THE long-established Harriers New Year Road Races were held in the Garnock Valley on Monday, January 2.

And, like last year, the event was organised by Irvine’s running and jogging club Ron’s Runners behalf of Beith Harriers.

This race once attracted some large fields and the first running of it is thought to have been 1928 when J Suttie-Smith, a well-know top runner and Olympian from Dundee, was victorious.

Beith Harriers were founded in 1923 and were for many years one of the country’s top harriers clubs.

The trophy was donated by a Kilwinning company, McLuckie Crane engineers, and still bears their name. Past greats including Andy Forbes and Lachie Stewart have all held the trophy.

Local runners have had their share of success with P Allwell of Beith lifting the trophy in 1938 and 1939. More recently Irvine’s Billy Williamson and David Millar were victorious.

The last Beith Harrier to win the race was Ian Harris in 1961 who ran over the then four miles in 21 mins and three seconds. Ayrshire Ladies have also done well with Helen Morton (2) Liz McGarry (2) and Jackie Byng and a young Sharon Sinclair, all of Irvine Running Club winning.
The route for all races followed the road around Lochshore Industrial Estate, Kilbirnie with adults running the 4.8 mile route, consisting of four complete laps.

The Under-17s have two laps, the Under-15s and Under-13s have one lap while the youngest, Under-11s have 800 yards approximately.

Both male and female athletes run identical distances. All races share the same start and finish points with exception of the Under-11’s who run only three-quarters of the route.

Run under Scottish Athletics rules the first race, the Under-11s was won by Jamie Phillips of Kilmarnock with a time of 02:55, first female Emma McMillan of Ayr Seaforth recorded 3:19.

Races followed in close order until the two Under-17 runners started with the adults race at 12noon as scheduled.  

Winners of the Under-13s were, for the boys Muir Gillespie making his journey from Edinburgh well worth the effort timing 6.40 for the lap, while for the ladies, Louise Hastie finished just behind with 6:47.

The Under-15s event saw Corey Greenhaugh of Giffnock North win in 06:21 and Libby Sutherland of Kilbarchan recorded 06:58. 

Two Kilmarnock men were the sole Under-17 age runners with Jonny Houson 13:32 just holding off Jamie Nix 13:41.

The adults and Under-20’s then lined up. With half of the first of four laps gone a group of 10 runners had opened up a slight gap from the main field but coming up the slight hill towards the lap point only five remained in contention with four clubs represented. 

In the third lap, two had shown their superiority but soon into the final lap the eventual winner slowly opened up a small but telling gap, crossing the finish line comfortably in front. Ross Gray from Inverclyde 25:12 not only won outright but also won the Under 20s age race.

Second male home was Ayr’s Kenneth Neil 25:36 with Stephen Daye of Irvine 25:51.

Winner of the ladies race, recording 28:51 was Natalie Stevenson, clear of Kilmarnock’s Kirsty Alexander 30:45 with Bernie O’Neil timing 30:54 The ladies made up almost a quarter of the field in the seniors race.

First home for Ron’s Runners was Neil McMullen with 30:40 followed by John Owens while for the ladies Fiona Wyper finished in 37:30 and Jennifer Shaw 37:40.

A touching gesture by the Beith club, and very much appreciated, saw a small presentation made to the organisers as thanks for the work on the race over the last couple of years.

It was encouraging so many volunteers were mustered and both clubs hop next year Beith Harriers can, with help from the organisers, reclaim their right to host such a historic event.