THOUSANDS of runners will be taking to the streets to compete in the annual half marathon this weekend.

The Shell Four Villages Half Marathon, will see Helsby, Mouldsworth, Manley and Dunham-on-the-Hill, filled with runners racing through the villages for charity.

Two thousand people will brave the cold January weather and battle the 13.1 miles to complete the race, which will be celebrating its 30th anniversary on Sunday.

Started in 1982, as a local fun run with just 100 runners, the half marathon has grown in popularity.

More than 2,000 runners will cross the starting line at Helsby Community Sports Club, when the gun sounds at 11am on Sunday.

Organised by the Helsby Running Club, the marathon will see 70-year-olds competing against 17-year-olds for the main £500 prize.

Member of Helsby Running Club Steve Riley told the Chronicle how the half marathon has become a highlight on the runners calendar.

“It is a great milestone for people to build up for the London Marathon.

“Places always fill very quickly, what is great about the race is that it is challenging but doable, you do not have to be a runner to do it.”

The run is now so popular that race numbers have become like gold dust, with the forum and website being inundated with appeals for places.

The runners, who between them raise thousands of pounds for local and national charities, range from professional athletes to fun runners and walkers.

Crossing the finish line, at Hornsmill Primary School, Helsby, the runners will be greeted with a goody bag, a medal and a text message of their time.

One face in the crowd will be MP Graham Evans, Conservative MP for Weaver Vale, who will be raising money for Halton Haven Hospice.

Mr Evans has been preparing for the race with morning runs, in a hope to work off those Christmas pounds.

He said: “I've run the four villages half marathon before and it's a great day going through villages like Helsby and Manley with some of the most picturesque scenery that Cheshire has to offer.”

With prizes totalling over £1,700, the runners and volunteers are hoping for a good day.