HARWICH Runners have promotion in their sights this weekend.

The club are in cross-country action at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, competing in the fifth of six 53-12 League races.

Harwich were relegated last season but, having won the first four races, they are hoping for another victory to secure promotion back to Pool A.

They go into Sunday’s event with 24 points, with second-placed Tiptree Road Runners on 19 and Halstead Runners, in third, on 17.

“The aim at the start of the season was to gain promotion and we’ve exceeded that by winning every race so far,” said proud chairman Peter Gooding.

“It’s a strong position to be in and we’ve been fortunate this year, compared to last.

“All our best runners have been fit and available at the first four races.

“Last season we were not so lucky.

“Members were injured or race dates clashed with other things.

“If the team we’ve had this season had been available last time we wouldn’t have been relegated.

“Robert Reason and Steve Cooper have finished in the top ten at every race so far.

“Kate Hodgkiss has done the same in the ladies’ race.

“Stephen Peck has improved greatly to become an important part of the team while Mark Lloyd missed out last year but is back and getting better every race.

“New additions Nicola Flatt and Alison Evans have contributed, as has Archie Barrington in his first season out of the juniors.

“Add these to people like Elspeth Knott, who has run every year since the league started, and we have a large number to call on when they’re available.”

The 53-12 Cross-Country League is a series of six races, usually staged between October and March.

Each race is about five miles and there is also a junior race of about one to one-and-a-half miles, which the club’s juniors compete in.

The league started in 1986.

Harwich Runners were one of just six clubs in the first year.

Now there are a dozen competing in two divisions, with six in each.

Each event consists of a male and female race and each runner is scored on finish position.

A club’s first six men’s finish positions and first three female positions make up the club’s score.

“The last race this season is on March 11, which is Mother’s Day,” added Gooding, whose club will be without one of their best lady runners, Claudine Benstead, on Sunday.

“That could affect some runners’ availability, making it important we do well this weekend.

“So many things can affect a team and this week, for example, it’s the school half-term holiday.

“Some families go away and are not available to run.

“During February and March, runners planning a spring marathon, like London, are doing long training runs and are not available for cross-country but these things affect all clubs, not just Harwich.

“As for this weekend, we won’t know for certain who is available until probably Saturday.

“Injuries, as in any sport, play a big part, and running on ploughed fields, muddy paths, up and down grassy banks and into water-filled ditches can make things worse, so any niggles could influence a runner’s decision to take part.”