Thousands take to the streets for Oxford Half Marathon

thisisoxfordshire: Competitors race away from the Oxford Half Marathon start line outside the mist-shrouded Kassam Stadium. Picture: OX54742 Ric Mellis Buy this photo » Competitors race away from the Oxford Half Marathon start line outside the mist-shrouded Kassam Stadium. Picture: OX54742 Ric Mellis

THOUSANDS of runners raced through Oxford’s streets, the Thames towpath and the Cowley car factory in the city’s Half Marathon yesterday.

And supporters lined the 13-mile route, which started and ended at the Kassam Stadium, to cheer on the 4,200 competitors.

Runners dressed up as superheroes and cartoon characters – including Luigi, Where's Wally and Batfink – raised money for the event’s charity partner Helen & Douglas House hospice.

Organisers said the event, sponsored by the Oxford Mail and MINI Oxford, had been “a great day”. The first man to finish was David Bruce, 27, from Temple Cowley, in a time of one hour, eight minutes and 34 seconds.

He said: “The weather was great, the support was great and the course was great.”

Sophie Carter, 33, of Woodstock, was the first woman over the line, in one hour, 19 minutes, 41 seconds.

She said: “The best bit was running into Oxford and seeing the crowds as you went into the city, around the Iffley Road track and along the river.”

The race was started by city resident Sir Roger Bannister, who made history on the Iffley Road track by becoming the first person to run a mile in under four minutes in 1954.

He said: “Helen & Douglas House is a charity my wife and I have supported and we’re particularly glad that the charity will benefit.”

Chipping Norton residents Ashley Stevens, 33, and Jimmy English, 33, ran in costume as boxer Rocky and children’s TV character Batfink.

Mr English said: “It was harder than I thought it was going to be but I enjoyed it. “There was a lot of support from the crowd, but 99 per cent of people called me Batman. I gave up correcting them after a while.”

Paul Davis, 33, of Chilton, was cheered over the finish line by his wife Katie and children Miles, three, and Lucy, 16 months.

He said: “The best bit was finishing, because I had my family there to help me over the line.”

At 74, Zaccarillo Bento, of Headington, was one of the oldest competitors. The veteran of eight marathons said: “I like running very much. I started in 1968 and never stopped. “I have been looking forward to this one, because I live in Oxford. It’s great to have a half marathon here.”

Supporters lined Magdalen Bridge, Christ Church Meadow and St Aldate’s to cheer on the runners.

Race director Andy Heyes said: “It has been a great day. We’re a race that has increased nearly 150 per cent from our first year, which was a pilot.

“Sir Roger Bannister starting the race was my highlight. His last words to me were, ‘Congratulations, you have got an event for life here’.”

He added: “It will absolutely happen again next year. “We know the route can cope with over 6,000 people, so we would like to see that many on the start line.”

Jo Mitchell, head of fundraising at Helen & Douglas House, was among the volunteer marshals at Magdalen Bridge. She said: “We’re thrilled to be the charity partners. It was a stunning morning.”

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