RUNNERS have set off for the 36th annual Taunton Marathon.

More than 1,000 runners crossed the start line shortly after 10.30am at Bridgwater and Taunton College, in Wellington Road.

Earlier in the week, race director John Lewis said: "250 runners are signed up for the marathon and 1040 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.”

The record for the Taunton half marathon was set in 1984 by Danny Kelly, who finished in a time of 1:05.44.

Cathy Newman holds the women's record of 1:16.14, set in 1989. She also holds the women's record for the full marathon - 2:53.03.

Maurice Cowman holds the men's record for Taunton Marathnon, with a time of 2:16.45.

Last year's first to cross the finishing line was Toby Chapman, who did it in a time of 2:41:13.