The Ali Brownlee Riverside Run

The Ali Brownlee Riverside Run was first renamed last year in honour of the local broadcasting legend who died last February after a short battle with cancer.

The new name for the Middlesbrough 5k Road Race and 2k Fun becomes a permanent fixture when the event returns on Sunday, July 2.

Middlesbrough Council and leisure services partner Everyone Active are hoping for another record turn-out for the run which takes in some of the town’s most striking landmarks including Temenos and the Transporter Bridge, before a memorable finish beside the hallowed turf inside the Riverside Stadium.

I chatted with Race Director Jimmy Wattis at a gathering of Alastair’s family and famous Boro personalities to officially launch the 5km run.

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography
The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography

Q: We are here at the Riverside for the launch of the Ali Brownlee Riverside Run – I believe the name is now a permanent memorial to Alastair.

JW: Yes, Ali first ran the 10k probably about 10 years ago. We both decided that his skills were probably best used doing the commentary. Then I organised the Sport Relief Mile from the Town Centre in 2008 and we wanted to develop that and we felt that we could extend it to a 5k and take it round the Riverside. So from 2009 Ali did the commentary on this event as well. And I know how much it meant to him being able to come out and meet so many people in a position where he could encourage people and see the joy on peoples faces as he shouted their race number out or if they had their name on their shirt, he would shout their name out. He was just an incredible man all round and I know that he had these events in his heart and I thought that it was only right that we named the event after him.

Q: Of course one of Alastair’s daughter’s ran last year.

JW: Yes, I wasn’t involved last year but Alison ran last year and I think Emily, Alison and Alastair’s wife, Wendy are all going to do it this year.

It is great for the town. We hope that all those thousands of fans that still sing Ali’s name at the games come out in force and support the run and I am sure they will have a great time.

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography
The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography

Q: For anyone that jogs, parkruns or races, whatever ability it is special to finish in a football stadium, isn’t it?

JW: Oh it is, there is a fantastic atmosphere because obviously there are two events, we have the 2k fun run and we also have the 5k run, so as people are finishing whichever one they are running in you have got the support of the other runners sat in the stadium cheering them on. Other than last year but it will be back this year, we play Chariots of Fire theme as they run into the stadium. I know that each runner loves that and it will be back on this year. Hopefully, all being well, we will have pictures of Ali and commentary of Ali up on the big screen, that is what we are hoping to achieve this year. So, it will be fantastic for all involved.

Q: So, people that run the 5k can progress to the Middlesbrough 10k can’t they?

JW: Yes, that is what we are trying to do. We have tried to create a stepping stone for the 10k  because that has been a major event in the town since 2005. We are always out there beating the drum about people being healthier and fitter and so there are all the stepping stones there, there is a 2k, the 3k, the 5k and the 10k. Obviously and on top of that there is the Redcar half marathon that we would like to think people could achieve at some point as well.

Q: How long after the 10k is Redcar half marathon?

JW: It is 4 weeks after 10k, it is October 1st Redcar half marathon. So, you could train up for the 10k and then still get a couple of longer runs in and then start to taper off in time for the Redcar half marathon. So, I think the timing for the runs in Middlesbrough and on Teesside is perfect.

Q: It is a great thing that there seem to be more people running than ever before.

JW: Oh there are. I think everyone notices now the nights are starting to get lighter you can see people out all the time. The 10k route especially with it being marked, so people know the distances and they know the times and I think that route has been great for the town as well.

It is always a great event and one of my favourite day’s of the year but the permanent renaming after the great, late Alastair Brownlee and the involvement of his family is bound to make the Riverside Run that bit more special.

Alastair’s widow Wendy said: “I am really honoured to have such a wonderful and prestigious event named after Ali – he would be so proud.

“I know what this event meant to him, he was always excited when he was leaving the house on the morning knowing he was going to meet so many people and to be able to cheer and encourage each and every one of them on.”

To register for either the 5k or 2k please visit www.runmiddlesbrough.com

Entries are also being taken for the 2017 Taylor Wimpey Tees Pride 10k and 3k Fun Run which takes place on Sunday, September 3.

For further information contact Jimmy Wattis on 01642 20083

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography
The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography
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Do the Ali Brownlee Riverside Run

runmbroPull on your trainers and prepare for your own 5 minutes of fame on the big stage, it is time to sign up for the Ali Brownlee runs next Sunday. Everyone can take part in either the popular 5 or 2km runs and make that big finish around the pitch and inside the Riverside stadium. And what better motivation than to do it for Alastair Brownlee, whose voice graced this occasion in the past and whose daughter Alison is running in his honour. Sign up today, deadline day, and prepare for your own pitch-side Boro buzz next Sunday.

It is always one of the highlights of my year. There is that real sense of community occasion. It is a distance that nearly everyone can get around, running or walking. The route passes many iconic landmarks, from the Transporter Bridge to the gleaming ocean liner like Middlesbrough College. Then there is the run down the former rail lines of Vulcan Street straight towards the old Dock Tower. A tower bearing a clock on three faces but not towards the former Bolckow and Vaughan works, no clock watchers here thank you.

Instead you might be looking at your Garmin wrist watch wondering if you can keep on track for your own personal target as you sweep round a corner in front of the former Middlesbrough Dock, once a hub of mercantile activity, with shipping and workers from all corners of the globe.

RiversideRunStart
Photo Tracy Hyman

There is a mixture of history and community to the fore on every part of this run through the former historic old town of Middlesbrough. The straight roads of the 19th century planned town certainly help ease your progress along. But the lure of the Riverside welcome entices you from a long way out, calling across the former dock basin. But first you must divert up the embankment and over the bridge of Shepherdson Way, named in honour of Middlesbrough’s great hero of 1966. The trainer that helped win the World Cup 50 years ago this summer. Remember that as you surge up the bank. A quick turn on your heels like the rebound off the cross bar of Geoff Hurst’s second final goal and you appear to be running into the back of the net. Only this net is not that guarded by the West German keeper but that suspended from the Temenos sculpture of Anish Kapoor, the designer of the London Olympic tower.

Then just as you thought you were flagging you enter the tunnel into the Riverside bowl and the noise inside just hits you. Chariots of Fire is being played over the PA and above it are the cheers of hundred or is thousands of families, children and supporters. I do not exaggerate when I use the word ‘roar’ and it does sweep you off your feet and into your own big finishing circuit around the Riverside pitch.

Riverside_Run_finish
Photo Tracy Hyman

Many, many of us run 5km parkruns every Saturday morning but it is that big Riverside finish that really marks this run out as special above and beyond the weekly park events. There is the special association with our beloved Boro and now for ever more the Voice of the Boro, Alastair Brownlee. It is the pull of the Riverside, the chance to run your own lap of honour around the hallowed turf with the sound of cheering supporters echoing around the stadium. It is as close as I will ever get to the experience of performing inside the Boro temple. I certainly cannot wait to return to the scene of our recent promotion glories.

But we are right on the deadline now; the final day is this Bank Holiday Monday. Don’t delay click on the link and sign up for the Ali Brownlee 5km run.

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