THE winners of the Blackburn Road Runners’ annual Winter Warmer were not just those who crossed the line first.

Nearly 1,000 runners – competing in the junior and senior races – turned up at Witton Park to take part in an event that has been running for more than 20 years.

The 10k senior race attracted 730 runners while the junior 2k version saw 240 youngsters turn out – the largest number of entries to ever take part in either race.

Blackburn Harrier Karl Billington won the 10k race in 33:07 minutes with fellow Harriers Jacob Watson and Joshua Holgate second and third in a mighty impressive team display.

The junior races were won by Matthew Holton (Lytham St Annes Road Runners) and Leah Hoole (Blackburn Harriers).

But there were as many heroes off the course as there were on it.

Cake makers, fundraisers, race marshals, volunteers and pacers all played their part in making sure the event ran smoothly and was once again a huge success.

“This is a massive event for us, the biggest in the club’s calendar,” said race director Nicola Murphy. “It’s an official UK Athletics race and attracts a lot of elite runners but it is so much more than just a race.

“It is a big fundraiser for the club and also for our chosen charity which this year is Prostrate Cancer UK. We raised more than £1,200 alone on the day thanks to our brilliant cake stall.”

In the build up to the races, there were warm-up routines, sports massage and podiatry checks – for donations – while music and club mascot, Milo, helped add to the carnival atmosphere.

The race itself was started by Blackburn’s Brian Fogarty, the Ironman UK champion, who also presented the medals.

Only a handful of Blackburn Road Runners took part in the race – those raising funds – as it was largely all hands to the pumps to make sure the event ran smoothly.

One member who did take part though was Madeline Haworth who has been a club member for 25 years.

Nearly 100 members acted as race marshals – marking the route and encouraging runners all the way on a course that took in the gruelling Buncer Lane climb – with plenty more on the day volunteering their services.

“It wouldn’t be such a success if it wasn’t for all the support on the day and all the hard work that goes on in the build-up,” added Murphy who had been deputy race director for the last two years before making the step up.

“We work hard to make sure there is a carnival atmosphere at the start and finish and that is just another reason people love our race.”

Blackburn Road Runners have more than 350 members of all abilities and also support the Couch to 5k programme with many going on to join the club and take part in the Winter Warmer.

“We are a very inclusive club and that is very important to us,” added Murphy. “Couch to 5k is brilliant and we play a big role in that. To see people go from not running to completing 5k is very rewarding and then for those to take on the Winter Warmer, it is the pinnacle for them.”

Goody bags, that this year included egg poachers, bottle opener key rings as well as running equipment, were sponsored by MGS Technical Plastics and Crown Paints while the medals for both the junior and senior races were designed by Blackburn Road Runners’ member Wayne Rushworth.

Murphy said she is delighted that the race – with its unique and welcoming atmosphere – is so popular.

“We have twice as many runners competing now than we did five years ago and that is brilliant to see,” she said. “We get some superb feedback and that means a lot to all of us.”