THE county’s biggest closed-road running event attracted 1,000 more people than last year, as serious athletes tested their fitness and fun runners raised money for charities.

There were 1,575 finishers in the Mercer Surrey Half Marathon on Sunday morning, not up to pre-pandemic numbers but an increase of around 600 on 2020.

The five-kilometre race had 268 adults and children crossing the finish line and 469 picked up their medals at the end of the two-kilometre kids’ run. Again, the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions encouraged larger entries.

The runs started at Woking Leisure Centre in perfect weather for runners – sunny but cool, with little wind. The 13.1-mile race took the mix of club runners and fundraisers out to Jacobs Well and back.

The event was organised by AAT Events Ltd, whose director Craig Thornton said: "It was amazing to be back after such a rocky couple of years.

“Lockdowns and restrictions meant a lot of people lost faith in mass participation events, so seeing so many people enjoying themselves at the Surrey Half Marathon this year and receiving so much amazing feedback from the participants has been a boost.”

One runner, Gareth Griffin, smashed the world record result for the fastest half marathon carrying a 60lb backpack. He finished in 1 hour 45 minutes and 42 seconds, beating the previous record time of 1hr 54min 34sec and securing a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Many groups were raising money for charities, with a team from Seymours estate agents supporting the Woking and Sam Beare hospice charity and a group running for Harrison’s Fund, which is trying to find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

The contingent of pupils, teachers and parents from Knaphill Schools Federation were delighted with raising more than £1,200 towards improving the green spaces in their school grounds.

“The school had an incredible time at the Surrey Half,” said parent-teacher association committee member Vikki Zeila. “We had a brilliant turn-out of 31 children running in the kids’ race, 13 adults, doing the 5k and three parents completed the half marathon.

“Our fastest runner completed the 2k in nine minutes and 56 seconds and he is only eight years old. Our headteacher, Miss Harbridge, completed her first 5k in 31 minutes 45 seconds and our fastest parent was Richard Black running the 5k in 26 minutes 34 seconds.”

Craig Ruddy was overall half marathon winner in 1hr 8min 25 sec. Emma Styles was fastest female in 1min 15min 9sec. The overall 5k winner was Benjamin Warren in 16min 4sec and Anastasia Hounslow was the fastest female in 18min 49sec.

Luca De Giovanni was first to finish, and the first boy in the kids’ race in 7min 59sec. Ellie Macleod was the first girl to finish, in 8min 7sec.