Fundraising fitness fans flood city’s streets in a rush hour with a twist

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The roads through Leeds city centre were transformed yesterday morning as queues of cars were replaced by thousands of runners pounding the streets for charity.

Competitors travelled the length and breadth of the country to compete in the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash, each on a mission to achieve personal best 10K times while raising money to combat loneliness among older people and help them stay warm and well this winter.

Now in its 29th year, the YEP-backed event is popular with fun-runners and celebrities, as well as elite athletes.

The sea of around 12,000 neon and lycra-clad fitness fans included participants dressed in everything from cow and camel suits to business suits, Crime Scene Investigation-style white boiler suits and crazy wigs.

They created their own Sunday rush hour as they braved the chill to tackle the route from Wellington Street to Kirkstall Abbey and back to Leeds Town Hall, cheered on their way by thousands of enthusiastic supporters lining the streets.

Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor David Congreve, who presented the winners’ medals on the steps of Leeds Town Hall, said: “It’s wonderful that people in Leeds are willing to take part in such events and raise such an enormous amount of money for such a good cause.”

Yesterday’s Dash saw around 250 youngsters take part in the 2K junior race, while the main event was once again filled to capacity, with a staggering 12,000 people signed up.

The first runner across the finish line was Andrew Butchart, who took just 29.17 minutes.

The fastest woman was Stephanie Twell, with a personal best of 32.28 minutes.

Stephanie, 25, from Aldershot, said: “This was my first time in Leeds and it was a great atmosphere – I will definitely be coming back.”

Junior winner Jack Brennan, with a 2K time of five minutes, 38 seconds, said he was thrilled to have beaten last year’s placing – coming first instead of second.

The flat, fast race is a firm favourite among beginners and elite runners alike and was this year selected as the final event in the prestigious Run Britain Grand Prix Series.

More than 30 runners from the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force also made the journey to Leeds, some from as far afield as Plymouth, to compete in the Inter-Service 10K Championships.

Lieutenant Commander “Ginge” Gough, from HMS Temeraire, said: “This race attracts the best athletes we have in the services because there’s the potential to run fast times.”

Fastest wheelchair racer was Callum Hall, who completed the course in 27.41 minutes.

The fastest female wheelchair racer was Jade Jones, although organisers did not have her official time due to a timing chip problem.

And two former students from Leeds Beckett University were attempting to beat the Guinness World Record for the fastest 10K in a two-person pantomime costume.

Matthew Hobbs, from Leeds, and Robert Bridges,from Manchester, dressed as a camel and aimed to get their humps over the finish line in less than 40 minutes. It is not yet known if they succeeded.

Emmerdale star Alicya Eyo also took part.

Lydia Curran, head of events at Age UK, said: “We think we will have raised about £275,000, which is such an amazing result.”

She said the cash would help tackle loneliness among older people living in and around Leeds and the rest of the UK, with practical solutions like lunch clubs and weekly phonecalls.

Go to www.yorkshireeveningpost.co,uk for video of the race.

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