RON's Runners. together with Beith Harriers had barely time to relax and enjoy the seasonal celebrations as the clubs made final arrangements for the annual Beith Harriers’ New Year races, held last Tuesday.

There are events for all age groups over the Scottish Athletics-stipulated, nine-years-old. Beith have an extremely valid claim that their event is at least the longest held running event in the West of Scotland with only an East Coast event preventing the boast of longest of all.

Starting in the 1920’s it has, over the years, attracted a large fields of talented runners and even some of international standard including Andy Forbes and Lachie Stewart. The run has always been popular even though held originally on January 1. With public transport sparse and mass car ownership yet to come, it attracted large fields of runners and also large crowds would be drawn to watch what was regarded as a splendid spectacle and in the very earliest races a good showing at Beith meant a chance of being picked for Scotland. Early days saw prizes of high standard furniture made by the renowned local craftsmen.

Through the years, the event has transformed many times switching venues as prevailing circumstances dictated and veered from Cross Country running to road running and, in keeping with present times, the once all male event now includes races for all ages of children and for ladies as well. In the 1990’s local lady athletes were often winners in their event with Helen Morton and Jackie Byng of Irvine claiming top place, Helen more than once, although Ayrshire winners have been thinner on the ground lately with the exception of Kara Tait of Kilmarnock.

In recent years, with much more varied mass entertainment on offer over the holiday period the large fields of old has diminished somewhat, as has those watching, but for local runners it remains an important “not to be missed” first race of their year.

Having hosted the event over the last two years, Rons Runners this year handed the organisation and running of the event to the new Beith Harriers committee, however, the club provided support and practical help on the lead up to, and on the day, of the event. It was satisfying to hand the reins back to rightful club, Beith Harriers, with some of their own committee and members prepared to officiate, steward or otherwise help the event proceed smoothly on the day. Local employer J & D Pierce (Contracts) Ltd was delighted to provide support to their community, providing sponsorship for the event.

Torrential rain for the youngest age groups eased considerably for the seniors and by race end some blue sky was beginning to show and the temperature too was almost perfect for distance racing. The ladies kept the trophy in Ayrshire this year with Kirsty Alexander of Kilmarnock claiming the prize with her time of 30:54 while Laura Wallace from Ayr claimed second in 31:13, and Bernie O’Neil of Cambuslang Harriers (32:43) arrived home in third place.

For the men Cambuslang’s Stuart Gibson took the trophy with 24:03 though for the first half of the race he was accompanied by Ross Gray a young man from Inverclyde and Grant Bailie of Scottish Fire and Rescue - both of whom he eventually left in his wake. Ross eventually finished in 24:22 second and Grant close behind with 24:37 claiming third finisher.

For the young athletes there was an encouragingly large field of 26 under 11s on the start line with Ryan Knights of Kilbarchan, the winner, timing 2:43 for the boys and for the girls Kilmarnock runner Olivia Warboys timed 2:51. Kilbarchan youngsters had an excellent day all round with their athletes Chloe Cameron finishing first with 7:54 under-13 age group girls while in under-15 girls Aurela Tiffaney (7:12) took the honours. The under-17 event was won by their Libby Sutherland 14:52. Inverclyde’s Robert Gray timed 6:40 to win under-13 boys while the under-15 boys prize was taken by Ben MacDougall with 8:55.

A rewarding day for the novice organisers was rounded off when the number of adults running saw another slight increase to total 50 males and 25 ladies with all Ayrshire clubs having a few representatives in the field. An added bonus and encouragement for the future was that the event ran smoothly throughout with only a few very minor kinks to consider for next year.