THE town's biggest running event is set to take place this weekend - for the 36th time.

More than 1,000 runners are lacing up their trainers and preparing to take part in Taunton Marathon and Half Marathon.

The event is one of the few in the South West to offer both 26- and a 13-mile routes and it holds a gold grade from the British Association of Road Races.

The race kicks off at 10.30am on Sunday morning from Bridgwater and Taunton College, in Taunton.

Race director, John Lewis, said: “250 runners are signed up for the marathon and 1,040 for the half.

"Two thirds are travelling to Taunton to take part, including some from as far away as France, Germany and New Zealand.

"They’re on holiday over here and taking time out to run. 550 of the runners represent more than 100 clubs and teams between them. Three of last year’s winners are back with us.

"Last year Ilfracombe RC’s Mary Menon set a new course best time in the Ladies Marathon and is looking for her fourth consecutive win. Mark Pike from Yeovil Town RRC will complete a global challenge of 52 marathons in 52 weeks.

"Lewis Bacon will attempt a Guinness World Record for the fastest runner dressed as a clown, monk or book character to add to his 'food item' record.

“The Bridgwater & Taunton College campus has been ‘home’ to the races for all 36 years. The facilities are fantastic and some other race organisers are quite envious.

"We’re very happy to have Ashfords Solicitors as headline sponsors for the seventh year, and to have Nuffield Healthcare with us again.

"We welcome Humberts to the team this year. We’re very grateful to them and to all the other businesses and organisations that support us, including Tesco with water and bananas and Wellington Motors with the race lead vehicles.”

Taunton Carnival Committee organises the marathon and half marathon to raise funds both for local charities and to help put on the illuminated procession in October.

Chairman of the committee, Marilyn House, said: "”This year we’re pleased to be supporting SURE as our nominated charity and they’ll get a donation from every entry fee. On top of this we know runners will raise many thousands of pounds for a lot of other worthy causes.”

Somerset County Gazette:

The course:

The races start from the College in Wellington Road at 10.30am. The route takes runners past Tesco and over the river in to Bridge Street, out along Staplegrove Road to Norton Fitwarren and the B3227 to Hillcommon. Then it’s across country through Oake and Bradford-on-Tone, turning off before the A38 to run up through Hele and Upcott and up the sharp Shutewater Hill into Bishops Hull village. The final stage is down over Netherclay and into Heron Drive, then it’s a sprint through the College grounds to the finish line for the 1000 Half Marathon runners.

That’s just halfway for the 200 or so marathon runners who set out on their second lap. There are many vantage points around the circuit where spectators can cheer them on their way.

There are four water and sponge stations on each lap, crewed by local Scouts and Guides.

“These will have bottled water but at the Finish we’re using compostable cups." Mr Lewis added. “Along with other races we’re looking at seriously reducing or eliminating single use plastics at the event.”

After they cross the line runners will pick up t-shirts and medals, and a well deserved banana to boost their recovery. Even though many are regulars at the event and know the course well there will plenty of marshals to make sure no-one goes the wrong way and help them all safely through the traffic.

St John Ambulance provide the essential medical backup in case anyone is injured or ill while taking part.

Sadly, there is no fun run this year.

Mr Lewis said: “Numbers had been steadily falling over the last few years and we’d decided early last year that 2018 would be the final one. We are considering how we can involve youngsters in future years."

Road closures:

A number of road closures will be in place to allow the runners to safely pass through the town.

Traffic will be stopped in Wellington Road in both directions for about 15 minutes from 10.25am to allow the runners to leave the off-road start line at Bridgwater & Taunton College at 10.30am prompt. As the pack passes along Tangier Way and Bridge Street vehicles will be held at the various junctions to let them all through. Once out towards Staplegrove runners will begin to spread out and traffic will be able to pass with care.

Silk Mills Road will be closed to through traffic from 10.30am to 3pm in both directions between Heron Drive and Bindon Road. This will allow the runners to come safely out of Netherclay Lane and get across Silk Mills Road. The road is open at the Bishops Hull end for two way traffic to Heron Drive, with access to St Margaret’s Hospice and Abbeyfield. Diverted traffic will travel through the town centre or Tangier Way.

The bridge at Bradford-on-Tone is a pinchpoint, with traffic being seriously affected as runners tackle the single lane structure. This year the bridge will be closed between 11am and 1pm to all traffic. The diversion is via Nynehead.

Drivers in Bishops Hull itself are asked to follow a voluntary one-way system that flows with the runners, down Bishops Hull Hill and Netherclay Lane, but up Waterfield Drive.

All other roads are open during the event. Motorists are asked to be co-operative and patient as any delays will be of a relatively short duration.