Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Pair line up as part of record GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon entry

Captions: Wheelchair racer Bret Crossley (top image far right) will be first away while Andrew Pearson (above) will be looking for a hat-trick of wins

A wheelchair racer and a veteran 82-year-old runner will be amongst a record entry at this weekend’s GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon.

The pair will be part of an entry of over 4,600 runners lining up on the new startline of The Headrow for the annual event which takes place from 9:30am on Sunday 8 May.

Organised by Leeds City Council’s sport development unit and sponsored by utility company GDF SUEZ in association with media partner 96.3 Radio Aire and kit suppliers Up and Running, the GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon will see the field take on the 13.1-mile challenge ending on Millennium Square.

The first competitor flagged away this year by Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Jim McKenna will be 37-year-old wheelchair racer Bret Crossley from Rothwell, who is the only wheelchair entrant and will start before the main field. The Leeds City Athletics Club athlete who trains at the John Charles Centre for Sport has only been competing for 12 months, and recently completed the London Marathon despite suffering major technical problems including a puncture and wheel damage.

Wheelchair racer Bret Crossley said:

“I went on a course organised by the charity Back Up and it got me thinking about things I could do and one they suggested was wheelchair racing which they do at the John Charles Centre for Sport. So I went along and had a go and thought it was great fun so it has gone from there really.

“I did the Great North Run last year to raise money for Back Up and from there I decided to start entering as many events as I can to get better at it. Starting first on my own will be a bit surreal but I am really looking forward to it. In some other races I have had trouble being crowded with other runners so having a clear run at the start will be ideal.

“The only challenge I set myself is meeting my own expectations. Ideally I am looking at about one-and-a-quarter hours but it all depends on how I go on the hilly parts. I’m really looking forward to it and if the weather stays okay it should be a fun day.”

Another notable competitor in the GDF SUEZ Leeds Half-Marathon is 82-year-old John Johnson, who has regularly competed in the event as a half-marathon and previously when it was a full marathon and completed the course in four hours last year.

Runner John Johnson from Garforth, who represents St Theresas AC, said:

“I always look forward to taking part in the Leeds half-marathon. I’ve lived in Leeds all my life and it’s a bit of a tradition for me to take part – I did it when it was a full marathon and also now it’s a half-marathon.

“I run three times a week and find it very therapeutic – you just run and can think about things with no distractions. I am running with my next door neighbour this time so will be encouraging them along and always see lots of people I know taking part. The atmosphere is always great and is part of the fun.”

In the men’s race, Andrew Pearson of Longwood Harriers AC will start as favourite looking to complete a hat-trick of wins in the event, while in the women’s section last year’s winner Gemma Smith of Kirkstall Harriers returns to defend her title. Both will face tough challengers though, as in both sections three of last year’s top four finishers are once again taking part.

The event will also see over 90 teams of six runners taking part in the GDF SUEZ Corporate Challenge with runners each completing a section of the 13.1-mile half-marathon course in a relay format.

The event also features the Jane Tomlinson's Arena Group Junior and Mini Fun Run. The Arena Group Junior run consists of a 2.5-kilometre course for children aged nine to 14 and the Arena Group Mini Fun Run which is 1.5 kilometres for children aged three to eight who must be accompanied by an adult. Altogether a total of 1500 children will be taking part in the event making it the biggest junior run in the city. For more information visit

Leeds City Council's deputy executive member for leisure Councillor Lisa Mulherin said:

"We are really pleased that this year’s Leeds half-marathon has attracted a record entry and can’t wait for Sunday. The event always generates a wonderful atmosphere and as well as providing a great challenge also generates much-needed funding for a fantastic charity. We wish all the best to everyone taking part.”

Everyone who successfully completes the half-marathon course will receive a race medal and t-shirt at the finish line, while certificates and the official results will be able to be downloaded from the website at There are also a range of prizes on offer including £500 for both the first female and male runners to finish.

Larry and Paul, who present Saturday afternoons and Sunday Breakfast on 96.3 Radio Aire, are both taking part in the half-marathon.

Ahead of the event, Larry said:

"We've been through some quite serious training, so we were briefly confident. That was until we tried an eight-mile run in preparation. Now the fear has returned, with vengeance and blisters. But we're looking forward to the day, and know the people of Leeds will help provide propulsion-by-cheering."

Paul added:

"I actually don't think this is a good idea any more. I'm sure I was tricked into signing up for it, and no amount of these expensive running socks I've got are going to help my poor knees. If you see me on the streets - feel free to carry me for a short while; perhaps just a mile or thirteen."

All the runners have been asked to raise sponsorship money for official event charity Yorkshire Cancer Research which helps local people beat cancer by supporting world-class research, diagnosis and treatment throughout Yorkshire. Last year those taking part raised nearly £40,000 for the charity.

Head of events at Yorkshire Cancer Research Emma Young said:

“We’re really excited about Sunday and can’t wait to cheer on all our runners! Everyone is invited to visit us at our charity tent in Millennium Square on the day and we’re looking forward to congratulating them as they cross the finish line.

“It’s only with the help of our supporters that we’re able to fund so many vital projects throughout Yorkshire and we were amazed by the incredible generosity of everyone who took part on our behalf in 2010. This year we are expecting to raise more than £40,000 and we would like to thank all those who have chosen to help us in our fight against cancer.”

For more information and details of road closures around the event go to or call Leeds City Council’s sport development unit on 0113 395 0001. There will also be regular updates about the event via twitter at

Notes to editors:

Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research (YCR), the UK’s largest regional medical research charity, funds around £7m a year of internationally recognised cancer research at its five centres of excellence at the universities of Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York and their associated teaching hospitals. For more information visit

For more information about the Jane Tomlinson Arena Group Junior and Mini Run contact Siobhan Curtis at /07736943685 or visit


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, leisure media relations officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Step up to the challenge

People in Leeds are being challenged to get on their feet and get moving to work next week.

Monday 9 May marks the start of National Walk to Work week, and there will be a competition running on Briggate to mark the start of the week.

Leeds City Council in partnership with students from Leeds Metropolitan University and their UtravelActive team will be challenging shoppers, workers, and anyone else on Briggate to visit 7 shops in the city centre in one day, collecting stamps along the way.

All entrants will receive a small prize, and the chance to win a spa treatment as first prize and a seven-day pass at Virgin Active as a second prize. Also in Briggate there will be a mini footprint walking route for children to follow, and information and help to make walking a bigger part of your everyday life, with walking maps, websites and health advice.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, said;

“Walking is a wonderful way to spend some time, providing relaxation, gentle exercise, and a means of getting from A to B all at the same time. I would encourage people to visit the display in Briggate and pick up some ideas about walking in our lovely city.”

National Walk to Work Week 9-13 May 2011 is organised by the charity Living Streets. It is the ideal time to give walking a go. An easy form of exercise requiring no special equipment, walking can be fitted in on your way to or from work, at lunchtime or throughout the day.

Individuals and workplaces can take part by registering at

During the Week you'll be able keep track of your walking online, see your miles walked and calories burned mount up, and earn online rewards for your achievements. You can even compete with colleagues to see who can be "top walker".

Also taking part in the display on Briggate will be Virgin Active, Forever Living Products, and a mobile masseuse to ease any tired feet. The Cooperative supermarket are providing refreshments to those on the walking challenge, and shops taking part in the walking promotion are Blacks, Cotsworld, Nevis Sport, Millets, Starbucks, The North Face and Up and Running.

For more information on walk to work week in Leeds visit the webpage


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450