Supporters of a community-led project to build an athletics track in Sedgefield will take on the Virtual Virgin London Marathon (VVLM) next weekend to raise funds for the initiative. Among the runners who will be fundraising for the East Durham Community Athletics Track (EDCAT) are current and former members of Sedgefield Harriers, including a founder of the ‘home’ club and participants from as far afield as the Czech Republic and Australia.

Months ago, Mike Wood, chair of the EDCAT charity, booked 10 fundraising places in the VVLM and one in the main Virgin London Marathon, confident that track supporters would be keen to get involved and he wasn’t disappointed, though he hadn’t anticipated that the backing would cross continents. In the main Virgin London Marathon, Sedgefield Harrier David Bentley will represent the club and EDCAT, and has been training hard in his bid to complete the event in under two hours and 50 minutes. Among the EDCAT runners in the VVLM will be two relay teams and eight individuals, including Jo James, who was secretary of Sedgefield Harriers at the time the track project was originally launched a decade ago, and who has since emigrated to Australia.

Another VVLM runner for EDCAT will be Michael Pyle, who was born in Sedgefield and went to Sedgefield Community College, before moving to Prague in the Czech Republic. Michael is still a member of the Harriers and is pleased to lend his support: “My passion for running came from joining my local club Sedgefield Harriers, and this provided me with the chance to pitch myself against others. Just imagine what a running track on the doorstep would do in terms of providing the next generation with the opportunity to emulate and experience the athletics they see on TV!”

A team from Coxhoe Active Life Leisure Centre, which will have a part to play when the track becomes a reality, will run the distance as a relay, as will a team from Sedgefield Harriers led by Enya Killen. Other runners supporting EDCAT on Sunday 3 October include Judith Porter, Diane Baines and Doreen Huxley, long-term supporters of the track project; Clair Walker, a Harrier who will be taking part in her first marathon; Jonathan Wallace, a long-time member of the Harriers and a member of the EDCAT steering group; and Ean Parsons, chair of the EDCAT steering group and a founding member of the Harriers.

Ean will visit a number of other North East tracks as he covers the 26.2 miles, starting at Monkton Stadium in Jarrow, where Steve Cram began his journey in the sport, and finishing at Maiden Castle in Durham, a facility where grass roots athletics is being squeezed out. His marathon route will highlight the lack of facilities and track time currently available to clubs in the area, especially to those that will be served by EDCAT.

Ean Parsons comments: “Looking back through the decades, you can see how talented athletes in the North East like Steve Cram were able to reach their potential because they had access to good local facilities. More recently, we’ve seen the likes of Allison Curbishley, Chris Tomlinson, Richard Kilty and Laura Weightman do the same, but all on tracks elsewhere in the region. The East Durham Community Athletics Track offers a golden opportunity to find and nurture future athletics superstars in Sedgefield and the surrounding area, but beyond that it will offer invaluable pathways into the sport for anyone, at whatever level they participate. That is more important than ever as we seek to get people moving and active, for the good of their physical and mental health, as the latest county council campaign has highlighted.”

EDCAT, as located on a site at Sedgefield NETPark, received overwhelming backing in public consultation earlier in the year and has strong support from the North East athletics community. The planning application is currently being considered by Durham County Council and the project team is well on the way to raising the funds needed to build the facility. More information can be found at www.edcatrack.com.

David Bentley’s fundraising page is at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavidBentley19. Ean Parsons’ fundraising page is at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EanParsons. All donations made on both of these pages will go directly to improve athletics facilities in Sedgefield.