Wet weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm of 100 families who signed up for the first ever Paula’s Families on Track event in Durham on Saturday.  Despite torrential rain in the lead up, hundreds of family members of all ages enthusiastically tackled the inclusive running challenge that they were set.  The brainchild of marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, ‘Paula’s Families on Track’ gives mums, dads, children, grandparents and other family members the opportunity to work together to complete 10k in a continuous relay of laps of either 1,000m, 500m or 250m, all on a safe, enclosed course.  Sponsored by Atom Bank, the first event was held on Durham University’s site on the old racecourse on the banks of the River Wear.  Paula’s Families on Track took place on the final day of the inaugural three-day Durham City Run Festival, which was organised in a partnership between Durham County Council and Events of the North.

In the first Paula’s Families on Track event, each family team of between three and five people had to include at least one runner aged under 16, but most fielded a wide age range.  The event was accessible for all abilities and rather than being a serious race, it was designed to encourage more family groups to participate in the sport together.  Teams really entered into the spirit of the occasion, generating a very lively atmosphere in the damp conditions.

Paula Radcliffe herself entered a team, with her daughter Isla, son Raph and dad Peter.  Team GB marathon star Aly Dixon also took part, and the event’s charity partner Kids Run Free fielded several teams.  Founded in 2010, the charity aims to ignite a passion for sport and physical activity and encourage young people to become healthier, happier, and more confident through running.  Volunteers in Durham for the debut of Paula’s Families on Track included 401 Marathon man Ben Smith and elite North East athlete Lewis Moses, while Steve Cram and Allison Curbishley were on hand with the Events of the North crew to ensure that the event ran smoothly.

Paula Radcliffe comments: “The North East weather did its best to meddle with our plans, but that didn’t seem to worry anyone.  It was amazing to see my vision come to life in Durham and to witness so many families really enjoy the experience together.  The atmosphere was genuinely wonderful and I am very grateful to all of the Durham City Run Festival volunteers who braved the conditions to make sure that we put on a brilliant first Families on Track.  Huge thanks also to Atom Bank and Durham University, and to Events of the North and Durham County Council for helping me turn my initial concept into a successful first event.  Now that I have seen it work so well in action, I am really excited about the future potential of Families on Track.”

Paula’s Families on Track was part of a busy and memorable final day at the Durham City Run Festival, which also saw two free themed runs during the afternoon.  Horrible Histories author Terry Deary led a group of runners on a tour of some of the historic landmarks of Durham, offering entertaining tales along the route.  Then Sedgefield Ploggers armed people with gloves and bags for a run and litter pick around the city centre, helping to keep the streets tidy for residents and visitors.  The festival concluded with talks in the Gala Theatre, including a marathon masterclass with Paula Radcliffe and Ben Smith.

Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “We are all absolutely delighted at how the first Durham City Run Festival has gone, with it really having built on the success of previous years’ Durham City Runs.  The 10k and 5k runs on Thursday night got things off to the best possible start, despite the heat and the last minute changes which had to be made, and Paula Radcliffe’s first Families on Track event on Saturday morning was another overwhelming success.

“The festival has provided not only a means for people to exercise while enjoying themselves but also a real economic boost with a huge influx of people into Durham City and the potential for repeat visits once they’ve seen how truly stunning it is.  The event has been another success in our #Durham19 year of culture in which we’re promoting everything our county has to offer and we’d like to thank Steve Cram’s Events of the North for organising it and all those who took part.”

Find out more about the event at www.durhamcityrun.com or by following @durhamcityrun on Twitter.