THE coronavirus pandemic failed to stop keen athletes coming together to take on an event dedicated to a popular fundraiser who died earlier this year.

Harp – Southend’s homeless charity – hosts the Harp24 contest every year but, due to lockdown restrictions, the race could not go ahead as planned.

Although it was thought the 24-hour event would have to be put on hold for another 12 months, Harp was blown away when a lockdown-friendly version of the competition was arranged by Benfleet Running Club.

It was dedicated to the memory of Southend accountant, fundraiser and community leader, Noel Kelleway who died in March after a short illness.

The contest raised a staggering £3,250, to be match-funded by Barclays UK, and attracted an impressive 480 runners who, between them, clocked up over 6,280 miles.

With more than ten times the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats being covered, Graham Douglass was pleased to see his idea come to fruition in fine style.

Mr Douglass, the co-chair of Benfleet Running Club, said: “I’m amazed that all this came together from the seed of an idea I had out running during lockdown.

“I want to thank everyone who helped to collate the results and the team captains who played such a pivotal role in making the event happen.

“But, most of all, thank you to every single one of the 480 runners across all the clubs and south Essex locations who came together so wholeheartedly to support Harp and the critical work they are doing for our local community.”

After the 24-hour virtual event was completed, it was confirmed that Leigh Striders were the winners of the Club Championship.

Leigh Striders’ members covered an incredible 1554.07 miles between them and finished close to 670 miles clear of runners-up Benfleet.

Southend Athletics Club completed the podium places having chalked up 628.34 miles.

The event took place in memory of Mr Kelleway, one of the original founders of Harp24 who passed away earlier this year.

Mr Kelleway had completed 39 marathons and Mr Douglass was keen to pay his respects to a “wonderful man and fervent supporter of Harp and Harp24.”