MORE than 6,00 running heroes took to the city streets yesterday as they completed the first ABP Southampton Half Marathon and 10K.

Saints legends Matt Le Tissier and Franny Benali, city council leader Simon Letts plus a host of fancy dress characters including the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street and Spongebob Squarepants were among the runners taking part.

Despite weather forecasts predicting heavy downpours, the rain stayed away and thousands of runners of all abilities took to the city streets in good spirits.

Daily Echo:

They were cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd of up to 30,000 people who lined the route between the start in Hoglands Park and the finish at Guildhall Square.

Runners passed the Bargate, St Mary’s Stadium, Riverside Park, The Common and both universities on their route.

Helping to keep the event running smoothly were more than 500 volunteers from 28 community groups across the city.

One of the highlights of the race saw thousands of runners going over the Itchen Bridge, where participants saw stunning views of Southampton. The race also went over Northam Bridge and through Bitterne Park Triangle.

Some 5,500 people took part in the ABP Southampton Half Marathon which kicked off an hour and a half after the shorter 10K race which had 1,100 runners. A total of 4,258 reached the half marathon finish.

The race finished with a carnival atmosphere as a large crowd gathered to cheer the runners, who had put their bodies to the limit, over the finish line at Guildhall Square.

Daily Echo:

The winner was Matthew Bennett (pictured above) , of Southampton Athletics Club, in the stunning time of 1.14.20.

The quickest female finisher – in a time of 1.20.19 – was Kathryn Bailey, who runs for Winchester and District Athletics Club.

In the 10k race, the first male finisher was Scott Edgington, of Southampton Athletics Club, in a time of 34.08, and the first female to cross the line was Sarah Lewis, of Kazikstan Running Club, in 44.53.

It is hoped the ABP Southampton Half Marathon will see the city become a premier running destination again and comes two decades after the Great South Run launched in the city in 1990 before moving to south coast rival Portsmouth.

Race director Chris Rees, 29, was delighted with how the event went after 21 months of careful planning.

He vowed the event would be back next year, but on a bigger scale with 10,000 runners and some possible route changes.

He said: “It was a fantastic day. We brought the whole city together. There were bands playing, people cheering and making signs and there was no rain.

“We had many people who finished who had not done a half marathon before, and there were no hitches at all.

“We would like to say thank you to the city council for supporting the event, the bus and taxi companies and the residents who came out to support the runners and cheer them on.”