THE PANDEMIC put large events on hold for 18 months, but yesterday runners from all over the country were back in force to take on the Oxford Half Marathon.

Over 13,000 runners took part in the race that circles Oxford's landscape, making it the largest half marathon the city has ever seen.

Johnny Cornish won the race at an impressive 66 minutes and 40 seconds.

Speaking after the race he said: "I feel amazing, I feel elated.

"I came fourth last time so it's nice to improve on that.

"It has been so good to be back after the pandemic - the crowds have been the best part of today and better than I have ever remembered before, and I think that's because everyone has missed it."

Chloe Richardson was the first woman to complete the marathon at a speedy 76 minutes and 36 seconds.

She said: "I loved this race, the flat and beautiful route was so lovely to run through.

"Thank you to all those who came out to support us today, you made our experience a really memorable one.”

The Oxford Lord Mayor and Cabinet Member for Public Health, Mark Lygo officially started the race that saw a much-needed return to vital fundraising with charities seeing a major impact from funds raised by avid and generous runners at the Oxford Half.

Several runners were seen in fancy dress - this included a 'Spiderman', 'Freddie Mercury' and two men dressed as washing machines.

Oliver Holt, who ran for the hospice, Sobell House, said: “It feels so great from a societal point of view to have crowds out again and to be running with groups of other people in these mass participation events.

“For a lot of us it is a sign of a return to normality.

“I live here so it feels like a community event, I saw teachers from my son’s school, some friends a colleague – I think we appreciate it more when a community comes together as we haven’t been able to do this in a while.”

Mr Holt said he decided to run for Sobell House after realising the important work the hospice does for those in the community.

He said: “I realised how valued Sobell House is by people who have been helped by them.

“I can’t think of many better people to run for – Sobell House shows how important loving and dignified end-of-life care is.”

In total, this year people ran for 57 charity partners including Cancer Research UK, and local charities Headway Oxfordshire, Helen & Douglas House, Oxfordshire Mind, Sobell House, and SSNAP.