More than 1,000 people braved the winter chill on Saturday to run or walk across the idyllic countryside of the Vale of Belvoir in a popular annual fundraiser organised by Harby Primary School.
The occasion was the 28 th Belvoir Challenge – an event which gets the community together like few others in the vale.
Competitors, who arrived from all over the UK as well as from the Melton borough, had the option of completing courses over 15 or 26 miles.
It’s a challenging logistical exercise for a small school to organise, with the need to organise an army of volunteer marshals, car parking attendants and food and drink servers.
And the pupils play their part, baking cakes and designing signs and a certificate for entrants in the run-up to the day.
Year five pupil, Sophia Pearl, wrote and read out a motivational speech to the assembled field to help them get round the course, on a chilly but dry day with occasional sunshine.
Harby School head teacher Bridget Bye said: “The pupils were wonderful at the checkpoints.
“They encouraged all the participants and served them food and drinks.
“They also did a sterling job selling merchandise and putting their numeracy skills to the test in calculating how much things were.”
The event was started at 9am by Myles Ponsonby, chair of governors, whose father also took part as the oldest competitor.
Runners and walkers left through the village to huge applause and steadily returned throughout the day, to be welcomed by a warming cup of soup and a roll, followed by pudding and custard.
There were plenty of aching legs and tired bodies but they were helped on their way by being served refreshments at various checkpoints, which were well stocked with snacks such as homemade cakes, sandwiches, juice, tea and coffee.
Sponsors provided some of the food and drink, with Samworth Brothers supplying sandwiches, Long Clawson Dairy a half a Stilton cheese and Belvoir Fruit Farms giving cordials and soft drinks.
Mrs Bye said: “We really appreciate the fantastic support that we are so lucky to have for this event.
“We couldn’t do it without the very careful and detailed planning that starts way back in September which was led by Becky Spence, the chair of the friends of the school.
“She has worked so hard to organise this event and is supported by a team of hard working and dedicated parents who have been involved in the planning of the route, the risk assessments and first aid arrangements, the entry system and advertising, merchandise and catering, car parking and so much more.
“We appreciate all their support. It is a real team effort with a wonderful community feel.”
Proceeds from the Belvoir Challenge are used for school equipment, trips and other projects and it has yet to be decided how this year’s money will be spent.
It is also a serious event for competitors with hard-fought racing in a bid to be first male and female to finish.
This year, Richard Loader and Bethan Gay took those honours over the 15-mile course, with times of 1hr 35mins 37secs and 1.56.21, respectively.
Over the 26 mile challenge, first home were Stephen Shanks and Lynn Wilcox, with respective times of 3.15.35 and 3.40.08.
One competitor who got an extra special cheer was the school’s Maths of the Day mascot, Motty, who completed the 26-miles course in the safe hands of year five/six teacher Mr Martino.
Mrs Bye added: “Our grateful thanks go to the wider village community for their co-operation and participation in the day.
“It was amazing to see that by lunchtime on Sunday all traces of the event had gone.
“The clean-up operation afterwards is just as important – we have to remove the markings of the route and ensure all is left as it was before.
“Then there is also the cleaning and storage of equipment and stock taking ready for next year.
“The event is a highlight of the school calendar and children, staff and parents all work hard to support it.”
Pupil Sophia Pearl’s motivational speech to the field:
It’s time for Belvoir challenge once again.
So get ready to have some fun.
Don’t give up and persevere,
Thank you for your support.
Get muddy and eat cakes because that’s what it’s all about.
You’re all winners in our eyes.
Thank you from all of us at Harby School.
And good luck.