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Oxford Half Marathon field has grown threefold in its first two years
Buy this photo » Claire Thompson and councillor Mark Lygo are running for the Dance for Parkinson’s Charity
IT’S been almost two years since 1,800 runners in the first ever Oxford Half Marathon took to the starting line for a gruelling 13-mile race.
Since its inception in 2011, the number of people signing up for the event has soared by more than 200 per cent.
On Sunday, 5,500 people will line up at the Kassam Stadium at 9.30am to raise cash for their chosen charities.
Race director Andy Heyes said: “Preparations are going well. We closed entries about three weeks ago when we reached 5,500.
“This is the third staging of the event and the growth increase has been fantastic and in line with our hopes and plans. “The course is exactly the same as last year and takes in some iconic sights such as the Mini plant facility, which will be lined with new and old cars from the Mini production history, Iffley Road, to pass the track where Sir Roger Bannister broke the first ever four-minute mile in May 1954, Christchurch Meadow, which is a fabulous stretch of the course, then the two-mile stretch along the Thames Path up to the route’s 10-mile point – before finishing in the actual stadium itself.”
Among the runners taking part on Sunday is Oxford City Council officer Claire Thompson, who will be supporting the Dance for Parkinson’s charity.
Ms Thompson said: “Dance for Parkinson’s is such a fantastic project, and it is a privilege to be involved in it.
“It really makes a difference to the lives of those who take part in it. I am proud to be running the Oxford Half Marathon and grateful to everyone who has generously sponsored me.”
The race will once again be sponsored by Mini Plant Oxford and Brooks Running, and the official charity partner will be Helen and Douglas House.
Other partners include the Oxford Mail, BBC Oxford, Clif Bar, Up & Running, Lidl, Grant & Stone, Saka, Urban Fruits and OxPhysio.
Mr Heyes added: “Without the help and close co-operation of Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and all Oxfordshire-based emergency services the event could not take place, and as ever they have been extremely helpful and proactive with the planning of the event.
“Last year’s race raised many thousands of pounds for local Oxford charities, and with the increased number of entrants this year we expect this to be considerably more.
“We are also very grateful for the input from the colleges and universities, especially Oxford Brookes, Thames Trails and the Oxford Academy.”
George Anderson’s “intelligent running” pacemakers will help runners achieve their expected finishing times, and Gym Cube workout instructors will co-ordinate a warm-up regime at 9am on race day.
The Kassam Stadium will host an “athletes’ village”, where runners and spectators will be able to browse stalls and buy food and drink.
There will also be performances from seven different bands around the course, who will sing and play to entertain runners and spectators, adding to the carnival atmosphere.
Designated parking facilities and shuttle buses will be in place from the Race HQ, Mini Plant and Unipart facilities from 7am on the day.
Those without a parking pass will need to find suitable parking themselves or make use of public car parks.
Follow our coverage online on Sunday at http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk. A special results supplement will be published in Monday’s edition
Student runs in aid of injured pal
THE work of a charity in helping a friend hit by a life-changing spinal cord injury has spurred Oxford Brookes University student Lizzie Dunthorne to run in his honour.
The 21-year-old anthropology and sociology student, who lives in East Oxford, will be running for the national charity Back-Up Trust, which has helped her friend Sean Doherty, 21, over the past few years.
She said: “I’m running for the Back-Up Trust on the recommendation of my friend Sean, who sustained a spinal cord injury mountain biking during our school holidays in 2008.
“He had the opportunity to go sit-skiing with a group through the trust a couple of years ago and had a brilliant time. He made a whole load of new friends and being very much into outdoor and extreme sports prior to his accident, had the chance to get the adrenaline pumping once again.
“For me charities such as Back-Up Trust are hugely important since they don’t simply provide counselling and support for people with spinal-cord injuries and their families but instead give them the chance to try new things, meet others in similar situations and have the experiences that people often write wheelchair users off as unable to do. A spinal cord injury doesn’t have to stop a person getting the most out of life.”
She added: “I had never been one for long-distance running before I started training for the half marathon.
“Frankly there’s still no chance I’d consider myself a runner, but I thought if I wanted to raise money for this charity, I should really push myself by doing something I never thought I’d do.”
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