept repeating but they weren’t listening.


Then the fought back with their most deadly weapon – cramp, first in my left calf then my right and  I tried to run through as best I could.


I could see the turnoff from the main road ahead down to the finish at the university and I got a little boost from being on the home straight but then upon turning the corner I was greeted with the worst possible sight – a hill.


Not a massive hill, the sort of hill you would gently coast over in a normal training run but when you’ve just ran 26 miles and every part of your body was screaming at you to stop it might as well have been Ben Nevis.


Thankfully after that it was all downhill to the finish and I ran/jogged/limped over the finish line in 54th place in 2:56:16.


I can’t say that anything really went wrong in the race – I think I got my pacing pretty good and prepared as well as I could. I think I simply aimed for a target that was too high for the amount of training I have done.


Saying that I would much rather aim for a higher target and miss it, rather than achieving a more reachable target.


I’ve done 6 marathons now and I have to ask myself if I’m going to do another. The pain in the last 6 miles is like nothing I’ve ever encountered in any other distance, no matter how hard I’ve ran the race.


I’d really like to run under 2:50 though and maybe faster so I’ll see what next year brings. For now though I’m going to rest, then focus on shorter races and the cross country season for the rest of the year.


I’d also like to say well done to the other Saltwell runners Jacqui Candlish, Darren Smiley Davey Candlish and Philip Young – sorry I didn’t see any of you during/after the race but you all look like you did well and got some fantastic times.


Next race, probably the Sherman cup in 2 weeks time.


Happy running,




Rob Brooks


Philip Young


Darren Smiley


Dave Candlish


Jacqui Candlish

D Candlish - york D Candlish - York2 Me & Dave - York

Cramlington Harrier league

Hi All,


The first harrier league of the season is this Saturday at East Cramlington nature reserve. The ladies race starts at 1.10 aproximately, with the Men due off about 2.15pm. Numbers will be made available on the day and please keep hold of this for all Harrier League fixtures.


Due to roadworks on the A1 the recommended directions are below for getting to the event :-


A1 Leave at Gosforth Park exit.

Head along A1056 to Sandy Lane roundabout.

Take 2nd exit onto A189.

Travel North to Moor Farm Roundabout.

Take fourth exit A189 North. (Signed Ashington).

Travel to first exit and take slip road (Signed Seaton Delaval, East Cramlington Ind. Est.).

At junction turn left and at next junction turn left (Signed B1326 Seaton Delaval, East Cramlington Ind. Est.).


Go under flyover and at roundabout take 3rd exit to hospital building site and car park.

Post code NE23 6QU


Car parking is in the new hospital site at Cramlington. Car parking is always difficult so car sharing where possible is recommended. If people know they have space in their car, it would be great if you could ring/mail/facebook eachother to sort out – it will take about 30-40 minutes to get there (if you were travelling from the Leisure Centre).


The saltwell tent always takes some tracking down but we believe it was last seen with Fred! If anyone is travelling up from wrekenton and knows they will be there earlish (before the ladies race), offers to pick it up and bring it would be much appreciated – please let Jim know if you can help with this.


Finally – have a great race!

Ian Hodgson Race Report

IHMR team 14 resized

This is the 2nd time I’ve ran this race, last year being the first which I really enjoyed despite losing a fair amount of time trying to find the 2nd checkpoint in near whiteout conditions.


The race is a 4 leg relay in the lake district with 2 runners on each leg, distances ranging from 4.5 – 7.5 miles over technical mountain terrain starting and finishing in Patterdale.


This year I was running the 2nd leg with Fred which I was pleased about because it was a different leg to the one I did last year, and I knew Fred would keep us right on the navigation front as he has done the race many times before and is a very experienced mountain runner.


My main concern going into the race was an ankle injury I sustained a few weeks ago which hasn’t completely healed and as I’m running the York marathon next week I didn’t want to make it any worse.


The forecast wasn’t too bad, predicting 80% chance of mist free summits. Unfortunately the 20% prevailed until the race had finished and some of the previously obscured tops showed their faces.


Jonny and Iain were running the first leg and set off in reasonably good conditions at that point. As the rest of us squashed into Keith’s car to meet them at the first transition in Hartsop we could see the line of runners steadily ascending the first climb up to Angle Tarn.


There wasn’t much of a chance to warm up before Jonny and Iain came belting down the steep descent and me and Fred set off.


The first section is a moderate climb on easy runnable tracks. Fred then took us on a different more direct line than the rest of the runners as we hit steeper ground up the the summit of The Knott. We then disappeared into the mist which lasted the rest of the run.


As we reached the top of the ridge the wind stepped up, although thankfully the rain held off and it wasn’t particularly cold as long as we kept moving.


The ground then flattened off which made for some fast running over the top of High Street until we reached the first descent and Fred started pulling away. The ground wasn’t particularly technical but I still felt apprehensive about going full out with my dodgy ankle and impending marathon (that’s my excuse anyway  and I’m sticking to it).


Then another ascent to the summit of Stony Cove Pike followed involving a bit of scrambling which I always enjoy. The next checkpoint is just past this next to a small tarn and Fred took a bearing to and we followed alongside another pair of runners. It became apparent however pretty soon that we were slightly off and another pair of runners emerged out of the mist from another direction in search of the same checkpoint.


In clear conditions this would be almost trivial, however the poor visibility and the fact that the checkpoint was unmanned made the search more challenging and we spent 3-4 minutes floundering in the mist.


Then shouts of ‘over here’ saw our band of 6 runners almost sprint in the direction of the previously  unseen tarn and were swell to about 20, runners coming from all directions reminiscent of a zombie chase scene from 28 days later.


Another descent followed with Fred leading the way and shouting encouragement to me following behind before we reached the changeover at Kirkstone Pass.


Ged and Graeme picked up the baton (dibber) and we watched them on ascend into the mist on red screes before jumping into the car back to the next transition at Syke Farm campsite.


On reflection of my performance on the was down I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t pushed a bit harder on the descent as Fred was always a fair bit in front of me and I didn’t feel like the run had taken much out of me, but on a positive note my ankle had held out and I hadn’t (hopefully) compromised my chances of putting in a good performance in York next week which has been my “A” race this year.


Jonny also drew on his knowledge gained from his Sports Science degree to offer a highly thought out and technical view of the tricky art of descending : “you basically just have to disengage your brain…”.


I didn’t think he was far wrong.



After a quick change and refuel we were at the next transition waiting for Fred and Graeme.


An hour went by, then 1-15,1-20, 1-25, 1-30 and still no sign of them. The remaining runners were gearing up for a mass start and it became apparent that either they had got lost in the mist, or one of them had had an accident – hopefully the former.


Keith and Phil set off in the mass start and we continued to wait for ged and Graeme’s arrival.


Then, finally they emerged – tearing down the steep descent and reaching the transition to be told Keith and Phil has left as few minutes before.


It turned out they had difficulty finding the second checkpoint in the mist and went badly off course, losing a fair amount of time in the process.


This was the same checkpoint me and Ged lost over 10 minutes the year before trying to find and there was much amusement and banter to be had over this. They both took it in good jest and most importantly they had made it back safe and sound.


We drove back to the start, fuelled up on bacon butties and cake before awaiting Keith and Phil’s arrival which came pretty quickly, them having made up a good amount of time and places on the final leg.


After a quick change we were off the the pub (Travellers rest in Patterdale) for a swift pint of the local ale and presentation of the glass coasters you receive for competing in the race.


Overall then a great days running and some good crack with the lads. Roll on next year.


Oh, and race captain make sure you give Ged a different leg next time 🙂


Full results