THERE was plenty to be merry about as a town hosted its first Santa Dash.

More than 200 people from across the North West took to the starting line on Blackburn’s Cathedral Square for the 5km sprint this morning.

Passing landmarks, including Blackburn Town Hall and the Mall, the runners completed the three lap course dressed as Father Christmas.

The 206 runners, made up of children, families, dog walkers and pensioners, helped to raise around £2,000 for North West Air Ambulance.

After runners were warmed up by dancing to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You, the group of Santas made it to the starting line.

They sprinted passed the Christmas markets shortly after 11am and headed onto Railway Road. The Santas then moved onto Ainsworth Street near Blackburn Police Station and headed over to Blackburn Town Hall.

After passing the high street shops and the Postal Order they made it back to the starting line near Blackburn Train Station, before doing another two laps.

The runners, many from East Lancashire, had taken part in the event for several different reasons, including in memory of loved ones.

Siblings Jane Mills, 43, from Accrington, and Paul Howley, 39, from Burnley, were running in memory of their uncle, Stephen Padden.

The Rawtenstall hiker died in 2015 after he collapsed suddenly while walking through the Bowfell mountain in the Lake District.

Mrs Mills, who works as a legal secretary in Blackburn, said: “We have raised over £100 in his memory.”

Jade Varley, 18, from Chorley, who was airlifted to Alder Hey Children's Hospital with serious injuries four years ago after a horse fell on top of her, ran with her mother, Samantha, 48.

She said: “I will be forever grateful.”

The winner of the race, Colin Jennings, recorded a time of 15 minutes and 48 seconds. The 47-year-old said: “I have been running for 30 years and that’s the first race I have ever won.”

Other runners came from Darwen, Burnley and Mellor.

North West Air Ambulance organised the event alongside Pennine Events, Blackburn BID and Blackburn with Darwen Council.

Organisers Linda de Sa, 38, said: “I hope this will grow year on year and there will be more of these events in the future.”