Online entries for Stoke-on-Trent’s iconic half marathon have opened.

Runners, walkers, relay teams and junior race entrants can now book their places for Sunday, September 26.

The Hanley Economic Potters ’Arf Marathon is one of the city’s most popular occasions and organisers are hoping around 2,000 participants will tackle the course. The event includes walking and relay team sections for those who do not want to run the full 13.1 miles. There is also a 1,000-metre junior race for youngsters aged six to 15 years old.

All participants who complete the course receive a goody bag and special Potters ’Arf medal.

Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for public health, culture and leisure, said: “We can’t wait to welcome back the Potters ‘Arf. It’s such an inspiring, unique and community-spirited occasion that brings so many benefits for Stoke-on-Trent. Residents always line the streets to cheer everyone on and the atmosphere is amazing – seeing that again is going to be incredible.

“For those who take on the challenge, it’s a great boost for mental and physical health. The effects of the pandemic have highlighted just how important those things are, so we’re encouraging as many people as possible to give it a go and sign up for the challenge.

“Remember, you don’t have to run it all. You can form a relay team so each person only has to cover part of the course. This year we’d love even more groups to take part in the relay, so if you’ve got friends or colleagues who fancy having a go, make sure you check out the website.

“Alternatively, you can join the walking event which sets off earlier from the city centre and always has a really fantastic atmosphere. It’s just a wonderful thing to be part of.”

Last year’s Potters ’Arf was cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It had originally been hoped that a 2021 event could take place on the traditional date of the second Sunday in June. However, following the latest Government and national sporting body advice, organisers are now planning the event for Sunday, September 26.

Councillor Beardmore said: “The safety of our residents and participants is of the upmost importance to us and we will regularly review the guidance provided by the Government and England Athletics in the run-up to the event.

“Given the rate of Covid-19 vaccinations and the recent announcements from the Government, we’re very optimistic that the race will go ahead and it can be a ray of hope in 2021. After the past year, it’s important that we have these wonderful community events to look forward to and the Potters ’Arf is certainly one of the most amazing occasions in the city.”

There is usually a Potters ’Arf launch event at the Victoria Hall and previously entrants have also been able to sign up at Hanley Economic Building Society branches. However, due to the pandemic, there will currently be online entries only at https://www.stoke.gov.uk/pottersarf

Deferred entrants from the cancelled 2020 event will be contacted separately by email in the coming weeks with information on how to register.

Since it began, more than 30,000 people have taken part in the Potters ’Arf.

David Lownds, head of marketing and business development at the Hanley Economic Building Society, said: “We’re thrilled to be headline sponsor of the iconic and local Potters ’Arf Marathon for the 12th year. With a change of date, we’re hoping it can be the great and safe success it always is, and give everyone something to look forward to.”

Richard Buxton, Stoke-on-Trent City Centre BID Manager, said: “The Potters ‘Arf is an amazing half marathon event, loved locally and nationally by runners, residents and businesses alike. Stoke-on-Trent City Centre BID is very proud to be supporting the event and we look forward to welcoming people to our city centre.”

Over the years the Potters’ Arf has also raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for many local charities.

Donna Adams, head of fundraising and lottery at Dougie Mac – one of the race’s main charities, said: “The Potters ‘Arf is a fantastic local running event that Dougie Mac are always delighted to be involved with. Support from our community through events such as the Potters ’Arf ensures our patients and their families can access specialist end-of-life care at a time when they need it most.

“After such a challenging year we are delighted to see the Potters ’Arf return for 2021. We wish all participants the very best of luck and thank those taking part to raise essential funds for Dougie Mac.”

Steph Talbot, CEO of the Alice Charity – one of the race’s other main causes, said: “As we start to ease out of lockdown, how amazing it is that the Potters ’Arf is able to proceed, encouraging us all to take part in exercise around our lovely city, whilst raising money for local charities.

“We are truly blessed to be included as one of the charities supported by the 2021 Potters Arf, as the impact of the covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately adversely impacted disadvantaged people all across our area. We’re looking forward to a great day.”

Earlier this month, tributes from across the running community were paid to Don Shelley, who sadly passed away. Mr Shelley was best known for founding the Potteries Marathon in 1982, which went on to become the Potters ‘Arf in 2005.

Race organisers are looking at plans to pay tribute to Mr Shelley and will release more details when they are available.

(Main image by Mick Hall Photos.)

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