A TEAM of Winchester runners have run 540 miles across five countries in eight days to reach its twin city of Giessen.

The runners handed the baton back to the Giessen runners who first bought it to Winchester last October. And they did it two days quicker.

The Mayor, Cllr Eleanor Bell, had sent the runners on their way from the Guildhall on Friday August 23; and the Lord Mayor of Giessen together with Winchester’s former mayor, Cllr Frank Pearson, and his wife Anne, were there at the finish line to greet them on Friday.

Over the last 20km of the run, many of the Giessen team gradually joined the Winchester runners in a spirit of camaraderie. The runners were even given a police escort for the final 2km as they entered the town.

Organiser of the event, Adrian Haughton said: “It was quite an emotional experience and we were truly humbled by the fantastic reception we were given by the Giessen runners”.

The team had to cope with very hot conditions with temperatures soaring to 35C at times. Their route took in the South Downs Way, then along the coast to Dover for the ferry to Calais. Through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany they ran on a mixture of roads, cycle ways, canal towpaths and forest trails.

The youngest two runners were just 11 years old and the oldest two were 67.

The day after completing the relay, the whole team ran in the Giessen 5km parkrun. They had some remarkable successes in that too. Stanley Parkinson celebrated his 12th birthday by being first person home in a new age-related record of 18 mins 17 secs; his mum, Sam, and dad, Andy, also set new course records for their age groups. Husband and wife Steve and Gill Goodwin did the same in their age group as did Annie Jones. Amazing achievements given the long distance they had covered.

Through sponsorship and donations, the team expects to raise £3,600 for the Winchester Hospice appeal.