Northumberland runners made their mark at an event today described as ‘Britain’s most beautiful Marathon and Half Marathon’.
Cees Van der Land from Allendale took the title of Active Northumberland Kielder Marathon 2016 champion, while Ashington runner David Green won the second annual Kielder Half Marathon.
Morpeth Harriers runners Andrew Hebden and Karl Taylor finished second in the marathon and half marathon respectively.
Around 1,300 runners descended on Kielder Water & Forest Park for the runs and it was the seventh year of the marathon, which is held every year starting from Northumbrian Water’s Leaplish Waterside Park.
Cees Van der Land, who finished the race in two hours, 48 mins and 51 secs, said: “This race is very special to me as it is my local marathon.
“I am very happy as I wanted to improve on my time from when I ran the marathon two years ago and came third.
“The course is easier on the legs as it is on asphalt, but tough as it is very hilly. I love seeing the many very beautiful views over the reservoir – they are stunning!”
Andrew Hebden’s time was two hours, 58 mins and 27 secs and he was closely followed by Matthew Cooke from Huddersfield in third (2 hours, 58 mins and 42 secs).
Winner of the Kielder Half Marathon, with a time of one hour, 15 mins and 10 secs, David Green, said: “I feel pretty tired but fantastic!
“I didn’t expect to come first and this has been my best run of the season. The course is tough and unusually I did enjoy running the hills as that is my strength.
“Kielder is such a very special place and I find running in such stunning surroundings really inspirational.”
Karl Taylor of Amble, who won the inaugural half marathon last year, picked up a leg injury during the race. His finishing time was one hour, 17 mins and 53 secs.
Fellow Morpeth Harrier Mark Snowball, of Ashington, was third in one hour, 19 mins and 36 secs.
The top three female finishers were Debbie Crozier from Washington (three hours, 19 mins and 25 secs), Janet Dickson from Fife (3 hours, 20 mins and 26 secs) and Vicky Butler from Newcastle (3 hours, 24 mins and 15 secs).
Debbie said: “I am so pleased that I have done better than I did last year.
“I won the half marathon last year and I knew I couldn’t do a faster time in that race, so wanted something to strive for. I decided that running a longer distance was the challenge I needed.
“The conditions have been good today and I thoroughly enjoyed the course, it’s beautiful.”
The first female in the half marathon was Zena Phillips, of Ascot, in one hour, 33 mins and 26 secs.
Second was Mel Ellis from Berwick (one hour, 36 mins and 54 secs) and third was Nicola Woodward of Chester-le-Street (one hour, 37 mins and 21 secs).
Both events were the show stoppers to a full weekend of activities, which included the Kielder 10K, Kielder Run-Bike-Run, junior races and a series of walks.
The weekend is run by Events of the North, a company led by Olympians Steve Cram and Allison Curbishley, in conjunction with Northumbrian Water, Active Northumberland and Northumberland County Council.
Race Director Steve Cram said: “The 2016 Kielder Marathon was the culmination of another fantastic weekend of races at the most picturesque sporting event in Britain.
“We have had some excellent races, with competitors from across the UK and around the world. Each year, the weekend improves and the work starts now on planning a bigger and better event for 2017.”
The junior races took place while the marathon and half marathon were under way and they saw more than 100 children take part in either the Osprey (1km race for children aged seven to nine) the Roman Mile (1.48km race for children aged 10 to 12) or the Centurion (2.5km race for children ages 13 to 15).
Winner of the Kielder Centurion race was Eira Hegarty, who is 15 and from North Shields. She ran the race with her younger brother.
Eira said: “I am really happy. I did this race last year and enjoyed it.
“I got into running through joining a running club with a friend.
“My brother, Osian who is 13, came second. I know I beat him today, but I’m sure he’ll be able to beat me soon!
“It’s special that we have raced together and both done so well.”
Northumbrian Water chief executive Heidi Mottram said that the company was “extremely proud” that one of its reservoirs was used for such a fantastic sporting weekend.
She added: “I would like to thank all of the partners, individuals and volunteers who have made the weekend possible, and also recognise every single person who took part.
“All participants should celebrate their achievement and be very proud.”
Coun Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at Northumberland County Council, said: “This sporting weekend has certainly put Northumberland and our region on the map once again and the atmosphere and feel of the event is testament to how it has been enjoyed by everybody who took part and all those who came to cheer on the competitors.
“I feel extremely proud that Northumberland County Council has played such an important part in making the event possible and I would like to personally thank all of those involved.”