THE latest “virtual” Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers’ club championship race involved a pseudo Gribdale Growler Fell Race. I suspect most of the 75 members and friends who took part ran along the prescribed route from Sutton Bank to Sneck Yat and back, 5.63 miles in total with 650 feet of ascent. The winds felt gale force most of the weekend. One member described conditions as brutal.

Nevertheless, 75 people did take part, and the fastest time was recorded by Tom Levi, 34.04, with Andrew Price second in 36.17 and Joshua Fothergill third in 37.34. Fastest lady was again Esther Harrison, with Kirsty Naylor again second in 46.37 and Sonja van der Westhuisen third in 50.49. This was a remarkable result for Sonja, who is coming back to form after more than a year out following a knee operation.

The club may not have existed at all but for the efforts and foresight of the late Norman Smith. Nowadays, when you go out you are likely to see at least one runner pounding the streets, but when Norman was young, the only person you ever saw running around Thirsk and district was Norman. After leaving school, he worked for Wimpey for a while, and was involved in building a runway at Topcliffe Airfield. He was of the age and generation when National Service was compulsory, and Norman became more involved with running during those years, representing the RAF and, later, Yorkshire, on several occasions.

He liked steeple chasing and came second in the Yorkshire Championships in 1956, but there are no facilities for such events nearby so he transferred his attention to cross country running. He was a regular winner in fixtures for the NYSD Cross Country League. He also did several marathons and half marathons, and a run he remembered especially was a half marathon at Morpeth where he came 15th, but was very happy with his run.

His first club was Darlington Harriers, where he was very successful and keen, travelling 25 miles to Darlington on his motorbike before he ran a step, and ran 60-70 miles a week. Later, he transferred to Harrogate Harriers, where he was secretary for several years. He found out about the organisation required in running a club, and in 1977, held an inaugural meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a club in Thirsk.

Thus, with seven seniors and seven juniors, was Thirsk and Sowerby Harriers formed. Norman asked the youngsters what the club colours should be, and as some of them were Leeds United supporters, yellow and blue was decided on – and still it remains.

Norman ran in events all round the country, until his running was brought to an abrupt halt with a triple heart bypass operation. As soon as he could, he got back running but he also became involved with officiating at events all over Yorkshire and the North-East and was proud to be asked to attend at a meeting in Dubai.

He set up what was originally the Northallerton to Thirsk 10 mile road race, where top class runners were attracted, including Brendan Foster, Mick Macleod, Veronique Merrot, and, later, Tanni Grey Thompson and her husband, Ian. The race, and the club, go from strength to strength, built on the firm foundations laid down by our late and much loved club chairman, Norman Smith.