3 Miles Yacht (Open) Handicap
This open handicap race is held over the Joicey Road course, which was measured at 3 miles and 220 yards, according to the 1974-75 handbook. It is “open” in the sense that each runner is openly given a time allowance before the race starts. The allowance is calculated by the Club Handicapper and is based on the runner’s potential speed, estimated from their past performances and in comparison to those of other Saltwell runners. The runner with the greatest time allowance starts first and the one with the least allowance (the potentially fastest) starts last.
If predictions were fulfilled, all runners would finish together. However, no-one can predict exactly how runners will perform on the day, so that has yet to happen and there is always scope for surprises.
The first race featuring this type of handicap took place on Wednesday 17th December 1890 over the longer 6.7 miles Chowdene course. About 30 runners took part and it was won by Charles Lyall, who was cheered into the finish by two or three hundred spectators. Those were the days when there were no TVs and other distractions to detract people from the lure of real sporting activities.
The first record of the Saltwell Harriers 3 Miles Club Championship was on Monday 11th July 1892, won by H.C. Calvert in 16:21. The oldest full record of finishing positions for the 3 mile Yacht Handicap is for 1988, when Bob Waugh won the handicap and David Robertson was the fastest runner in 15:30. However, it is known that Dave Kelly set the record for this course in 1977 with a time of 14:33.
4 Miles Anniversary Shield and Junior Championship
This race is held over the Belle Vue course, measured at 4 Miles less 100 yards according to the 1974-75 handbook. Based on a sealed handicap system, all runners start together. Handicap times are revealed after the race and handicap results calculated accordingly. The Anniversary Shield is awarded to the winner of the handicap. The Junior Championship originally went to the fastest runner in the race with the proviso that they could not compete for the title in future years. Since the mid-1980s, former winners have participated in the competition, some finishing first, even though they cannot be awarded the title again. This now means that the Junior Champion is the fastest runner never to have won the race before.
The earliest record of this race is for 1913, when S. S. Stephenson won the race and with it the Junior Championship. In 1979, the course record was jointly held by Bill Robinson and Dave Kelly with a time of 19:19 and it has not yet been bettered.
10K Saltwell Harriers Senior Championship
The very first Senior Championship, in 1892, was a 3 miles race and, in some years of the early decades of its history, it was held over 1 mile. However, for most of its history, the race has been held over the longer Chowdene course, which was originally 6.7 miles but shortened to 6 miles and 300 yards, the measure given in the 1967-68 handbook.
All runners start together and the winner is the first one to cross the finishing line. The overall winner is awarded the Senior Championship trophy. A rose bowl trophy is awarded to the first lady.
The Senior Championship can be, and has been on many occasions, won more than once by the same runner. The Club rules provide for a miniature trophy to be given to anyone winning the Senior Championship three times. Athletes achieving that feat are as follows:
R W Hill 1894, 1895 and 1896
F Melville 1905, 1906 and 1907
W Irving 1910, 1911 and 1912
F Milligan 1920, 1921 and 1922
Davy Mole 1923, 1924 and 1925
J McShane 1926, 1927 and 1928
Jack Potts 1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938 and 1939
R T Brown 1948, 1949 and 1950
M Atkinson 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955
John Anderson 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961 and1962
John Hillen 1960, 1963, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1974 and 1975
Dave Kelly 1976, 1977 and 1978
Kevin Forster 1979, 1981 and 1982
David Robertson 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996
Fred Smith* 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007
Jim Thompson* 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014
* Results not available for 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2011
The Club record for the Chowdene course was set by John Hillen in 1965 with a time of 30:12. Only Mike McLeod (Elswick), in the annual Saltwell Road Race, has subsequently bettered that time over the same course.
St James’ Mile
This race has been included in the four traditional Club races, now known as the Legacy Series, since 1995 but its foundation lies in the original St James’ Mile event, which was held St James’ Park, Newcastle on Monday 2nd August, Bank Holiday, as a Newcastle Police Sports open event based on a pursuit handicap system. Saltwell’s T.R. McNaught (175 yards) won the event followed by S.D. Kernohan (129 yards), Gateshead Congers and R.H. Walker (156 yards), Palmers A.C.
The St James’ Mile trophy remained in Saltwell’s possession until the Club vacated its Denmark Street headquarters in 1983 (Ronnie Walker’s colourful explanation as to why can be found in my book). After going missing for some time, the trophy was returned to the Club and the idea to hold an annual mile race for the trophy was sparked.
The first “resurrected” St James’ Mile was held on Tuesday, 25th July, 1995 around a circuit on the Team Valley, where the Ingersoll Rand factory, Queensway North, once stood. The race included a handicap, which was won by David Kinnafick, and the Mile trophy was awarded to Daniel Henderson, who was first across the line in 4:41.
The Team Valley venue was used until 1998 but, since then, the Club has endeavoured to hold the race on track – specifically Gateshead or Monkton Stadium – whenever possible; reverting to the Team Valley when a track has not been available. Ideally, the event would be held at St James’ Park but the Club’s initial application to do so was unsuccessful. According to Ronnie Walker, who ran in a two mile event there, seven laps of the pitch equated to one mile.
Due to the fact that stadiums, are more likely to be vacant on Friday evenings, the event has been held on a Friday for more than a decade. Additionally, a social aspect to the event has now been established and everyone involved is invited to go on to somewhere nearby for refreshments together.
Since 1995, Fred Smith has featured prominently in most of the races along with, in the last decade, Jim Thompson. The fastest time recorded for the race is 4:32, set by Scott Anderson in 1996. Last year’s winner was Hiruy Mehari, 4:49.
In the women’s race, Joanne Howell claimed three successive victories, 2004 to 2006. Gemma Bradley set the race record at 5:36 in 2015.
John Anderson and John Hillen, two of Saltwell’s best athletes during the 1960s glory days, had mile times of 4:03 and 4:02 respectively. They weren’t bad at the longer distances too, to make an understatement.