MORE than 850 runners enjoyed a trek through the Hampshire countryside in the annual Hampshire Hoppit.

Now in its fourth year, runners from far afield as Berlin and Australia ventured to Park House Stables, in Kingsclere, to take part in the trail running challenge along sections of the Wayfarers Walk and Harrow Way.

Organised by Basingstoke and Mid Hants Athletics Club (BMHAC) and supported by many other running clubs in the area, the popularity of the event has grown in the last four years with entry numbers going up.

During this year’s marathon and half marathon, organisers took the decision to ban plastic cups at water stations and instead provide each runner with a lightweight reusable cup to fill up along the route and to take home for future races.

Those taking part in the races were able to take in the views across north Hampshire, including Watership Down, and were cheered on by more than 70 volunteer marshals along the half and full marathon courses.

Each finisher received a medal that doubled up as a bottle opener and a commemorative half or pint glass filled with Hoppit Ale, courtesy of race sponsor Loddon Brewery.

Race director Tim Fowler said: “We couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise and we have been overwhelmed by all the positive comments we’ve received about the race, in particular our move away from plastic cups.

“We all need to do our bit and I’m proud our trail race is leading the way in the running world.

“It was a fantastic day for everyone and we are extremely grateful for the support we received from our runners, volunteers and spectators.”

The winners of the event held on Sunday, 9 June were BMHAC runner Alastair Bridgman, who crossed the line in 3.04.55 to win the men’s marathon, while Emily Iredale from Midhurst Milers was the first woman to finish in 3.27.37.

In the half marathon distance, the men’s race was won by Jonathan Bradford from Birchfield Harriers in 1:20:52 and Hart Road Runner Lesley Locks took the women’s race in 1:35:03.