THE long-awaited return of Weymouth Half Marathon saw hundreds of athletes pound pavements amid sweltering conditions.

Meanwhile, visitors turned up in droves to soak up the glorious sunshine on Weymouth Beach - a welcome boost for beach traders, who say this year is one of the busiest they have seen due to 'staycationers' flocking to the resort.

Half Marathon organisers Just Racing have had to postpone the event three times - for obvious reasons - and were delighted that the race could finally go ahead yesterday.

At one point, Just Racing boss Alan Rose expected around 1,500 people at the start line - which was staggered to allow for social distancing - although the turn out on the day was somewhat lower.

Dorset Echo: Pictures: Dorset Bays PhotographyPictures: Dorset Bays Photography

However the event has been hailed a huge success, with high numbers of spectators who were praised for respecting guidelines and spreading out along the course.

"I'm thrilled to have finally been able to deliver the event - it feels really great to be here and see so many people who still want to come to the event.

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"The runners had loads and loads of support - people didn't really gather at the Pavilion this year, they spread out along the course, everyone was careful and there was a great atmosphere, which was really good to see.

"We're now looking forward to our next event in Weymouth, which is the Weymouth Bay swim in July."

The Echo caught up with a few of the athletes who took part in yesterday's race.

Emily Houghton, from Poole, hit the beach after competing.

Dorset Echo: Emily HoughtonEmily Houghton

"I'm glad it's finally happened," she said. "I don't think it was my fastest race - it was tough going due to the heat - but I love being in Weymouth - the beach is stunning - we're staying here for the rest of the day."

Meanwhile local man Paul Holmes said: "It was great - obviously really hot conditions, but the support from the crowds and the event was really well organised."

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Sam Little - aka 'The Running Viking' - travelled all the way from Stroud, Gloucestershire to compete, and walked away with a medal.

Dorset Echo: Stroud's 'The Running Viking' - before picking up a medal at the finish line Stroud's 'The Running Viking' - before picking up a medal at the finish line

He said: "It was great fun - I was a bit nervous due to it being my first official race after about a year and a half of proper running, but once I set off I was really enjoying myself."

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