THOUSANDS of runners are scrambling for a place at the starting line of a popular Helsby race.

Less than a week since entries opened for the Essar Four Villages Half Marathon more than 1,100 runners have signed up to run the race, which winds through the streets of Helsby, Mouldsworth, Manley and Dunham-on-the-Hill.

But this year the much loved January race will cost runners more to enter after changes in traffic control measures forced organisers to bump up the fees so they didn’t have to dip into charitable donations.

This year’s marathon saw more than 1,600 runners of all ages cross the starting line at Helsby Community Sports Club and race through the villages in a bid to complete the gruelling 13.1-mile course.

And, despite the increased cost, organisers are predicting that all 2,000 places for the January race will be filled in a matter of weeks, with desperate runners who missed out pleading and grappling for spare places.

Race organiser and member of Helsby Running Club Steve Riley said places are running out so quickly that they could all be filled up by the end of the month.

“There has been a massive rush on places but that usually tends to tail off by the end of the first week,” said Steve.

“The race is always very popular, I think it is partly the start of the year and people have good intentions in the New Year.

“Unfortunately we have had to push up the prices because of the cost of traffic management and road closures. We use a third party company for traffic management, it used to just be just a police officer on a motorbike but things have changed.”

“But it is nothing really compared to some races which cost about £40 to enter. It can quickly add up if you are a serious runner doing a few marathons in a year.”

Steve added the reason runners return to the village year on year is the excellent atmosphere and picturesque scenery that lines the route.

“The run has an excellent atmosphere with competitors supporting each other across the route,” said Steve.

“We always have a lot of family members and residents who come to the start and the finishing line to support the runners.

“If you are doing the half-marathon for the first time just finishing it is a big achievement, don’t worry about the time just enjoy the atmosphere.”

The 31st Essar Four Villages Half Marathon will be held on Sunday, January 22. Entry costs £18 for UKA club members and £20 for non-members. Runners must be aged 17 or above. To enter, visit