IT’S DUE to take place on the last day of this month and the first day of January at Musselburgh Racecourse.
The New Year Sprint – a historic event that is set to celebrate its 142nd anniversary – brings sprinters from all over the country searching for glory in what is the biggest occasion on the open athletic calendar.
Many Borders athletes have been training hard in their various running schools for weeks to compete in this somewhat unique meeting staged in the heart of winter.
None more so than Jedburgh teenager Seb Harrison.
Harrison, an up-and-coming talent, told TheSouthern: “I ran in the New Year sprint as a senior for the first time last year, and didn’t do that well.
“However, I am hoping to do a lot better this time.
“Although the weather has been bad, with all the snow, I haven’t lost any training as my coach Chico Woods dug out lanes in order for the school to train. He has also been training me hard, so I am fit enough.
“In the summer I won the Hawick Games sprint and I was pleased about that.
“I didn’t win anything else after that, but I was quite happy with my running during the summer and hope to run the same way at the New Year.”
Another Borderer poised to get down on his mark is Hawick’s Leigh Marshall who has already tasted New Year sprint victory, winning the event in 2008.
Marshall, a member of the Lee Notman/Drew Bryson running school, said: “I prefer winter training to summer training. It’s a lot harder because of the colder weather, and the nights are dark, but I enjoy it. The snow we have had has not been good for training, though, and has caused a lot of bother.
“My school trains on the Hawick cricket pitch, so, like other schools in the Borders, we have had to clear away the snow as best we can. This is not ideal, but you can only do what you can do.
“I am looking forward to running at Musselburgh, as the New Year sprint is a big occasion.
“When I won there two years ago it was a dream come true for me and I would love to win it again. So here’s hoping.”
With a winning prize of £4,000 up for grabs, the 110m handicap consists of 12 heats on the opening day, followed by cross-ties and the final on the following day.
Here’s my predictions for the winners of the heats ...
Heat 1: Martyn Paterson of Clackmannan showed up well during the summer season when reaching the final of the Jedburgh Games 110m handicap. Competing from a standing start instead of blocks, he gained third place. A young runner with a lot of potential.
Heat 2: Edinburgh’s Duncan Cleat, who has appeared in several New Year Sprint finals over the years, should make the cross-ties. Also going in this one is Selkirk veteran Craig Douglas.
Heat 3: Stylish young Jedburgh athlete Seb Harrison made a big impression when winning the Hawick Games sprint in June. Can expect hot opposition from Hawick pair Lee Notman and Douglas Prowse. Harrison could well have what it takes to go all the way in the handicap.
Heat 4: Selkirk’s Colin Bruce reached the sprint final a year back, and triumphed in the final of Selkirk Games 110m handicap in the summer circuit. Always gives his best.
Heat 5: An intriguing looking heat which includes two former New Year sprint victors, Eric Smart of Whitley Bay and Cumberland Bowers of Glenrothes. Hawick’s Ross Borthwick, however, could have the edge.
Heat 6: This one looks like being between Borders duo Greg Turnbull of Jedburgh and Langholm’s Jordan Maxwell. Second in the 2009 sprint final, Turnbull’s experience and strength should pull him through.
Heat 7: Former junior rugby player and 2008 New Year Sprint winner Leigh Marshall will be disappointed if he fails to reach the semi-finals. Marshall lines up against his coach Drew Bryson.
Heat 8: Peebles’ Linda Nicholson runs from the front. Craig Grieve of Jedburgh is liable to finish first, though.
Heat 9: Back marker Craig Fleming of Harrow A.C. will have to pull out the stops to overhaul former Berwick Rangers footballer Graeme Armstrong in another close-looking heat.
Heat 10: Breaking into the senior ranks after having graduated from youth running, Ryan Charters of Dolphinton, a bright young prospect, is in with a good chance. Morebattle Games sprint victor Marc Cockburn of Selkirk competes as well.
Heat 11: This battle for an opening run win looks like being a close encounter between Iskan Barskanmay of Jedburgh and Hawick’s David Rae.
Heat 12: Steven Charters, who runs under the banner of Edinburgh Athletic Club, and the elder brother of Ryan Charters, is the man for the final heat.