Mansfield Harriers’ England international and twice British Masters 5k champion Mark Johnson took another step on his road back from injury with victory by 35 seconds in the inaugural Mansfield Reach 10k road race this morning.
Female winner was former Mansfield Harrier Emmie Collinge, who now lives in Italy and specialises in mountain races.
The event saw a return to road racing in Mansfield after a four-year gap, following the demise of the very popular Mansfield Half-Marathon, which had been run for more than 30 years before it was cancelled due to spiralling costs over health and safety.
However, this morning the sun shone brightly, probably a little too brightly, for a capacity field of over 650 runners as they set off from Titchfield Park for two laps of the town before finishing in the market place, cheered on by hundreds of local people on the streets.
The start had to be delayed by 20 minutes due to long queues at registration, but the event was finally got underway by Mansfield Town chairman John Radford, also the honorary president of Mansfield Harriers, who also ran the race himself.
The event had been made possible by a collaboration of Reach, Mansfield 2020 Business Development group, Mansfield Harriers and Mansfield District Council.
At the finish line a delighted Mark Johnson said: “That was hard as I’ve been out for six months. I have had plantar fasciitis in both feet, so I’ve not been racing all year.
“I’m on my eighth week back now and it’s very pleasing to have run that time on three weeks training.
“That puts me in good stead for looking to get selection for England on 26th September which is my birthday.
“I raced the 5k County Championships after four weeks and I was lucky to win that. I think the rest may have done me a bit of good to be fair. It’s been a very pleasing comeback in all honesty.”
Johnson wasn’t sure what his chances were as he arrived at Titchfield Park.
“I’d not seen the line-up today so, to be fair, you could get any GB lads turn up, any young lads, so with not knowing what field I was up against I really didn’t know,” he said. “For me, today was just getting another race under my belt on my way to getting fully fit again.
“The course was great and the support was absolutely fantastic. I could hear my name bellowing out all round the town. It was great and I’d like to thank everyone who came out to support me. It was overwhelming to be fair.”
He added: “You can just appreciate how Mo Farah feels when he’s got 80,000 behind him. It really does make a big difference. It’s great for the town as well.
“It’s great to be running in Mansfield again. I can’t remember the number of times I did the Mansfield Half. That was a fantastic event and it was very sad for us to lose it, but this has hopefully put us back on the map and will hopefully get us some new youngsters. Mansfield has produced some great Olympians, as we all know, and some great GB runners.
“Massive thanks to my coach, Pat Carlan. He is like a second father to me. He wraps me in cotton wool. And a big thanks to everyone for putting this together, especially Pat as the race director.
“The amount of work he puts into athletics is fantastic – what a guy.
“It was a bit too hot but, fortunately for me, I’ve just been on holiday and I’ve been running at eight in the morning when it was still 28 degrees, so I’ve been doing some warm weather training and I think that’s probably helped me today.”
Emmie Collinge yesterday qualified to run for Great Britain at the World Mountain Running Championships on the same Welsh course on which the Worlds will be held.
“I came back for a mountain race yesterday in Wales and then I came home to see mum and dad, who still live at Newstead Abbey,” said said.
“Today, I loved it. The course really suited me because of all the hills in it.
“I don’t usually do 10ks but mum and dad guilt-tripped me into it. It’s nice as I know all the marshals from when when I was a child and the cheering is so nice to have as you don’t get it anywhere else than your home town
“I’ve seen all my old friends from the club – all these people I looked up to when I was younger , now I am running with them which is quite cool.
“I did one 10k last November when I came third in Spain, but it was faster than this.”
Main organiser of the new 10k, Anna Joyce from Reach Learning Disability, said: “It was fantastic today, we were blessed with the weather but I think they would have come out regardless, talking to the guys.
“We are absolutely thrilled. It’s been a long road and it’s been a bumpy ride to get here, but we were absolutely determined to get this back in Mansfield.
“As far as Reach are concerned we couldn’t be more delighted there are so many orange shirts here shouting what we do.
“I think we were expecting 450-500 being a first race and, look at it, 650-700, I’m not sure yet, but it was a great turnout.”
The 10k, which also incorporated the Notts AAAs 10k, also attracted and secured Nottingham-based event specialists Perfect Motion, who are responsible for multiple races around the country including the annual Cycle Live and Great Notts Bike Ride.
Male results: 1st, Mark Johnson (Mansfield Harriers) 00:32:10; 2nd, Gareth Lowe 00:32:30; 3rd, Richard Robinson (Sutton Harriers) 00:32:45.
Female results: 1st, Emmie Collinge, 00:34:06; 2nd, Sarah Lowery 00:37:48; 3rd, Rebecca Taylor (Newark Athletics Club) 00:38:31.
Notts AAA: 1st, Mark Johnson (Mansfield Harriers) 00:32:10; 2nd , Richard Robinson (Sutton Harriers) 00:32:45, 3rd, Stuart King (Heanor Running Club) 00.33.40.
Mansfield Harriers: 1st Mark Johnson (male veteran 40) 00:32;10; 2nd, Andy Wetherill (male veteran 50) 00:34:59; 1st, Kahli Johnson (female veteran 35) 00:42:07; 2nd, Helen Jones (female senior) 00:42:42.
Full results and picture slideshow to follow.