Next Wednesday, the 9th June sees the 30th running of the Blaydon Race (currently 5.9 miles). The race follows as close as possible the route described in Geordie Ridley's famous 1862 song 'The Blaydon Races' which most people will know, is regarded as the 'National Anthem' of our region.
The song commemorates the Blaydon Races (horse races) that were due to be held on an island in the middle of the River Tyne at Blaydon, but were called off when a heavy storm made it impossible for the horses to 'plodge' their way across to the race course. The storm is recorded in the last verse of the song and most of the other events that are described in the song actually took place a year earlier in 1861.
The modern day version sees 4000 runners line up outside Balmbras in Newcastle city centre and make their way to Blaydon. The list of winners www.blaydonrace.org/pages/results.html reads like a who's who of local athletics, with a number of overseas winners in the latter years thrown in for good measure. Last years winner Ian Hudspeth was the first regional (and indeed domestic) winner for 11 years. Ian is again a favourite to win this years event. However, I am hopeful that ex Blaydon Harrier, Mathew Armstrong (now running for Coventry Godiva) can spring a surprise after some recent good performances and steady progression in this race over the last two years (17th in 2008, 8th in 2009).
As a matter of interest the last of the original horse racing events at Blaydon took place in 1916 but had to be abandoned when a riot broke out following the disqualification of a winning horse.
As for the Geordie Ridley's song well here is the first verse and chorus:
Aw went to Blaydon Races
'twas on the neenth o' Joon
Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Two
on a summers afternoon
Aw teuk the bus frae Balmbra's an'
she was heavy laden,
Away we went alang Collingwood Street
That's on the road to Blaydon
Oh me lads ye shud a' seen us gannin'
Passin' the folks upon the road
Just as they were stannin'
Thor wes lots o' lads and lasses there
All wi' smillin faces
Gannin' alang the Scotswood Road
Te' see the Blaydon Races