#ETW17: Middlesbrough sport and leisure

If you enjoy spending your leisure time indulging in sport then English Tourism Week could not be better timed. Longer days and lighter nights means far more opportunity to get out and about and sporty. Just drive along any road it seems and you will soon be made to feel guilty as you pass by jogger after jogger. So, if you cannot beat them then join them. Here is a guide to a few of the options Middlesbrough has on offer to entice you out of that car.

I think we should start by looking at things that are totally free to do. If you were thinking about a lie in on Saturday morning, then think again. The start time for parkrun nationally is 9am Saturday and in Middlesbrough you have a choice of two 5 km courses lapping Albert and Stewart Park. Parkruns are exactly what they say, not a race but a run and all ages and abilities are welcome with open arms. Simply click on the website beforehand, register and print off your barcode and then pop along to the start line. Then afterwards join the runners and volunteers for a cup of tea in the cafe. Oh and yes you can have that slice of cake, you earned it. Register with parkrun.

stewart-parkrunIf you are not visiting on a Saturday then don’t worry you can do the parkrun courses anytime, permanently marked out around Albert Park. They call them Freedom Runs when you run the routes on your own.

Middlesbrough has two very popular and well established annual community runs in the Tees Pride 10k and Ali Brownlee Riverside Run. The former 10km route describes a square around the south of Middlesbrough. It is marked out with kilometre signs so is a great way to practice throughout the year ahead of the 3rd September event. You can try and emulate last year’s winner, Middlesbrough and GB runner Matty Hynes, although you might struggle to match his time of 33 minutes and 44 seconds.

Never to be forgotten, oh so popular Boro commentator and Mr Middlesbrough Alastair Brownlee is remembered in the run that finishes with a circuit of Ali’s favourite football stadium the Riverside, on Sunday 2nd June.

We will return to running at the end of the article as we have made a brand new Love Middlesbrough route for you to try out.8km

Talking of the Riverside and the Boro, one of the biggest draws to Middlebrough is football tourism. Premier League status means football fans making pilgrimages to the Riverside from across the North Sea as well as around Britain. Middlesbrough Football Club has signed an agreement with DFDS Ferries opening up the club and the town to football followers from across northern Europe.

There are no Boro games during English Tourism Week but you can book to go on a Riverside stadium tour and learn something of the heritage of the club. You even get to experience the walk from the changing rooms and down the tunnel and out into the stadium itself.

I am staying with free now. If you have a bike then why not take it along the many miles of cyclepaths to Middlesbrough Sports Village where there is a 1 kilometre long track that you can cycle in complete safety and yes it is free. There are also cycles and equipment that can be hired for free. Book on the hour to ensure availability. Middlesbrough Cycle Circuit

cycle-trackTime to give a big mention to Middlesbrough Sports Village.

sports-village-1Middlesbrough Sports Village is a wonderful hub for sports outdoor and indoor in one hub. It offers state of the art, bang up to date facilities, expert tuition and guidance. You are truly spoilt for choice with the options available here.

Things on offer are a large gym, athletics stadium, skate park, cycle circuit, velodrome, fun village, cafe, astro turf pitches, grass pitches, sports hall, ample parking and more.

sports-village-gymThe athletics stadium has a 8 lane 400m track, 10 lane 100m track, a grand stand with 584 seats, 4 long jump pits, high jump, hammer throw and pole vault.

You can play 5, 7, 9 and 11 aside football on the 3G football pitches. Badminton, table tennis, indoor football, basketball, volleyball , netball, hockey and short tennis can all be played in the main sports hall.

The latest addition is a £1.6 million outdoor velodrome track. This is available to anyone who have track cycling accreditation from any indoor velodrome in the country or either of the outdoor velodromes at York or Bournemouth.

Right next door to the sports village is Tennis World. This long established indoor and outdoor tennis facility offers the chance to play and also be coached in all weather. You can play outside for £5 an hour on hard court, £10 per hour on artificial grass or £6 on clay courts. Play out of any wind inside from £12 per hour off peak and weekends.

There are special tots tennis times and coaching is available for individuals and per group. Ring 01642 322388 for more details and bookings. My nephew recently booked some coaching here when he was visiting from Hong Kong and got a lot out of the experience.

tennis-worldFrom tennis to table tennis. Founded in 1957 Ormesby Table Tennis Club were once European Champions. Now established in excellent facilities in East Middlesbrough, on Cargo Fleet Lane you could play at a club with an incredible sporting history.

You might well be wanting to get in the swim. In which case Neptune Centre on Ormesby Road or Rainbow Centre at Coulby Newham could be just the places. Aimee Willmott trained for the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the Neptune Centre, the base for Aimee’s old Club Middlesbrough Amateur Swimming Club, MASC.

middlesbrough-ascAs well as swimming, there are a full variety of sporting activities, exercise programmes available at the two leisure centres. If you are visiting long enough you can join Everyone Active for a month and use all of their facilities across Middlesbrough.

