THOUSANDS braved chilly conditions to take part in this year’s festival of running in Sunderland.
Some 5,000 runners competed across the Marathon of the North, Half Marathon of the North, and Sunderland City 10k races.
On Saturday, youngsters from across the North East ran in a series of mile races before enjoying a pasta party.
Yesterday, despite swirling winds and spells of heavy rain, runners enjoyed their day out and raised thousands of pounds for charity in the process.
Organiser and Olympic medal-winning athlete Steve Cram hailed the weekend a success.
“It’s been an interesting logistical exercise for us putting in the half marathon, and it’s been very chilly today for people taking part.
“But as long as everybody gets around the courses safely, then we are happy.”
Runners battled the elements to get over the finish line at the Stadium of Light.
Horrible Histories author, Sunderland born-and-bred Terry Deary, crossed the half marathon finish line with a time of two hours 16 minutes.
“I’m pleased because that’s my fastest time over that distance for five years. I think I might need drug testing,” he joked.
Terry was sponsored to raise money for the Grace House hospice appeal.
He said: “I found out I’m going to miss this year’s Race for Grace because I’m away at the time, so I really wanted to do this today. The wind made it hard going up Durham Road, but it was a bit easier near the end.”
Taking part dressed as cartoon character Bananaman was fund-raiser Stephen Roberts.
The 44-year-old, from Durham City, was originally set to tackle the Half Marathon of the North while donning an Iron Man costume.
But after the Boston Marathon bombings, he decided to wear blue and yellow in tribute to those affected by the blast.
“I just felt it was the right to do to show respect to the victims of Boston,” said Stephen, who has raised about £1,500 for the British Heart Foundation through charity runs this year.
Like Terry Deary, Sunderland fan Dan Vasey, of Grangetown, took on the half marathon to raise cash for city hospice Grace House.
“It was very difficult because it’s been pretty cold all day,” said the 24-year-old. “But it was worth it.” Peter King had travelled from Coxhoe, in County Durham, for the half marathon, which he completed alongside pal Gary Cowler, from Tadcaster.
“We’ve done it in one hour 47 minutes, so we are very pleased,” said Peter.
“The wind hasn’t made it easy, but everything has been well organised.
“We are raising money for a Bangladesh club foot charity and it looks like we’ve got over £200 now.”
Chris Alexander, chief operating officer of Sunderland Live, which promotes events in the city, said: “It’s been a great weekend.
“We’ve got something like over 5,000 people running in the races as well as loads of people out on the streets to cheer people on.” Mr Alexander said the Wearside tourism economy has been given a shot in the arm by the Marathon of the North and its sister events.
“There are people here from Yorkshire and the North West to take part.
“Not only that, but when they are coming up here, they will be staying for the night, which is a real benefit to the economy in Sunderland.”
However, one city centre restaurant owner said more needs to be done next year by the authorities to help businesses operate as usual on race day.
Jimmy Shadforth, of D’Acqua in John Street, said he hoped to return to his premises while the races were on with a car full of supplies, but was initially told he could not drive into the city centre.
Mr Shadforth said: “I do think there should be some kind of permit for people like us who have city centre businesses on days like this.
“I don’t want to have a pop at the race itself because I think it’s great, but I don’t think some don’t seem to appreciate that people have to run their businesses as usual.
“I know one person who decided to close for the day, which is fine if you can afford to do that, but I can’t.”
•To see video and slideshow footage of the weekend’s events, go to www.sunderlandecho.com.