WHAT a strange year it has been for the running community, writes Marian Codling of Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers (TSH).

It began, as 2020 had finished, with the club championship continuing through virtual races, which again proved hugely popular. They were based on, and named after the championship races which would have been held in normal times, and the terrain tried to follow the type of terrain over which the actual race would have been run. A race with hills would take place in, say Kilburn or Wass Woods, and flat races either on footpaths through villages or along flattish trails, and were devised mostly by Rob Burn.

North Ormesby and Holme House Prison Cross Country races, for instance, echoed the conditions as far as possible which one would find at those actual races, and the Cleveland Way was used extensively. There was an actual inter club Cleveland Way Relay from Filey to Helmsley in which Thirsk and Sowerby had two teams, which offered both challenge and camaraderie. Fish and chips rounded off the day at Helmsley.

For those who enjoyed park runs, there was a "not the park run" park run, which runners could complete over a 5k course near their home and submit results to the park run organisation.

One of the first actual races the club was involved in after a gradual emergence from lockdown was the James Herriot Trail Race, and even that was started off with waves of entrants rather than all together. It was very popular, and got the actual club championship on a more usual course. Sessay Swift 6k followed with a more normal mass start and again was hugely successful. Runners were aware of the need for social distancing, and continued that at the excellent barbecue which followed.

Members of Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers at the Sessay Swift 6k in August

Members of Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers at the Sessay Swift 6k in August

The club had representatives at both the London Marathon and the Great North Run and, nearer to home, the Redcar and York Half Marathons and a really tough trail race at Grewelthorpe.

We were all happy and proud to support Laurence Whiteley as he won his second consecutive gold medal in rowing at the Tokyo Paralympics. We feel an affinity with Laurence as he began his career running as a young boy with Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers, before cancer in his knee caused him to look elsewhere for competition.

Twice weekly club sessions began again as soon as they were allowed, and Sowerby Gateway track has been an excellent base. Monthly time trials continued, with a termly handicap based on time trial results.

The highlight of the year was winning the running Club of the Year for Yorkshire and Humberside, and a large increase in membership over the last 12 months has surely been a reflection of that. The successes of the club were celebrated at the annual dinner and prizegiving, which just managed to be squeezed in before Covid numbers began to mushroom again.

A memorable sad note was the departure of much loved Sonja van der Westhuisen to pastures new in Ireland. She is greatly missed, both because of the very thoughtful coaching and for physio she was able to offer members and others.

It's not many running clubs who can boast a poet laureate among its membership, but TSH can do just that. Olivia Mulligan began writing poems during her long spells of isolation in lockdown, and these were eventually published in a book, "Poems on the Gatepost". Appearances on Radio York resulted in her being designated the station's poet laureate.

Members have been involved in volunteering at Covid jab stations, and Phillip Craig in particular has appeared regularly at these.

What will the new year bring? It has already started badly with the cancellation of the first club championship race of the year, the Captain Cook's Fell race on New Year's Day. No doubt it will not be the last of the cancellations.

On a happy note, Bronwyn Mayo completed her 250th park run on New Year's Day at Fountains Abbey, a real milestone event which not many people achieve. Her quest began 11 years ago at the Wimbledon Common event and she's been pretty a regular attender throughout the country ever since.

Alan Simpson was first club finisher out of 382, 26th in 21.02 with Bronwyn next, 30th, and fifth lady, in 21.21. Adrian Elsworth came 35th in 21.24, Esther Harrison 43rd in 22.16, Lorraine Hiles 22.44, Brett Edgeworth 23.49, Mike Cropper 25.46, Kimberli Werner 33.59, Richard Easby 34.01, and Paul Adams 34.34, with tail walker, Jemma Cropper bringing up the rear.