FOR the past 25 years a group of devoted runners have gathered annually to battle their way through wind, rain, bogs, hills and ice, in a tradition started by fell runner Angus Tait.

Angus, from Allendale, first started the Hexhamshire Hobble with his friend and fellow runner Stewart Beaty, as a way of bringing fell running to the wider public.

A stonemason by trade, Angus devoted much of his free time to the sport, and was also passionate about bringing the district’s runners together – being one of the founding members of groups Tynedale Harriers and Athletics Club, and Northumberland Fell Runners.

Angus was a regular competitor in running races, and took on leading names such as Fred Reeves, Graham Moffat and Kenny Stuart in various competitions across the country.

In 2010, Angus died unexpectedly, but his legacy continues to live on through the annual Hobble race, which sees around 200 runners each year trek across the 10.5 gruelling miles of Allendale countryside in mid-winter.

The off-road route includes boggy marshlands and steep terrain, and runners are only able to enter providing they carry the appropriate safety equipment: a full body waterproof cover, a whistle, a map and emergency food to help them through the unpredictable conditions. Angus was known to not only compete in the race (and win on numerous occasions) but also cheer the other runners on from the sideline as a marshal.

His close friend John Barry described Angus as a “mountain goat” in the way that he sailed over rocks so quickly, and was a great instinctive navigator.

“Even without a map, Angus always found his way. He was at home whenever he was fell running,” said John.

The competition is now organised by running group the Allen Valley Striders, who renamed the competition the Angus Tait Memorial Hexhamshire Hobble in honour of Angus.

Derek Todhunter, chairman of the Striders, said he was eager to continue Angus legacy, by continuing to bring the region together through running.

“Our motto for the Striders is fun, friendship and fitness,” said Derek. “Both physical health through exercising and psychological health through socialising are at the heart of our classes.

“We meet twice a week – and we’re always eager for new members to come and join, whether you are an experienced runner or not.”

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Hobble, the route will be run clockwise, as opposed to anti-clockwise, just like it did the first time under Angus’ leadership.

The golden trainer trophy – awarded to the winner of the Hobble – is also a nod to Angus, who spray-painted one of his trainer’s gold after he won the inaugural Hobble, because there was no trophy on offer at the time.

“The Hobble might be no easy feat,” said Derek, “but it’s an event open to everyone.

“ It’s not about what place someone comes in the race, but rather about community spirit and personal gain.”

The Striders’ devotion to keeping the tradition going has meant that Angus’s name will continue to be associated with the race that he founded and loved.

“Angus was a connoisseur of the rough heather,” said John.

“He always knew where to put his feet, and flew down hills as if his life depended on it.”