MILLIONS raised by fun runners have helped put muscular disease researchers close to a breakthrough as 4,500 people dashed around Oxford’s streets again.

The 37th annual Town and Gown race this morning saw teams of students, families and even the odd Minion complete a 10k course winding past the city centre’s historic sites.

Mike Cleaver, who founded the race in 1982 after his son Daniel was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, said it was ‘hard to put into words’ how proud he felt as he sounded the starting claxon.

The race was expected to raise £150,000 for the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, adding to the at least £2m total raised over the years.

Kay Davies, of Oxford University, has researched the conditions, which can leave people unable to walk, for more than 25 years and said she is now more hopeful than ever that a cure could be found.

She added: “This is the first Town and Gown when we can say that drug therapy is on the horizon.

“There are clinical trials in progress that will make a significant difference.

“For people who already have it we might be able to stop it getting worse and could protect people from developing it at all in future.

“It is unbelievable how fast the science is advancing in this area and the funds raised by this event has contributed enormously to that.”

The race was won by Noah Hurton, 20, an Oxford University student who clocked in at 32.06 minutes with the first woman, Charlie Arnell, 24, from Bicester, finishing in 36.05 minutes.

Many schools and colleges were out in force with Oriel College and Headington School contributing some of the biggest teams.

Steve Mason, the deputy head of Wheatley Park School, which had a team of 33, said it was a great event to get staff and students working together.

Oxford’s newest celebrity, MasterChef finalist Nawamin Pinpathomrat, also took part, saying that he was having to contend with getting stopped for selfies en route.

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Tabitha Everett, who co-ordinated the Brasenose College team of 50 runners, said she and many others had not run before but were inspired to come out and support the cause.

She added: “The atmosphere is really great and it’s wonderful to see the whole city come together to support each other.”

Mr Cleaver, 71, who set the runners off in waves depending on their expected finishing time, said it was a long way from the first race, held at Blenheim Palace, where a small team had to do everything by hand.

His son would have been 40 on Thursday but died in 1990.

He said: “I’m just so pleased it’s carried on for so long. Raising awareness of the impact of this devastating disease is so important.”