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

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

My Come Back on Fairy Dell Trim Trail

It was back in July a day after my birthday that I felt a sudden tug in my calf whilst running Stewart Park run. It was my 249th parkrun. Everything should have been set fair on that sunny summer’s morning. I was pretty much in sight of the finishing line so I skipped and hopped the remaining couple of hundred yards to the line, against the sage advice of seasoned volunteer Kenny Salkeld standing close to the finish. Little was I to know that it was an injury that would sideline me totally for a couple of months and still be causing me grief for the remainder of the year.

This is the story of how I got back on the road to recovery thanks to the expert advice and treatment of physio Tracey Arnell and my recuperation on Fairy Dell Trim Trail. Fairy Dell has a trail of outdoor gym equipment that is totally free to use in a delightful park in south Middlesbrough.

trim-trail-signI don’t know as much as I should about how the body all works but what I did know back in July was that I could hardly walk afterwards. I limped very, very slowly to Teesside Sports Injury Centre, on University of Teesside campus. By that time I realised all too well that the calf is connected to the Achilles. About five years earlier I was diagnosed with a slight tear in my Achilles and following physio and lengthy rehab I changed my running footwear for ever before getting back to running park runs. I knew it was my Achilles heel again.

Tracey was superb in the Sports Injury Centre for getting me back on my feet again, giving me good advice for cross training to stay fit and keeping my feet on the ground. She also was not a scary physio. She didn’t inflict pain during treatment. She did however cast doubt on whether running the Great North Run. Even then it was possibly not on the cards any longer.

trim-trail-1I was out of action for a fair while but slowly the treatments and especially the exercises Tracey set me to do started to have a positive effect. Several times a week I would drive along to Fairy Dell and go on the Health Walker, ideal because there is no contact with the ground and so my tendons would not be subjected to any extra stress. After a few goes I could move on to the Mini Ski and watch the wildlife in the wooded ravine below. Then in later sessions I could try out the Handle Boat and finally Ski Stepper would come into play.

Unfortunately when I tried to step up beyond even a 15 minute session I had a set back of a couple of weeks and had to start from scratch again. It felt like one step forward and two steps back, quite literally.

trim-trail-2But gradually I started to win. It was gradual enough for me to actually start to see squirrels gathering their stores for the winter and leaves begin to change colour and even fall. Things you cannot see inside a gym.

Tracey gave me the green light to run Middlesbrough 10k at the start of September but not to push it and to apply the ice straight afterwards. I was well strapped and taped up. It was excellent I felt like a proper footballer or athlete with loads of bandaging and luminous green tape. Tracey said that if I was still feeling OK maybe I could try to run a little faster over the last kilometer or so. And I did. That was real progress.

A month later and I decided to try and risk the Redcar half marathon. I was very much short of race fitness and had still only managed a couple of training sessions with my running clubs Swift Tees and Billingham Marsh House Harriers. By the second half of the race I was completely running on empty so I was glad of the support from a few people cheering the runners along the Esplanade. I tried to hang on to Swift Tee Alison Tapper as she sped past. Meanwhile, my Billingham running mate Jill Maddren raced past well ahead in the other direction but still found the energy and compassion to say “come on.” My harriers coach Ian Harris also urged me on. I could hardly quit and let everyone down. Anyway, I had a date with the sea. I limped into the North Sea straight after limping over the finish line.


Then I finally completed my 250th parkrun and the cakes that were baked in my honour and the card I received from Swift Tees were splendid. To cut a long recovery story short I gradually got back to running if not at full speed then near it. Much to my astonishment I actually ended up breaking my personal best for 10k at Scarborough in November. I couldn’t believe that.

Then in December I was shocked once more to find I had won the Swift-Tees summer league trophy. That was unbelievable and I suppose a reward for all the hours spent on the Trim Trail in Fairy Dell park. The shield and trophy were both presented to me by legendary runner/official Sid Rudd and the inspirational Swift-tees founder, Rosanne Lightfoot.

I still have to battle with my Achilles but it is much better. I still use the trim trail and would trim-swift-tees-shieldrecommend it. I think I prefer to do gym stuff outside watching the seasons change. There can be no better setting for my money. And of course it is free.

I have to thank expert physio Tracey Arnell, formerly of Teesside Sports Injury Centre but now Skelton Sports Injury and Rehabilitation. Also my patient coaches, Craig Lightfoot at Swift-Tees, Ian Harris and Louise Dykes at Billingham March House Harriers and all those that have to put up with me moaning and lagging behind holding them up in last place in training for the past half year or more. Am so thankful for the support of those running and non running friends.

