HUNDREDS of runners took part in the gruelling Purbeck Marathon yesterday, as part of The Purbeck Outdoor Weekend. (TPOW)

The course is a tough one, with around 3,000ft of climbs which are mainly off-road, but it has become a favourite since making its debut on the marathon calendar six years ago.

Today it attracts not only runners from across the country but competitors from as far afield as China and South East Asia, raising thousands of pounds for charities.

Billed as ‘more than just a marathon’, the event is actually closer to 27 miles, rather than the conventional 26.2.

It also makes up part of TPOW, which includes the shorter Purbeck 16 run, which at 16-and-a-half miles is also longer than its name suggests, a two-day walking festival, mountain bike rides and Nordic walking.

Marathon co-organiser Lesley Gardner, told the Daily Echo: “I started really well, the runners set off in ideal weather conditions, everyone looked happy.

“We’ve had hundreds of people taking part in the festival throughout the weekend, we even had some walkers from Kuala Lumpur taking part in the walking festival on Saturday.

“Next year we plan to expand our running events, including an ultra run.

“We are hoping to raise around £5,000 or £6,000 for charity this year.”

The marathon started and finished in Swanage, on Sunday, with the route heading towards Durlston Country Park, the Jurassic Coast Path, before snaking through Worth Matravers and Kingston.

Runners then headed towards Swyre Head, past Heavens Gate and along the ridge towards Tyneham Cap.

After passing through the deserted village of Tyneham, runners pounded the path to Corfe Castle - passing below the battlements of the iconic building - then back towards the Swanage seafront finishing line.

The Purbeck Outdoor Weekend event has raised more than £28,000 for charities and good causes - many of them local - over the past five years.

Lesley explained: “We kept entries open until midnight before the run, so had lots of entries flooding in quite late. We’d also like to thank everyone, the marshals and local businesses, who have supported us.”