Contending with the Elements

With runners now regularly competing in different events throughout the year they had to compete with considerable variations in the weather. The 1959 Wakefield 20 Mile Road Race, for example, was run in a temperature of 85 degrees farenheit and, as tar bubbled up in the road, one-third of the runners failed to finish and only the winner managed less than 2 hours

However, Arthur Nendick recalls that, in terms of difficult conditions, Grimsby and District Cross-Country Championships held on the 2 nd February 1953 - the time of the notorious East Coast Floods - takes some beating. In those days the teams from Hull Harriers and East Hull Harriers travelled to the event by way of the New Holland Ferry and then train onto Cleethorpes. That year, as a gale raged around them, the teams changed in concrete cubicles, devoid of any form of heating at the old Cleethorpes Open Air Bathing pool on the sea front and the teams were very cold before lining up for the start.

The course swept inland for about two miles and then swung back to Humberstone from where the runners ran back to Cleethorpes along the beach. For the first two miles the teams were almost uncontrollably pushed along by storm force winds but by the time they reached the beach they were running head on into a swirling storm of sand which filled their eyes and noses. Legs were being sand blasted as the runners gasped for breath. The runners then approached a beck which in normal years was knee deep as they splashed through. This year, the combination of a spring tide and Nor Easterly gale had raised water levels hours before high tide. Runners plunged through icy cold waters up to their waists and continued with soaking kit into the teeth of the gale until they reached Cleethorpes once more … and began the second lap. By the time they reached the beck for the second time a sensible official had diverted the course off the beach and onto the sea wall.

Afterwards, the sea continued to drive in and completely flooded the railway lines from Cleethorpes to Grimsby so the Hull teams were stranded for some time before the trains were restored and they could make their way home. By the time the reached New Holland the gale was blowing so strongly that the train was not allowed to proceed to the pier station and the teams alighted at New Holland. Linking arms, they walked head down along the long pier and onto the pontoon to board the ferry which was tossing violently at its moorings. When they finally crossed the river and reached their homes all thought they had been through a battle. Although the storm continued to rage for a few more days the worst damage actually occurred on the afternoon and evening of the 2 nd February. Spurn Point was cut off, millions of pounds worth of damage was done to east coast towns and villages down to the Thames estuary and the loss of life was considerable.