Tracey Arnell is now running her on practice Skelton Sports Injury and Rehabilitation Centre

Fairy Dell Trim Trail info is






Stewart’s Swift Tees Defibrillator Appeal

Stewart Park should soon have a defibrillator for the use of all park users courtesy of fund raising from Swift-tees community runners. An appeal launched at the start of December has achieved over two thirds of the target £1600 in just a couple of weeks thanks to the amazing generosity of park runners and the swift tees community.

The appeal will continue until the target is achieved and then a defibrillator will be permanently installed in the park. It will be a safety valve for the multitude of people using the park, its cafe, visitor centre and museum and the weekly Saturday park run. Add to that all the events from farmer’s markets to walks, talks and occasional open air performances and there are vast numbers of people who could potentially have need for the life saving service of a defibrillator. Hopefully it is never used but it is great that the park will soon be a safer places for all ages.

parkrun 1The Saturday morning parkrun has become a big part of peoples lives now. Up and down the country, nationally and now internationally too, a 9am on a Saturday morning throngs of people of all ages and abilities set off on a 5km run around the local park. It is a run not a race so therefore open to anyone at all to get involved and with plenty of valued volunteering tasks as well, quite essential for the gatherings to go ahead every week. Middlesbrough has two weekly events lapping Albert and Stewart Parks. They are great social meetings, engendering a real community spirit as well as being very advantageous to health. With the defibrillator appeal this is in effect, the runners putting giving something back in for all Stewart Park users.

Swift-tees community running club is based at Hemlington, the group lap the lake on a Wednesday evening, running, jogging, walking all are free to join. When I say free, if you pay 50p then you can grab a cuppa often accompanied by home made cake in the all important social held at the end of sessions in the Habinteg Centre.

Swift-tees draw a lot of their inspiration from husband and wife team Craig and Rosanne Lightfoot. The couple were recent finalists in the Gazette Community Champions awards. Craig is a very popular and patient coach, Rosanne a fundraiser and an ideas person. They are the kind of people that really make things happen, as the hundreds that take part in the weekly community activities will gladly tell you.

Swift-tees run other daytime sessions, some for beginners, intermediates and those fast people, they have maybe a dozen qualified coaches. Club chair, Mike McCann organises a weekly History run on a Thursday morning. Again there is always the carrot of the cafe at the end of an enlightening and educational run through historic Middlesbrough.

Anyway, back to the defibrillator appeal and a couple of Saturday’s ago Swift-tees instigated a Stewart Parkrun takeover where members filled all the volunteer roles from timer to pacers and then afterwards raised nearly £500 to start the appeal in the style.

Last Saturday night at the Swift-tees Christmas party a further £635 was raised including a whopping £231 from a raffled Middlesbrough FC shirt kindly donated by keen parkrunner and Boro Scouting guru Gary Gill. That makes a “running total” (see what I did there?) of £1234. So, almost in the home straight, just the last bend to go now.

swift tees group


Naked Run for My Sisters Place

Runners and supporters rallied around for a charity event in aid of My Sisters Place this week. Everyone defied the wind chill and foggy conditions to complete a “naked run” around Hemlington Lake that realised £700 for the Middlesbrough based charity helping women and children.

You may be saying to yourself, hang on a minute, did he say Naked Run? And with the wind chill, too? Yes, but don’t worry there was fog after all.

No, I am teasing what the naked actually means is running without a watch, garmin, mobile or any technology and means of timing how long it will take to complete a run. Before you start you write down the time you will take.

OK you might think that doesn’t sound too hard but and surely you knew that there would be a but, the race organisers from swift tees were very tricky and did not reveal the choice of two distances to be covered until just before the race began. Oh and just to make it harder still they picked very unusual race lengths, you know like 6.31 km and 2.3km or something of that ilk. Also they ensured there were as many twists and turns and snaking sections of pathways as possible.

karen MSP 1It was a very popularly supported event. Co-organiser Craig Lightfoot revealed that a total of 121 men, women and children had their times recorded. This was very much an all age as well as all ability run. Apart from hordes of sky blue swift tees shirts there were the black of NYMAC, the red of Billingham Marsh House Harriers and also Darlington Harriers, Fairfield Harriers were represented. I swear I saw the luminous Stockton Striders standing out in the fog. There were also many people just running for pleasure and in support of the great cause.

Andy Preston of Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Society was showing his support and joining in the longer run. Andy was maybe starting his training early for his annual marathon next year.

I mentioned that there were people of all abilities and that covered a spectrum from recently selected England international, Phil Teece, to complete novices. The beauty of an event like this is that everyone can take part and have an equal chance of guestimating their time over one of two distances.

I have to admit that my maths was pretty poor on the night. I looked at the distance to be covered very quickly and thought; just over 6km so that is just over 5km so therefore add a minute on to your normal 5km parkrun time. Maybe I should have read the instructions more closely and switched on my brain. It struck me nearly half way through the first lap that 6km is not really just over 5km. Schoolboy error.

karen msp 2Anyway, it was great fun to compete in and it really is weird running without any way of knowing how fast you are going. You try to sprint for the line but again have not a clue how you did.

