Organisers of this weekend's festival of running in Sunderland, which included the Marathon of the North, half marathon and Sunderland City 10K, have reported that almost 5,000 participants took part in the trio of events. Even with cold and windy conditions, the number represents a 2,000 increase on last year's total turnout, with thousands of spectators lining the streets to cheer on runners.
Before the start of the marathon and half marathon, a minute's silence in tribute to the victims of Boston marathon bombs was impeccably observed by runners and supporters at the start area beside the Stadium of Light.
In what was his first competitive outing at the distance, Leicester Tri Club's Jake Harrison secured top place with a time of 2:42:23. Leading throughout, Harrison was followed by Stephen Tilford (2:45:30), with Paul Attley of Gateshead Harriers taking third 2:46:09. The first woman home was Jess Riches in 3:20:55, followed by Marie Sly (3:21:46) and Sarah Black of Hartlepool Burn Road Harriers (3:22:15).
On his victory at the race, Harrison commented: "Of course, I am really happy to win the Marathon of the North. It's a good course with a bit of everything - a few turns, and some uphill and downhill sections. The conditions were tough thanks to the strong wind, but the runners were well-supported around the route and the event was well-marshalled."
The inaugural Half Marathon of the North was a more closely fought affair, with Sunderland Harriers' Mark Hood finishing first in 1:11:07, followed by Andy Burn of Jarrow and Hebburn (1:11:50) and Craig Isherwood (1:11:52). In the women's event, Stacey Rogers of Wallsend Harriers was first in 1:22:24, followed by Rebecca Rigby of Newcastle University CC (1:25:06) and Rosie Tarbuck (1:25:19).
Event coordinator Steve Cram said the extra numbers proved to be a welcome challenge for all those organising: "Today was a logistical challenge, thanks to the addition of the half marathon to the programme and 2,000 more runners across all of the events. Congratulations to everyone who took part and thanks to Sunderland City Council, all of the sponsors and the people of Sunderland for making this into such a special event."
Results of the Marathon of the North, Half, and Sunderland City 10K are available via northernrunningguide.com