A knight in shining armour and a gigantic fire extinguisher were just two of the entrants who set themselves gruelling extra challenges for Taunton’s 30th marathon and half marathon.
Taking part just isn’t enough, and all kinds of emotions come into play, from the “revenge” which spurred marathon winner Chris Ray, of Taunton, on after coming third last year, to the desire to raise a big sum for a cause near to your heart. Some 1,390 had entered the two events, which are famed for their happy spirit.
They attract runners from all over the south of England and this year included a half marathon competitor from as far away as Ludlow. Occasional sunshine yesterday could not raise the temperature and many a runner admitted that a biting wind took its toll, especially on the second circuit which all the marathon runners must endure.
The race is a great spectacle for the county town, starting and finishing at Somerset College and taking its route through the town centre and out into villages including Norton Fitzwarren, Hillcommon, Oake, and Bradford-on-Tone.
A man running the streets in medieval knight’s armour is the last thing villagers expect to see on a Sunday morning but Kieran Neale knew that donning a 22kg replica suit of chain mail would help him raise money for Diabetes UK.
Mr Neale, aged 34, a marketing manager who works in Bridgwater, was inspired to run for the charity in the half marathon because his sister, Emma, 32, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was aged only two. His choice of outfit also reflected his interest in medieval history.
Jerome Timbrell, from Spaxton, near Bridgwater, was inside that monster fire extinguisher. Mr Timbrell, 41, who runs a health and safety company, was running in the half marathon to raise cash for the firefighters’ charity. A veteran of 35 marathons, he said: “I must admit it was very hot, but this is training for the London marathon.”
Retired nurse Naomi Emerick, 64, took part in the original event 30 years ago. Recalling that day she said: “When I took part in that first half marathon I was five weeks pregnant with my youngest child, who will be 30 in September.
"I run to keep fit. Many years ago, after I had begun running, I had cancer, and I am very pleased to say that I can still run and be here today.”
She was running with friend Gill Humphrey, who works for the NHS in Taunton, and Clare Blake, formerly of Bristol but now living in Essex. With their bunny girl ears they ran as Team Essex.
The tiniest of runners get a chance to shine, and a medal to take home. The fun run takes entries on the day and the spirit of children as young as five, and perhaps younger, running their own course on such a cold day was impressive indeed.
Among them were Georgia Haines, aged nine, and her twin sisters, Abbie and Ruby, seven, from Oake, and their friends Lucy and Amy Keitch, aged 11 and nine, from Bishops Hull.
“We have entered for a couple of years and we have been practising,” they said. Paddy and Rosie Hazeldine, aged five and six, from Taunton, were two more as keen as mustard, while William Appleton, five, dressed as a pirate and, running with his equally fearsomely dressed father, brushed aside a fall and a bloody knee. Of such stuff are champions made.
There were plenty of runners dressed as bananas and running for Escape, the support group for families whose children have disabilities. Daniel Perryman 21, of Bridgwater, who entered the fun run in jester’s cap, was among them.
Also running was his mother, Sharon, and friends Mandy Lewsey and Julie Cooper, both from Chard, and dressed in lime tutus, who know just how important Escape’s work is.
Robbie Knight of Taunton, his father, Tony, and friends Ralph Heard and Chris Ellis, from Plymouth, were running to raise cash for the Alzheimer’s Society. Robbie’s grandmother suffers from the disease and both Chris’s grandmothers died from the condition.
The determination of all to complete the course and better past timings was exhilarating to observe. Wheelchair athletes David Cook, a veteran of the marathon course, and Robert Evans, a newcomer in the half marathon, powered away in style.
Half marathon winner Peter Monaghan, aged 48, of Torbay AC, was defending his title from last year. Ami Yetton, aged 32, first lady home in the half marathon marathon, was thrilled to better last year’s fourth place.
Race director John Lewis was delighted with the turn-out and the conditions.
TAUNTON MARATHON and HALF MARATHON - IN PICTURES