THE RETURN of Darlington’s popular 10K running event was greeted by smiling faces, a sea of colourful running jerseys and a huge sense of relief.

For over a thousand runners, Sunday’s event was seen as the first challenge and first race back for more than a year and a half.

Lockdown provided the perfect opportunity for improving individual performance and setting personal training programmes, but club runs and weekly meetings went on an unexpected and prolonged hiatus.

Last year’s event was forced adapt with the times and was conducted virtually with competitors taking to social media to publish their scores.

But this year, keen competitors packed Darlington’s Market Square from early in the morning as they underwent final preparations before the starting horn.

The Northern Echo:

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Thousands of spectators lined the streets of the town to cheer on family, friends and strangers representing running clubs across the country or raising money for charity.

The first runner to run down the finishing straight on High Row and cross the line was Carl Smith from Tyne Bridge Harriers who completed the course in 30:55.

Olympian and former 50km world champion Alyson Dixon was the first woman to finish in a time of 35:47.

Harry Lyons, of Darlington Harriers & Athletics Club, was the winner of the junior 3K race.

The Northern Echo:

James Atkinson, from Barnard Castle, was representing Quakers Running Club of Darlington and said he couldn’t wait to get started.

“It felt surreal because its the first time in so long we’ve got together in this size,” he said. “It’s really good to see everybody again and we all appreciate events like this even more now.

“It’s come back bigger and better and given people an incentive to go for a PB.”

Mark Carter, of Bishopton, was raising money for Neuroblastoma UK after his daughter Iris Mai was diagnosed with the rare childhood cancer.

He said: “It’s a charity close to our hearts. I just went for it and it went OK in the end.”

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