Athletics clubs are quids in following this year’s Run Sunderland Festival.
Organisers of the Sunderland City 10k and Half Marathon events, which took place in the city earlier this month, introduced a club payback incentive earlier in the year to encourage entries and it has proved to be a huge success.
As a result, over £1,000 has been distributed, with 14 grassroots clubs from throughout the North East benefiting from the scheme.
Clubs started to earn cash from the payback scheme when at least 10 members signed up to run in either the half marathon or 10K.
If the initiative had been introduced in 2015, eight clubs would have earned money.
The total of 14 beneficiaries exceeded expectations and contributed to the 21% increase in event entries this year.
Sunderland Strollers running club entered the highest number of runners – 62 in the half marathon and 52 in the 10K.
Sunderland Harriers also earned money through the payback scheme, along with clubs from Tyneside, County Durham and Tees Valley.
As well as the payback scheme, club runners were attracted by faster courses in 2016, with the new city centre start and finish area in Keel Square rather than the Stadium of Light as in previous years.
Record numbers of about 4,000 people ran across both races.
Event founder, race director and former World Champion athlete Steve Cram said: “Over the years, the region’s clubs have supported our races with loads of runners and volunteers, and we felt that the payback scheme would be a good way to thank them.
“The initiative has worked really well and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to pay out £1,000 that will no doubt be invested back in to the grass roots of our sport here in the North East.
“It was great to see the winner of the 10K dip under 30 minutes for his run in challenging conditions, proving that the revised course is faster.”