I must point out there were almost as many volunteers as runners, without this army of helpers this event would not have taken place or been a success. There were marshals in hi-viz lining the routes of the two courses and pointing the way. Back at the Habinteg office base, there were volunteers signing us up for the race and recording our times, others preparing wonderfully refreshing after run cups of tea. People had been hard at work baking cakes, thumbs up to the sponges. Others had been preparing raffle prizes and of course laying out the course.

Sharon Caddell of My Sister’s Place wrote to say how delighted the organisation was to be the nominated charity and to receive the £700 total raised from the night.

karen msp3She went on to tell us a little about the important work of My Sisters Place: “Our charity supports around 1000 women and their children and families across Teesside each year to break free of domestic abuse, and donations from fund raising events like this are vital to help ensure we can continue to provide help and support to those who need it. Thanks again for your generosity everyone.”

The runners always get all the credits at the end of events but instead let’s list the names of all the volunteers, starting with race organisers Rosanne and Craig Lightfoot from Swift Tees. Julie Poultney, Chris Jones, Mark Poultney, Jacquie Kelly, Linda Simpson, Louise Archer, Emily McGough, Kim Peacock, Kerri Muldowney, Linda McGarrity, Linda Sigsworth, Kenny Salkeld, Joe Walker, Mike McCann, John Lees, John Gray, Andrea French, Julie McGrath, Amy Thompson and her little ones, Chris Jewitt, Annabelle James (who told me off for running on grass), Daz Mendoza, Lee Wright, Zoe Verrill, Jade (Laura Mack), Ruth McMaster Lees and Kelly McGough.

Thank you to Karen Newton for the phenomenal photos – fog what fog?!? Apologies to anyone I missed.

karen msp4


Roll Up For Stewart Parkrun 4th Birthday

Time to pull on your trainers and get down the park. There will be a birthday party with cakes waiting for you at the end of a run tomorrow morning at Stewart Park, Marton.

Saturday (9th July) is the 4th birthday of Stewart Parkrun. When set up Middlesbrough was the first provincial town in the country to hold two of these free weekly community runs. The original Albert Parkrun was so popular the runners was bursting off the paths. We are obviously such fitness fiends in this town that we needed a second venue. Thankfully the council were fully behind the initiative. A heritage lottery grant for Stewart Park resulted in amongst other things a new perimeter path for the park. Sharon Caddell was the name of the person charged with taking the run to the Marton park and what a success it has been.

parkrun 1Parkruns have exploded into parks all over the country and indeed in Europe and even further afield. It is a simple but highly effective premise. A 3 mile run is a target most people can aim to achieve. Perhaps starting by jogging and walking and building up to a full run. The starting time is always 9am on a Saturday and everyone is timed around the course. You register first, print off a barcode and then your time is logged.

You can just do it for the fun but you can also compare your times and indeed compare yourself nationally to others in your age group. If you like stats there are endless possibilities here. The stat I like is after 50 runs you get a t-shirt. Then another after 100. I am only a couple off my 250th t-shirt. That represents a few years of getting up early on Saturday mornings to run around a park. I feel I have earned it.

Even without the t-shirt rewards it is so worth it because the community spirit is something else. It is volunteers that make the runs possible. Then afterwards there is usually a chance for a natter and a tea and a cake at the park café. Many natter during the runs themselves but quite frankly I haven’t got that kind of energy or multi tasking skills. As for the cakes, well, what is the point of doing all that work and burning off calories if you cannot stick them back on again?

Parkruns are open to all ages and all levels of ability. The underlying ethos is that it is a run in the park not a race. Of course many do take their times very seriously indeed but it is the community running together that is the most important aspect. It is a weekly even that brings people together. Not so much self help, more everyone helping everyone else to be a little fitter.

This summer there will also be a junior parkrun coming to the town around Hemlington Lake This will be a real rallying point to keep the town’s youngsters fit. Starting on August 14th children from 4 up to 14 will be able to tackle this 2 km course. Kids of all ages are also welcome at the Saturday parkruns but under 11s must be accompanied around the course.

As a teacher friend of mine once said the real benefits of this (inter)national phenomenon will be counted in a generation’s time when there could be a fall in projected hospital admissions and health demands because of the preventative benefits of a free weekly run in the park.

So go to the parkrun page register, print off a barcode and bring it along. The run is free but bring a couple of quid for tea at Henry’s cafe afterwards. Turn up about 8.45am. Park up at Ladgate lane car park and then follow the pied piper of runners up the bank to Captain Cook Museum, the starting point at 9am for Stewart Parkrun, twice round the park. See you for cake afterwards.