Hundreds of Leythers proved their shoes were made for running as the town’s first 10k event was hailed a massive success.
Spectators lined the streets of the town centre as more than 500 people completed the course which began and finished in front of Leigh’s town hall.
The 10k took runners and walkers down Lord Street and Platt Fold Street before two loops of a circuit involving Chapel Street and Holden Road made up the distance.
The event was held in aid of Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WLH) and former patient of the Hindley-based charity Steve Hook fired the starting pistol at 9.30am on Sunday, joined as race starter by Leigh MP Jo Platt.
Proceeds from the run will go towards WLH’s Counting On Care appeal, which seeks to raise £50,000 to make the in-patient unit at its Kildare Street headquarters dementia-friendly
The Leigh Community 10k was the idea of the town’s former MP and now Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, inspired by the success of the similar event in Wigan.
We are thrilled that so many people showed their supportDr Alan Baron
Afterwards the organisers said the inaugural event had definitely proved there was scope for a 10k event on the Leigh side of the borough, with the race selling out of registered spaces two days beforehand.
Dr Alan Baron, chief executive of the hospice, said: “There is certainly an appetite for an event like the Leigh Community 10k in Leigh and we are thrilled that so many people showed their support.
“All of the funds raised for the hospice will go towards the costs of refurbishing our in-patient unit which cares for local people with a life-limiting illness.”
Lord Smith, Wigan Council leader, said: “The first Leigh Community 10k was a great success with hundreds of runners from the borough and beyond coming to Leigh.
“It also highlighted the importance of being active and living healthy lifestyles which are key parts of our public health strategy, as well as raising money for vital charities across the borough.”
Pete Burt, managing director for Inspiring healthy lifestyles, who worked in partnership to organise the event, said: “It was a fantastic day for the town of Leigh, everyone who took part and especially for the hospice.
“We are very proud to have worked with a number of partners including Wigan Council, Leigh Harriers, Rotary Club of Leigh, FCR Events, Nectar Creative and Time2Run Events to make the first event in Leigh into a success for the people of Leigh and all of the charities supported.
“We can’t wait to start work on next year’s event to make it even bigger and better.”
Dave Smith, from Atherton, a member of the Leigh Harriers club, led the way and was first over the finishing line in the town centre.
It proved to be a day of celebration for the hometown running club as Louisa Thompson made it a Leigh Harriers double as the fastest woman.
Further back in the pack hundreds of ordinary people got their trainers on for the 10k, with their motivations for running ranging from personal challenges to being inspired to raise money for charity.
Some of those told moving stories of how the hospice had helped loved ones during their darkest times.
Lowton fund-raiser Michael Stewart, 47, ran with his wife, two sons and sister-in-law in memory of his mum Carol Stewart who had a brain tumour and passed away at WLH in July.
Speaking before the race, Michael said: “Mum spent 25 days in the hospice and they were so supportive and so considerate we felt that the family should try and support the hospice as best we can.
“We’ve raised £330 so far and we only started asking for sponsorship a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been busy looking after mum so my fitness has been put on hold for a while - so it’s a good job we can walk around the course!
“If we complete it we’ll put in another £125 for each of us but we’re doing it for mum so I know we’ll get around. She’d be so proud of us if she were here; she’d have a smile on her face to see us all together like this.”
Ryan Broadhurst, 24, from Ashton, ran in memory of his grandad Norman Broadhurst and raised £360 for the hospice.
Ryan’s family were helped by in-patient unit manager Rebekah Ashley when they needed support.
He said: “My grandma was struggling to look after my grandad and we just didn’t know where to go for advice but my family know Maxine from the hospice and she put us in touch with Rebekah.
“She directed us to organisations which could help us and support and made things so much easier.”
Kerry Canning, 31, from Leigh, ran in the company of her friend and personal trainer Lauren Bond, 31, from Tyldesley.
Kerry said: “I needed to lose baby weight and Lauren has been training me so we signed up for the Leigh 10k.
“We are raising sponsorship money for the hospice because it has affected a lot of us in one way or another and it’s a fantastic charity.
“We’ve raised £100 on Just Giving so far but we’ve got cash coming in too so we’re hoping it’s about £150.”
Spectators who poured into the town centre for the event and the runners were entertained throughout the day by a line-up of top local talent.
Groups and solo artists who performed for the crowds on the main stage included Leigh indie-pop group The Lottery Winners, young pop-soul singer Zoe Unsworth, up-and-coming talent Natalie Kamhiriri and covers band The Lowtones.
There was also a medal ceremony for all the category winners.