Everyone Active also run Middlesbrough Municipal Golf Club on Ladgate Lane. There has been a course here for 30 years now and it is set in a beautiful scenic parkland location. The course also includes a nine hole pitch and putt course as well as a floodlit driving range.

golf-clubNow and finally for our heart-shaped Love Middlesbrough run taking in so many of the sights and sounds of Middlesbrough, something no visitor or resident could possibly not want to do. Specially designed with love from Middlesbrough to you. Enjoy the run. Enjoy your leisure time in Middlesbrough.


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

Tees Pride In Our 10k

On Sunday I was one of 4000 runners, joggers and walkers proudly taking part in just about the biggest day of the year in these parts, the Sabic Tees Pride 10k. Although I could never describe the actual act of running as enjoyable, endurance would be more applicable, being part of that crowd out on the roads is a wonderful feeling. The relief of seeing that finishing line and the sense of achievement as you cross it is a personal triumph. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

A couple of years ago I had to make a choice between singing in a club in Berlin and running the Middlesbrough 10k as it was then called. The fact that I agonised before making the decision might show just how much this day means to myself and the thousands of runners and spectators that make this one of the highlights in the annual calendar in Middlesbrough or the whole area.

There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation along the old avenue of trees on Hall Drive, Acklam as runners assembled and clipped their race numbers to their chests. Is it just me that finds it impossible to pin four corners of a paper number to their own chest? Hmm, perhaps it is.

Patrick Monahan collects fro Zoe's Place

There was such a mass of people, first to watch the 3k and then to participate in the warm up which took on a light hearted feel courtesy of comedian Patrick Monahan. Pat had been out collecting for Zoe’s Place around the 3k route and would hug his way around the 10k also. There were so many vests with charity names on them, some national, many local and often very personal messages make for a colourful, moving and also uplifting backdrop.

Then it was out onto the road itself, taking care to start in front of any emu’s, ostrich’s, or guerrillas. And making sure it stays that way. A couple of years ago I was passed by a nun and a pink panther, at the 9km mark, the energy just ebbed right out of my legs. I still haven’t quite shaken off the feeling of shame.

Yesterday the sun was shining down on an event the entire community came out to embrace. There were 4000 people running the 10k, add to that all the children running 3k and the thousands more folk lining the entire route cheering everyone on and it is a massive day now for Middlesbrough.

As well as the people lining the route, bands played at intervals to lift our spirits. The first kilometre flag is passed along Acklam Road, I recall seeing a teenage girl dropping out at this point one year. I think she had rapidly regretted filling her race “water bottle” with coca cola.

Ladgate Lane offers shade beneath the trees but also a really testing hill past the lay-bye where the Slip Inn stood many moons ago. A change of direction at Marton Crossroads is always a boost as was the sight our mam and dad waving at the corner. I didn’t realise the camera clicking was my friend Tracy capturing a moment of suffering?

I wonder how many times I have driven to town along Marton Road over the years I think that is why it is so special to actually run down the middle of this normally so so busy road. By this stage we are counting the kilometre marker flags and trying not to go backwards compared to all the surrounding runners. I try to roughly time how long it has taken to reach each landmark but multi tasking (as demonstrated with the race number) has never been my strong point and I invariably fail to work out my time schedule en route.

A new departure this year was the kids along Keith Road being polite enough to ask first before spraying us with water. Don’t ask just do it, after 7km in that sunshine we needed all the water we could take on board between the feeding stations. Talking of warm, I wonder what temperatures that man running in a suit is now experiencing. Good to see Julie and kids waving us on near the Art College. This year I smiled rather than grimaced. I can’t be trying hard enough.

Its a long run the whole length of Keith Road and Green Lane, with an energy sapping bank at Deepdale to contend with. You think you will never reach Acklam Road but the sound of all the cheering folk either side of the road near Jack Hatfield’s club is a massive pick me up.

Then it is a case of staying power, being driven on by the band at the Coronation and trying to remember how close, not how far, Hall Drive is past Acklam shops. You see at the 8-9k stage it is psychological war fare raging in the runners brain. As you turn into the tree lined Hall Drive, relief turns to something near despair as you realise the finish line isn’t even in sight. I fall for this every year as the road seems to get longer and longer. Then there are the speed bumps to dodge as everyone winds up to a big finish in front of the gallery. Isn’t that Peter, one of the Acklam Parkrunners in front, better try and finish ahead of him. Actually it wasn’t but it gave me the motivation to pick up my pace again, just as I was flagging and lunge towards the line and Alastair Brownlee’s welcoming voice.

Relief! Grab the bottle of water. Catch my breath and swap stories with so many friends old and possibly new ones made on the day. A final word for John Gray, who is one of the faster runners, normally attempting to break the 38 minute barrier but this year injury restricted him to walking round in 1 hour 38 mins. John collected over £100 for Butterwick Hospice. Isn’t that what this community event is all about.

What a day it has been again. Roll on Tees Pride 2014 and hopefully a better time. Fingers crossed.

