Bristol Half Marathon: A history
More than 14,000 runners will pound the city streets on Sunday hoping to achieve a personal best, as the Bristol half marathon gets under way.
Having trained for months, participants will don their running shoes and embark on a route more than 13 miles long.
Now in its 24th year, the Bristol half marathon is one of the most popular in the UK.
The race, first held in 1989, replaced the Bristol marathon after it became too expensive to stage.
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Steve Brace from Bridgend came out on top in the 1,000-strong contest, which was unrecognisable from the event today.
It started and finished on the Downs and none of the roads were closed to traffic. Instead, original race director Ray Jaeckels told This is Bristol, participants “headed straight down Bridge Valley Road and left along the Portway into Cumberland Basin, and then took in Hotwells Road, Coronation Road and into Bedminster, then back along North Street to Ashton Gate and through a series of tricky underpasses into Ashton Court.
“There was the long climb up Ashton Court and then back into Clifton over the Suspension Bridge with the finish up Ladies Mile.”
And it isn’t just the race route that has changed over the years, Mr Jaeckels explained. "Interestingly, 98 per cent of the runners were local while just eight per cent of the 1,030 finishers were women.
"Now we have nearly 50 per cent women in the race, so that has been a dramatic change, while a lot more runners from outside the area enter."
And unlike today’s £1,000 prize for the top man and woman, plus extensive prizes and time bonuses, the early day race victors won things like vouchers.
Bristol runner Wayne Buxton told This is Bristol in 2009: "I won the Bristol half marathon in 1990 and got a travel voucher for £150 for a travel firm that specialised in running tours.
“I used this voucher towards my trip to Rotterdam the following April, where I ran 2:16. I paid my own entry for the event and there were no appearance fees or expenses as they have now."
The organisation of the race has also changed over time. Bristol City Council became more involved with the race in 2000, and took it on in the years that followed.
In 2001 the City of Bristol hosted the 10th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships alongside the Bristol Half Marathon, meaning runners taking part were able to follow in the footsteps of British legend Paula Radcliffe and Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.
Thousands of people turned out to watch Ms Radcliffe cross the finish line in the record-breaking time of 66 minutes 47 seconds, and Gebrselassie take first place in the men’s race with a time of 60 minutes three seconds.
In 2003, local veteran Nick Rose won the ‘Legends Challenge’ – a race within a race that saw top British Olympians Steve Cram, Tim Hutchings, Hugh Jones, Steve Jones and Mike McLeod compete against each other for the first time in nearly twenty years.
In 2009 Bristol welcomed the British greats once again, with the half marathon acting as the UK trial for the World Half Marathon Championships.
The race attracted a record-breaking number of participants - 16,177 - topping the previous year’s figure of 16,049.
A number of famous faces have been associated with the Bristol half marathon over the years. In 2009 Holby City star Phoebe Thomas swapped her nurse uniform for trainers to raise money for local charity St Peter's Hospice, while this year Noel Edmonds called on people to take part in aid of Children's Hospice South West.
The TV presenter, who lives in Bitton and films Deal or No Deal in Bristol, is a patron for the charity and in 1997 announced he would be leaving them a gift in his will.
In 2011 the race route was modified to create a flatter course. Original race director turned technical director Ray Jaeckels told This is Bristol: "This year we've made the course flatter, faster and safer.
“It would be wonderful to have a new course record – particularly for the male category, as that's been the same time for the last 20 years.
"We've taken out a climb over Plimsoll Bridge on the way out and then a few of the twists and turns around there."
The change also meant adding a section around Marsh Street and Broad Quay as the runners come into to the centre for the finish.
But the 2011 half marathon will be remembered by many for the death of one of the participants.
The runner, a 33-year-old man from Clevedon, collapsed outside the Bristol Hippodrome near the finish line and, despite attempts to resuscitate him, died at the scene.
The fatality was the first in the race’s history.
This year the Bristol half marathon is incorporated into the runbritain Grand Prix for the first time, and the challenge is set for all to achieve a personal goal in Olympic year.
British international John Beattie is among those competing, alongside Bristol & West's Robbie Bugden; Anuradha Cooray, who was third last year and represented Sri Lanka in the Olympics; Phil Nicholls; Martin Williams; Mike Skinner and Paul Martelletti – who from Thursday will be eligible to represent Britain having been born in New Zealand.