HUNDREDS of runners took part in a gruelling road race last weekend to celebrate the event’s 25th anniversary and raise money for charity.

The Halstead and Essex Marathon was tackled by more than 400 long-distance runners on Sunday morning as the annual event marked its quarter-of-a-century milestone.

Organised by Halstead Road Runners, the challenging rural race saw competitors come from as far as South Africa to push themselves to their limits and take in the stunning scenery and country lanes that grace the lengthy course.

Starting from Halstead Leisure Centre, the looping 26.2-mile route took the athletes through the 800-year-old village of Colne Engaine and up to Pebmarsh and Twinstead, before heading back to the to the finish line.

Before the race, runners were given a special hi-tech chip which tracked their progress and logged their finishing time.

Race director Keith Thorogood said: “Nearly 500 runners entered the 25th Halstead and Essex Marathon on a day which proved to be near-perfect conditions.

“It was good to see the course record broken and the comments about the race afterwards by the participants were excellent.

‘‘I can’t thank enough the marshals and helpers for the support they give to us and the encouragement to runners.

“Halstead Road Runners are very proud of the award-winning race which grows in stature every year and it is good to see the race being a success again and again.”

The Halstead and Essex Marathon has raised more than £91,500 for a number of different charities since its launch in 1994 and organisers believe last weekend’s event generated around £8,000 for charitable organisations.