THE district's messiest endurance test made a clarty comeback when more than 850 participants descended on Hexham Racecourse at the weekend. 

The annual Mad March Mare, which fell victim to the Beast from the East 12 months ago, returned in sunny conditions at Hexham Racecourse on Saturday.

Runners from far and wide took to part in the mud run, which challenged them to no fewer than 40 obstacles, ranging from a natural lake, waterfall and woodland, to cargo nets, hay bails, and a tyre wall.

Neville Duncan, a director at race organisers Challenge Northumberland, said numbers were slightly down on the previous Mad March Mare, in 2017.

But after the setback of last year's cancellation, he was delighted with the turnout.

"The weather was great this time," he said. "It started to get a bit windy towards the end but all in all it was a great day.

"Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, and as well as local participants, we had people taking part from as far afield as Yorkshire, Derbyshire, London, and from Scotland.

"To attract such a field after what happened last year was great, and to attract so many people for a winter event is something we are very proud of."

There was an amended course this time around, and Neville said natural features enhanced the event in different ways.

He explained: "People love the waterfall and the wooded area. As well as natural obstacles, the scenery is absolutely stunning there.

"It was a good test. Parts of the course were man-made. There's a 20ft high structure with netting on, and there's a lot of variety."

Neville said participants included an army representative team from Albermarle Barracks, while there was also a 30th birthday party team, and university teams.

He added: "A lot of people run for charity and collectively, they raise around £20,000, and sometimes more than that, which is a big effort."

Some runners supported the event's main charity, the Newcastle-based Sara's Hope Foundation, which provides holiday breaks for children living with cancer.

Neville continued: "I just want to say well done to everyone who gave it a go. Thanks for taking part and it would be great to see participants give it another go next year.

"I also want to say thank you to Hexham Racecourse. Once again they have provided us with brilliant facilities and an amazing course."

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