THE overcast skies at Blenheim Palace today did not dampen the spirits of hundreds of runners as they lined up ready for the half marathon.

Inspired by family members, friends or even colleagues a total of 4,500 people entered the British Heart Foundation's (BHF) event to raise money for the charity that fights against cardiovascular disease.

Jamie Cox from Banbury was joined by his older brother Paul for his first ever half marathon.

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Paul Cox, Jamie Cox and Anna Sorrell. Picture: Richard Cave

The 43-year-old said he was inspired to take on the challenge after his work colleague Robbie Gulliver had a heart attack suddenly at the age of 47 last year.

He said: "It took us all by surprise, he was a relatively fit and healthy guy.

"When something like that happens, it just puts it all into perspective, so I wanted to be able to help someone else.

"We all have a heart and having a heart attack could happen to any of us at any time, so if I could help prevent another family going through what Robbie's did then that is brilliant.

"I also started getting back into running around February time to help get a bit fitter and I think something like this is a great way to not only raise money and awareness but also promote healthly living and looking after yourself."

Travelling down from Bicester was Adrian Spittle, who was joined by his soon-to-be aunt Milly Stowell and stepson Thomas Ring.

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Adrian Spittle, Milly Stowell and Thomas Ring. Picture: Richard Cave

The 41-year-old said today's half marathon was his ninth event. 

He said: "My nan passed away two years ago after having a heart attack at 89.

"For me it is all about giving back and trying to help fund the research so more can be done into preventing heart attacks in the future.

"I think I've raised about £600 at the moment and hopefully we'll be able to do it in about two hours and 15 minutes."

But the half marathon was not the only event the charity was hosting today.

Later on this morning a 10k run and also a 2k family fun run were held in the palace's grounds to encourage as many people to take part.

Professor Neil Herring, a consultant cardiologist at Oxford University, said by taking on the 10k he would be giving back to the charity and raising awareness.

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Professor Neil Herring before he embarks on the 10k run. Picture: Richard Cave

He said: "The BHF funds my post, which is so amazing.

"And to come here today to see the people who give so much to make my research possible is just brilliant.

"The nice thing about my job is that I get to see the impact this funding has on people's lives and their families, so I cannot encourage enough people to take part because every single person here is making a difference.

"We always need more funding and support and events like these are a great way to achieve that."

Organisers hope the day will have raised £250,000 for the charity.