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Friday, 22 May 2015

Cram celebrates the enduring appeal of Kielder’s beautiful race

NOW in its fifth year, popularity in the Kielder Marathon shows no signs of slowing down.

Kielder Marathon organiser Steve Cram and (right) Bruce Ledger from Active Northumberland which is sponsoring this year’s event.

If anything, the interest in what has been billed as ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful‘ is quickening with huge demand for entries since they went live just a week ago.

Run around the 26.2-mile Lakeside Way trail in the remote village, thousands of people from across the country head to Kielder to take part in the event.

Although the flagship event, it is not now all about the marathon as an action-packed weekend includes a 10k run, a duathlon of run, bike, run, and a series of junior races.

As it approaches its fifth birthday on October 5, founder Steve Cram, a silver medallist in the 1500m in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, spoke of his pride about the whole weekend.

At its launch held at Wentworth Leisure Centre, in Hexham, he said: “The nice thing about it all is that it is not just all about the Kielder Marathon, but the whole weekend is really exciting for all involved.

“Five years on, I think – I hope – the reputation of the marathon is good and also appreciated by the local communities.

“It brings a lot more people into the area and into the villages of Kielder and Falstone, so it is benefiting the economy and working well for everybody.”

Ahead of its debut back in 2010, entry numbers were extended by 700 from an initial field of 1,000 to meet overwhelming demand.

The tough, hilly course – one of the most physically demanding marathons around – won many admirers and has continued to appeal to both the serious and casual runner.

And worldwide publicity for the event was just around the corner as 2011’s marathon was marred by allegations Rob Sloan, representing Sunderland Harriers, jumped on a spectators bus before running over the line to claim a bronze medal.

The fall-out of the event saw the marathon’s profile spread across the world, and the hysteria around the running events in general remains sky high.

Cram said: “Although we’ve kept entries around 1,500 each year, we’re looking at ways of growing the marathon after this year, and that should be a further boost.”

This year, the Kielder Marathon is being sponsored by Active Northumberland and Northumberland County Council to maintain its appeal to local runners.

“The partnership with Active Northumberland is a really good fit because, as a former chairman of Northumberland Sport, I know how important local participation is”, said Cram.

“We both want people to run, bike, swim and just get outdoors, and the marathon weekend means they can do that.”

Newly formed charity Active Northumberland is happy to be on-board with the event, allowing it to introduce itself to the local community.

The organisation has been formed by the county council to bring most of its leisure facilities under one banner, including Wentworth Leisure Centre in Hexham and Prudhoe’s Waterworld.

The amalgamation of services will see staff and facilities under the long-established organisation North Country Leisure (NCL), formerly Leisure Tynedale, under its remit.

Active Northumberland’s head of leisure services Bruce Ledger said it will remain loyal to the district.

Mr Ledger said: “What we are trying to do is get more people active and to be associated with a showcase event like the Kielder Marathon is great.

“Active Northumberland is not massively different to NCL, and the same staff and delivery of services will remain. But we will have a broader reach throughout the county and will build on the good work done by NCL in the area.”

Meanwhile, Coun. Val Tyler, policy board member for community infrastructure and culture at Northumberland County Council, said: “I can’t think of a more beautiful or inspiring place than Kielder to walk, run or cycle as part of a day out or holiday with the family.

“Kielder Marathon is going from strength to strength each year and I am very proud that the county council is supporting Active Northumberland to sponsor this year’s event.

“We want to encourage more people to get active and experience the brilliant outdoors offer we have on our doorstep.”

Entries for all events are now open. Places can be booked by visiting www.kieldermarathon.com or by phoning (0845) 1550236.