This year's Sarsen Trail and Neolithic Marathon was the biggest in the history of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, with over 1,700 walkers, 400 runners, 100 dogs and over 250 staff and volunteers all doing their bit to raise money for wildlife.
It was also the most colourful with traditional walkers and runners joined by Cani-Cross UK runners, a herbalist giving an informative talk on the medicinal plants encountered on the way, and a compost fanatic dressed up as a 'Super Bug' to promote Compost Awareness Week.
"We are thrilled that this year's event has been such a huge success," says Steve Pagett, the event organiser. "It's such a buzz to see so many people taking part, walking or running across the plain, all having fun and raising money for such a worthy cause."
The Sarsen Trail and Neolithic Marathon is the Trust's annual fundraising event. All money raised will be used to help protect Wiltshire's wildlife and the environment and safeguard its natural heritage for future generations.
"It's too early to say how much we have raised, as participants are still raising money and funds are still coming in, but if last year is anything to go by we could expect to raise well over ??60,000," adds Steve.
The event could not happen without the dedication of a team of volunteers who give up their time selflessly to ensure the event runs smoothly.
Amongst the water marshals, check-point attendants and support staff is Janet Roe, a volunteer from Swindon who has been volunteering as a car park attendant at Avebury for the last four years. She waves a big foam hand to direct cars in through the gate. She says: "When I've finished here I go to Stonehenge to hand out water at the finish line. I love seeing people at the start and at the end of the event. I do it as my contribution towards looking after the environment."
And whilst the weather in the morning wasn't great, the slight breeze and the odd shower ensured that some participants – especially those with young families and dogs – were happy.
Aileen Bates and daughter Fiona, from Malmesbury walked the whole route. "I didn't mind it being cool and cloudy in the morning as I would have really struggled if it was too hot. The walk is a great way of making people aware of the Trust's work. I've never walked a marathon before – the furthest we have done is 14 miles. In our minds we are breaking it down into bite-sized chunks of seven mile walks with food-breaks in between."
The Toop family from Melksham, walked to Redhorn Hill, with possibly the youngest participant, 15-month-old Regan, asleep in a baby carrier on her father's back. Dawn Toop says: "We really enjoyed it and will definitely do it again. We just signed up on the day because we were waiting to see what the weather would be like. We were worried that if it was hot, it would be too much for Regan." Ryan Toop, aged 7: "I really liked walking up and down all the hills, and I liked the sheep. I thought they were going to come up to me, but they didn't."
This was the first year the event was open to Cani-Cross runners (canine cross-country), in conjunction with Cani-X UK – an organisation that encourages owners to take their dogs out for a run on a lead or harness rather than a walk.
Richard Cook, the organisation's founder, ran the Half Marathon with his Siberian Huskies Pasha and Alexi. "It was a fantastic day and all the Cani-Cross runners and dogs really enjoyed taking part. We had 70 runners with over 100 dogs, and managed to raise ??1,000 for the Trust as part of National Pet Month."
"The atmosphere was very friendly and the water marshals did a sterling job in looking after runners and their dogs."
"This was the first time a Cani-Cross run had a 'mass start', which was great to get a feel for how you were doing in relation to the other runners."
"Many of our Cani-Cross runners are marathon runners themselves. The winner of the Cani-Cross Half Marathon was Neil Parry, who managed to come fifth overall."
The Sarsen Trail and Neolithic Marathon is Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's biggest fundraising event of the year. It is a 26-mile sponsored walk and run between the two World Heritage Sites of Avebury and Stonehenge, with shorter courses available to those who prefer shorter distances.
Next year??s event will be on Sunday 4th May.