PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Challenging race draws hundreds to Morecambe Bay

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Nearly 500 competitors battled sea, sand and high winds in a unique race across Morecambe Bay to raise thousands of pounds for a Lancaster cancer charity.

CancerCare’s 11th annual Cross Bay Challenge offered three different events including a half marathon, family friendly walk and a ‘Fat Bike’ cycle race, crossing the sands from Silverdale to Flookburgh.

The Lancaster Guardian CancerCare Counts campaign logo.

The Lancaster Guardian CancerCare Counts campaign logo.

The event is expected to raise an estimated £15,000 in aid of local families affected by cancer.

The course certainly lived up to its reputation as being one of the toughest in the country with challenging conditions for runners, walkers and cyclists alike, who endured a ferocious headwind, often gale force at times, and waist deep channels of cold icy water.

The only known tidal race in the world, the Cross Bay Half Marathon drew over 200 competitors from across the UK.

This year’s winners were 37 year old Lewis Banton from Clowne in Derbyshire who completed the course in a winning time of 01:37:17 followed by Paul Singleton, 42, from Haverthwaite. Ladies winner Vikki Murphy aged 46 from Stockport finished in 02:06:31 with Louise Nash, 46, taking the second place spot in 02:15:15.

Running Clubs travelled across the country to take part including the Saltaire Striders from Yorkshire, Stainland Lions from Halifax, and the Manchester Frontrunners.

A family-friendly seven-mile walk saw over 200 participants making the windy journey out across the Bay from Silverdale, led by a team of expert Bay guides.

Six members of staff from Morecambe Bay Partnership took part together including Annabelle Innerdale who said, “It was very windy but that didn’t put us off. There’s only word to describe crossing the Kent Channel - exhilarating! Walking waist deep in water is strangely enjoyable.”

Sarah Henry, 51, from Lancaster who works for Marks and Spencer said; “We had a brilliant day raising money for CancerCare, our store charity of the year, with colleagues, friends and family.”

Another team of walkers from Silverdale said “We take part in a group every year and enjoy it every time. We have friends up staying with us just now who came up from Edinburgh & Hampshire especially to take part. We’ll definitely be back next year!”

Windswept competitors could enjoy a post event bacon buttie and cup of tea at the finish thanks to Ribble Valley Catering Group or take advance of a sports massage provided by students at University of Central Lancashire. Everyone who took part also received a Cross Bay Challenge medal.

The Cross Bay Challenge event has raised over quarter of a million pounds to date for CancerCare who work in Lancaster and Kendal to support families affected by the impact cancer.

CancerCare’s Head of Income Generation Christine Wardle said: “We don’t call it a challenge for nothing! Without doubt our hardest and windiest Cross Bay Challenge to date by far. A huge thank you to all the brave runners, walkers and cyclists who battled the conditions for CancerCare - we were literally blown away by their efforts! Sponsor money is still coming in but we hope to smash our fundraising target of £15,000.

“Our event is truly unique with one of our runners describing it this year as ‘a mini Marathon Des Sables’ but with water. Yet, despite the harsh conditions, everyone I spoke to had a great time and can’t wait to take on the bay again next year.

“A special thank you must go out to our amazing volunteers, Bay Guides, and Ulverston Inshore Rescue for helping to keep everyone safe out on the sands today. They did an absolute sterling job.

“And also, thanks to all our event sponsors including Ghyllside Cycles, Reid Hamilton Insurance, Redrow, Peter Bland Sports, the Co-Op and Fletcher’s Fruit & Veg and event supporters including SCS Logistics, Cark Airfield, Amy & James from Gibraltar Farm Campsite, Holker Estate, and The Rotary Clubs of Grange over sands and Cornforth. We couldn’t stage this amazing event without all of these people. We can’t thank them enough!”

For race results visit www.cancercare.org.uk. You can follow CancerCare on Twitter @CancerCareLocal or on Facebook at ‘CancerCareCharity.

Photos by Gavin Howarth, Jason Bellinger and Louise Martin.