In scorching heat that out-did Ibiza, some 8,000 people pounded the streets of Leeds today and raised vital funds for charity by taking part in the Plusnet Leeds Half Marathon.
This was the 31st event and it continued to attract first-timers as well as regulars in an occasion that brings people out in force to cheer on those in running shoes.
At the starting line, there was a warning to drink plenty of water on the way round with temperatures due to reach 23 degrees Celsius. Just before the race started on The Headrow, retired Leeds Rhinos star Jamie Peacock and Councillor Stuart McKenna (Labour, Garforth and Swillington) wished everyone good luck.
Mr Peacock joined the race too, alongside the likes of former Leeds United full-back Danny Mills, Casualty actor George Rainsford and Rhinos legends Barrie McDermott and Keith Senior, with the route taking runners out of the city centre, along the Ring Road and back towards Millennium Square via Abbey Road and Kirkstall Road.
So challenging were the hot conditions this year that runners were doused with water from hose pipes along the way to cool them down and some runners struggled to cross the finish line as the temperature took its toll.
Many were raising vital money for the event’s partner charities, including Hayley Smithenbank, 40, of Belle Isle, who ran for St Gemma’s Hospice after the charity cared for her late-stepmother. She said: “It’s nerve-wracking but when you cross the line it feels like a big achievement.”
Cheryl Westerman, 43, ran for a third year to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support after her father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She said: “It’s a bit more emotional this year.”
Dean Collins, 47, of Doncaster, ran in a pink tutu in aid of CLIC Sargent. He said: “My niece had lymphoma for the second time but has now been given the all-clear. I’ve raised £9,000 over the years.”
It was a returning champion who stole the show once again.
Jordan-born Mohammad Aburezeq, 31, was the first runner to hurtle across the finish line next to Millennium Square, completing the race in an even faster time than he did last year.
The hot weather seemed to play into the hands of Mr Aburezeq, of Hyde Park, who shaved four minutes off his time from last year to stop the clock at 67 minutes. He said he was quite taken with the event.
After catching his breath at the end, he said: “It was very good with great weather. I like everything about this event.”
He was followed, in second place, by Ethopia-born Yared Hagos, 35, of Loughborough, who was taking part for the first time.
“It was a very nice course and the people supporting us were incredible,” Mr Hagos said.
In the wheelchair race Bret Crossley, the only competitor, crossed the line in one hour and one minute.
The Leeds and Bradford Triathlon Club member said: “The crowd were absolutely brilliant. Lots of people were shouting my name. I really enjoyed it even though it’s a very tough course, I was going less than 1mph up the hills and got up to a top speed of 36mph on the Ring Road.”
Jane Tomlinson Appeal patron Danny Mills added: “It’s been fabulous Yorkshire weather and another great event.”
The Leeds Half Marathon is organised by Run For All and forms part of the legacy of the late Jane Tomlinson, who completed a series of gruelling challenges to raise £1.8m for charity despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer.