AN annual race is set to return after a long two-year absence due to the pandemic.

The 26th Halstead and Essex marathon is taking place next weekend, as hundreds of runners take on the 26.2 mile challenge.

The race, organised by Halstead Road Runners, hasn’t been able to take place since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year’s event has sold out, and expects to see 500 runners take on the route.

The race first took place in 1995, and runners travel from far and wide to take part in the event.

Halstead In Bloom will once again marshal the last mile, ensuring a safe finish for the weary runners.

Money raised from the event is donated to local charities that are close to the hearts of the organising committee.

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This year the race will also be the marathon distance event for the Essex Road Racing Championship series, so will see the best male and female runners across the county going for glory.

The event will start at Halstead Leisure Centre, on Colne Road, where it also finishes after a scenic and hilly route out towards Colne Engaine then through Pebmarsh and Twinstead.

Records for the race currently stand at 2:34:56 for the men, set by Tristan Steed in 2017, and 3:00:44 for the women, set by Jackie Stretton in 2018, and there is a £200 cash incentive for any runner who breaks the current race records.

A spokesman for Halstead Road Runners said: “We are hoping for favourable weather conditions as the race tends to bring out the sunshine which whilst ideal for marshals and spectators, isn’t so great for the runners.

“Spectators are welcomed to the event and can watch from Pebmarsh or come to the start/finish to wave them off or cheer them home.”

The event is next weekend, on May 8, starting at 10am.

To find out more, please search for The Halstead and Essex Marathon on Facebook.

Entries for the 2023 event will open later this year.