RUNNERS filled Sunderland’s roads yesterday as the city hosted its first marathon.
Those who endured the event thanked supporters who cheered them on every step of the way and made the day even more special.
The route started and ended at the Stadium of Light and took in the coastline at Hendon and Seaburn, as well as Barnes, Roker and Backhouse parks, and landmarks including the Wearmouth Bridge and National Glass Centre.
An estimated 1,700 signed up to run the marathon, with a further 2,000 taking part in the Sunderland 10k run.
The races followed on from an afternoon of activities for young athletes, with a mini-run, Niall’s Mile and a Sunderland Echo Junior Run hosted in the shadow of the Stadium of Light, with a pasta party held to prepare competitors for the next day’s challenges.
A minute of applause was held ahead of the marathon’s start in honour of Claire Squires, who died during the last stage of this year’s London Marathon, and Ged Clarke, who died last month as he finished Reading’s half marathon.
After the day’s only wheelchair entry, Andy Golightly was given his own rousing send off, the race was then started by County Durham-born Charlie Spedding, the last Briton to win an Olympic medal in the marathon.
Sunderland’s Marathon of the North was won by Paul Wilson from Hartlepool, in two hours and 43 minutes.
Andrew Pearson, of New Marske, was second in 2.46 and Ian Bloomfield, from Chester-le-Street, was third in his 59th marathon yesterday.
The 59-year-old, a member of the town’s athletic club who works for Durham County Council, was born in Sunderland.
He said: “I’m really pleased, especially because it’s my home town course, and it wasn’t too tough.
“I’m happy with my time and the crowds were good all the way around and it was very well supported.” Sunderland Harriers’ Paul Redman, from Fulwell, was sixth. The 48-year-old engineer said: “I was quite happy to be in the top 10.
“There was quite a lot to keep your interest with lots of different things to see, and the supporters were fantastic.”
Among those making their marathon debut was Faye Tatah, 27, from Houghton, who did it to raise funds for Help for Heroes as she has a number of friends in the Army.
She was cheered on by her children Jackson, seven, and Summer, four.
Faye, who works at Npower in Peterlee, said beforehand: “I decided to do it because it was here in Sunderland.
“I’m worried about the pain I’m going to go through but I’m just hoping everybody else keeps us going.”
Also marathon first timers were the Echo’s own Georga Spottiswood, 27, who edits etc magazine, and digital editor Ross Robertson. Ross finished in 4.45 and Georga in 5.27.
“I’ve never felt such pain in my life,” she said.
“I was absolutely loving it and the people of Sunderland were out on the streets and encouraging us along, offering Mars bars and jelly babies which was fantastic.
“But when I got to the 20 mile mark and those last six miles, it was really painful.
“I still can’t feel my legs and I’m not sure I want to.”
Ross said: “I think the best thing was the people that came out around the city, and it also showcased some great parts of the coastline and the less well known bits of it like Grangetown and Hendon.”
Mayor of Sunderland Councillor Norma Wright was delighted the event was a success.
“I find it really touching to see all these people, who have turned out and their families who have come with them to this event. I think it’s fantastic for the people themselves and also for the city, because we’re a city which is going up in the world and it also bring us kudos.
“It’s also wonderful to see these volunteers who have given their time freely as well as their energy, it’s absolutely marvellous.”
Steve Cram, who was among the organisers, said the first marathon had given the team plenty to build on in future years and hopes it will be an annual event that Wearside takes to its heart.
“All events grow and develop and from the point of view of the city, I hope that it’s something that people will buy in to.
“I’m really pleased at the high turnout from local athletic clubs, and also the volunteers from them who assisted and came down to help out.
“It’s been really nice to see the volunteers and the young people take part in the events, and I hope this is somewhere people can go out onto their own street and support it, because we’d rather they get involved.”