Thirsk 10 – a little bit of history

Thirsk 10, in one form or another, has been held annually for more than 40 years, and the race this year was just squeezed in before lockdown, for which the club was happy, but not more so than the 1000 or so runners who took part.  The origins of the race go back to the early 50s, when Hambleton District Council organised the Northallerton to Thirsk 10 mile Road Race, at a time when road races were almost unheard of, but the would be founder of Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers, Norman Smith, took part, along with maybe a couple of hundred or so runners.

Norman did a lot of running in those days, at Darlington Harriers and at Harrogate Harriers, as well as on the roads round Thirsk, and when he looked into the feasibility of a club in Thirsk, in 1977, and it was established, he decided to have a go at resurrecting the earlier race with the support of Hambleton District Council.  The race would begin at the far side of Northallerton, about opposite where Sam Turners now is, and finish in Thirsk Market Place.  Runners were bussed to Northallerton, with changing in the Community Centre, and finished in front of the Golden Fleece in Thirsk.  Presentations were made in Thirsk Town Hall, and 300 to 400 runners took part.  In 1982, there were more than 500 runners, with only 36 of them women.  How things have changed!  The race was held in June, starting at 2pm, which could well be the hottest part of the day – in fact, in 1982, it was wet!  The winner that year was Ian Gilmour of Wolverhampton of Wolverhampton, a Scottish international runne,r in 48.20, with Paul Taylor of Sunderland 2nd in 49.42 and Brendan Foster of Gateshead 3rd in 49.42.  Over the years, top class runners have been attracted to the event because of the flat course enabling fast times, and this continues to be the case to this day, with Alyson Dixon of Sunderland a recent winner of the ladies race, and Tracey Morris of Valley Striders a few years previously, both going on the represent Team GB in the Olympic Marathon. 

The course for the route was brought to an abrupt end, when one year in the early 80s, the race had just started when the crossing gates went down because of an approaching train (nothing changes) and a hundred or so runners got through but the remainder had to wait for the train, which made a mockery of the race.  A new course had to be found, and the race became the Thirsk 10.  The start was opposite the racecourse, with runners going round Town End, up Topcliffe Road, along Gravel Hole Lane, along Front Street, Sowerby, back across Town End, and into Newsham Road to continue back through Sandhutton to the racecourse.  The police were a great help in the early days, but times change, and traffic hold ups were horrendous along Station Road.  Remember, this was June, a very hot day, and holiday makers going through Thirsk were sitting scorching in their cars, not very happy! 

The race was then moved to November, passing along Newsham Road, with an out and back near Sandhutton to make up the 10 miles, but one year it had to be cancelled on the day of the race because of snow and ice on the road, which lost the race a lot of friends.  The date was moved once again to March  where it remains to this day.  The course has been tweaked from time to time, but still attracts top class runners from far and wide, as well as novices who want to test themselves over 10 miles.

I recently discovered that in the early to mid 80s, the Round Table organised a half marathon, in July, which again started at the racecourse, through the Market Place, along Northallerton Road to and through Thornton le Moor, on to the A167, and back through Sandutton to the racecourse.  About 500 runners took part, the race being started one year by Ian Botham!  No doubt Norman Smith and Cyril Sherwood were on hand to give advice!

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