Athletics legend and council chiefs team up to inspire residents to run

Nine people pose in running kit.

Athletics legend Steve Cram and council chiefs have teamed up to inspire residents to take part in a series of running events in Durham next month. The annual Durham City Run Festival will feature three days of races and family friendly activities, and senior officers from Durham County Council will be joining other council employees to take part. Held from 18-20 July, the Durham City Run Festival is being organised by Events of the North, in partnership with the council and Durham University.

Durham County Council is the portfolio holder for culture, creative, tourism and sport, in the North East Combined Authority, and the Durham City Run Festival will be one of the first major events to take place in the county since the formation of the new authority. Amy Harhoff, the council’s corporate director of regeneration, economy and growth, will take on the Durham City Run 10K, while Alison Clark, head of culture, sport and tourism, will tackle the 5K. Other members of the county council team have also signed up to participate in or volunteer at the festival, which also includes the Run Like A Legend Mile challenge, XO urban orienteering, and Paula’s Families on Track initiative that gives family groups the opportunity to complete a 10K distance in a continuous relay, having fun while exercising together.

With just under a month until the start of this year’s festival, Amy, Alison and some of their colleagues met event founder Steve Cram, who provided them with a few training tips. They also talked through final plans for this year’s event and discussed its importance as a big event in County Durham, and the role it plays in encouraging more residents to get active as part of healthier lifestyles.

Durham County Council has been a core event partner since the first Durham City Run 5K and 10K races in 2016, and has helped the event to grow into the three day festival of running that was launched in 2019, working closely with Events of the North and Durham University. Recognising the important role that events like the Durham City Run Festival can play in helping people to get more active, the county council promotes the event through its own internal and external communications activities. Many members of staff are also members of local athletics clubs, and act as informal ambassadors for the festival, and for running in general.

Durham City Run founder Steve Cram comments: “One of the most important aspects of the Durham City Run Festival is the wide range of opportunities to get involved that it offers, which means there is something for participants of all ages and levels of ability. Of course, we love seeing the fierce competition at the front of each race, but looking at the bigger picture, it’s even more important that people who are new to the sport, or returning after a break, feel welcome and enjoy their experience here. We work closely with Durham County Council to reach as many residents as possible with positive and appropriate messages that persuade them to take part in one of the running events, or join us as a volunteer. So it’s great that county council officers are also prepared to put their best feet forward and set an example by taking part.”

Amy Harhoff, corporate director of economy, regeneration and growth at Durham County Council, said: “The Durham City Run Festival is a brilliant event as there is something for everyone whether you are a beginner, have recently completed the Couch to 5K programme, or are a seasoned runner.

“Activities such as running not only benefit our physical health, but our mental health too, and we are absolutely committed to working with out partners across the county to support people to get moving. This includes our own colleagues within Durham County Council, and I’m delighted that many of them are joining myself and Alison for the 5K and 10K races.

“Increasing participation and sport in County Durham and the wider region is a key priority for us in our capacity as culture, creative, tourism and sport lead at the North East Combined Authority. The Durham City Run Festival is the perfect example of this in action. We are proud to support Steve and the Events of the North team to deliver this fantastic event that brings Olympians, club athletes, first-timers and families together and boosts the region’s visitor economy.”

Entries are still open for all of the events that make up the Durham City Run Festival at They will close on Monday 15 July or when each event reaches capacity.