If you fancy staying fit between Tees Pride annual runs then why not try the 5k parkruns on a Saturday. We are fortunate to have more, well supported parkruns locally than anywhere nationally. Fit town not fat town. Runs start at 9am every Saturday morning at Albert Park, Stewart Park and just over the border at Tees Barrage. Click here for parkrun

Also please come over to Hemlington Lake on a Wednesday teatime. At around 6 to 6.30 Swift-tees meet up for a friendly community session around the lake waters. Some walk, many jog and others exercise with interval training. Followed by a cup of tea afterwards. All invited. Click here for Swift-tees

That’s Tees Pride

Excellent Photos by Tracy Hyman



Every Wednesday evening without fail a group of runners in light blue t-shirts can be seen circling the lake at Hemlington. In recent weeks I have joined the “merry” throng as we torture ourselves up and down hills or lapping the water. The afterwards we all disappear into a building behind the shops to have a cup of tea. To tell the truth I have become so hooked that I have even bought the t-shirt myself.

The weekly event is organised by Rosanne Lightfoot and keeping it in the family, husband Craig puts those that take interval training through their paces. But it is all voluntary, that is what makes it such a fun atmosphere. There is no pressure whatsoever, you can just take the opportunity to walk around the lake and see if there are any heron amongst the coots and ducks. There are people fishing off the little piers and recently some sculptures have been unveiled. It is a beautiful and often overlooked spot, just behind Hemlington shops.

Craig and RosanneI asked Rosanne and Craig to give everyone a little background to Swift-tees and tell the story of what they are all about.

Q: Tell me how you came to set up Swift Tees?

Rosanne: Initially we were i run and Andy Fisher the then director of Albert Park parkrun in the early days saw that there was a loophole and said it would be a good idea if we could encourage people who struggled to run. It just came from that as an idea and came to fruition with i run. We got money from NHS as funding, we encouraged people coming in, we were giving them a £50 voucher which they were putting towards a pair of trainers after they had done an 8 week programme. It was a programme that Andy Fisher’s son had devised. And it stayed small, we would meet on a Wednesday night at Albert Park initially and then the dark nights came. Louise Archer works for Habinteg (Housing Association) and she said I will see about us getting use of a unit. And since we’ve been at Habinteg in Hemlington it has just got bigger and bigger.

The first year we had about 20 people and these were people that haven’t run before, they were post-operative, depression, weight, they all had their own back stories. And that is what we are about, we are not an athletics club we are a support running group and everyone gets the support that they need.

The first year it was steady 20 or 25 at the most but this past year, I’ve now got 93 people. We designed our own t-shirts because we do local runs.  There were 20 of us went off to Edinburgh in May to do the half-marathon and the majority of people had never run that distance and two years previous they hadn’t been running at all. And it was fantastic.

My husband Craig’s got involved and he is taking interval training which I think is the reason why the group has grown so much.

Craig: People do the parkruns regularly and the interval training has helped them to get better times. That is why they have wanted to do it and they seem to really enjoy it. I have tried to make it different every week and it works for every level the way we do it, from the slow runners to the quicker runs. And we all stay together as a group when we do it and all encourage one another.

R: We are a community support group, that’s why we are out there. I know from when I started running 5 years ago I was a size 18 and had been on anti-depressants for 5 years and I didn’t see a way through. My daughter (Megan) wanted to start running. I heard about Albert Park (parkrun) and we started at Albert Park on its 5th week. I used to think my god why do people do this? As soon as Meg gets this out of her head the better but within three months I was hooked and the good I got from it, I got down to 26 minutes and I got down to a size 10 and I have stayed a steady 10 for the last 3 years.

You noticed that there were people at the back coming once at the parkrun but feeling somewhat intimidated by the fast runners but you need somebody at the back to encourage them but it is difficult when it’s a fast race. At Hemlington there is nobody in the lead and nobody at the back because we just mix and match. You just do what you want. We have walkers, we have joggers, we have runners, we have speed runners and we have the interval training.

Q: That’s right, you’ve got interval training but also people lapping the lake at various speeds. It is a really nice environment as well isn’t it?

R: Yes it is.

C: There is no pressure, you can do what you like. If you want to run round the lake that is fine. If they want to walk the lake that is fine.

R: We meet at Habinteg Centre (signposted from Hemlington shops) between 6pm and 6.15pm. We go out and do a warm up session and a warm up lap. Nobody is by themselves. Everyone is paired up, it is a buddying system, everyone has someone to run with. Then when we’ve finished we go back into the centre, have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee and cake and biscuits. Margaret Woods bakes cakes every week but we have found that we are now having to start to put a charge of 20p per cup of tea because everything was running out and it just keeps the tea, coffee and cakes flowing.

Everybody, at every level gets something out of it. We now have the Habinteg Centre on a Tuesday morning from 9.30-11.30 and we would really, really welcome people from Hemlington and the surrounding areas to come along and if they like it they can come on a Wednesday night as well. It is just an avenue to get them into a little bit of active exercise and to make a new circle of friends because that is what we’ve done. Everybody is like minded and that is what it is about.

Please do come and join in on a Wednesday evening or Tuesday morning. Absolutely everyone of any age or ability is welcome. Just look for the blue t-shirts lapping the lake or make for the Habinteg Centre, behind the Cleveland Huntsman pub and Hemlington Medical Centre. Do come on down.