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Floods strand mountain marathoners

Hundreds of competitors in an elite mountain marathon in England may be stranded after heavy rain led to flooding, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported Saturday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hundreds of mountain runners spent Saturday night in tents and hastily organized shelters after a long-distance race in England's Lake District was called off due to heavy rain and flooding, British authorities said.

Race organizers said all the participants had been accounted for. About a dozen people were treated for minor injuries and mild hypothermia.

About 2,500 athletes began the Original Mountain Marathon on Saturday morning before the race was called off around midday, police said. Almost 800 people stayed overnight in shelters such as barns, a school and a visitor's center, while some 1,700 camped out in the hills.

Competitors were scattered across the 50 mile course over mountains as high as 7,054 feet when heavy rain and high winds rolled into much of the Lake District, about 300 miles north of London. It was the first time in the race's 41-year history that the event was canceled.

"The event is billed as a tough event and competitors know what they are letting themselves in for. It's held at this time of year annually for a reason because the weather is part of the test," said Neil Talbott, who competed in the race. "There are various categories and you are not allowed to take part in the harder courses unless you have previously competed in the marathon."

The area near the race had about 2.5 inches of rain over the past 24 hours.

Competitors raced in pairs and were required to carry all their own equipment, including tents, sleeping bags, waterproof clothing and enough food for 36 hours.

"These people are equipped for two days in the hills," organizer Jen Longbottom told Sky News. "They're not day walkers who are going out with a small rucksack and can't look after themselves."

Talbott, 27, said that the wind had reduced him to crawling along parts of the course on all fours — but that he was already looking forward to next year's race.

"I do not regret competing in the event because it is what I have trained hard for," said Talbott, a trainee fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force. "Despite the weather, it was a great experience and I can't wait for next year."