RUNNING legend Sir Roger Bannister set 3,500 runners off on their way at the Blenheim Half Marathon yesterday.

The chilly morning failed to put off the runners who were raising money for the British Heart Foundation by running either 13.1 miles or 10k in the grounds of Blenheim Palace.

Hundreds of family and friends cheered the runners as Sir Roger – the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes – began a countdown and then watched fundraisers speed past.

Among them was Jess Foster, from Aston, who was running for her seven-year-old sister Lara. She is being treated for leukaemia at the John Radcliffe Hospital. The 17-year-old said: “Lara goes through a lot so I thought I would do something to raise as much money as I can for her ward.This is my first half marathon. I am a bit nervous, but excited because I want to do it now.”

Former Oxford University student Sir Roger, who was also there to watch his 25-year-old great-niece Victoria Hamblin complete the run, said: “Nobody could have imagined when I was running that there would be 5,000 runners for charity today and 30,000 for the London Marathon. It is a revolutionary change.

“I am a neurogolgist and the work of the British Heart Foundation is something in which I very firmly believe.”

The best times in the half marathon were recorded by Chris Oddy in one hour, 18 mins and 49 secs, and Catherine Chester in one hour, 26 mins and 16 secs.

Winners in the 10k were Lieven Huang in 32m 4s5 and Caitlin Mullarkey in 38m 40s. The Blenheim Half Marathon raises money for continuing research into heart disease.

Event organiser Hannah Townsend said: “I’d like to thank all the runners for raising sponsor money to help us in our fight against heart disease.”

  • Oxford Half Marathon is this Sunday. See next Monday and Tuesday’s Oxford Mail for extensive coverage