THE spirit of the “ghost runner” is driving a major marathon event planned for Hereford later this year.

That marathon is a showcase event for the Herefordshire Running Festival coming in September.

The runners will be competing for the John Tarrant Cup, carrying with them hopes for overdue recognition of one of Britain’s greatest athletes.

Hereford’s John Tarrant was destined never to be recognised for the runner he was, despite breaking world records at distances of 40 and 100 miles.

Tarrant was called the “ghost runner” because he was never officially accepted by the athletics authorities of his time for breaking the amateur code in accepting a £17 payment for a bout as a teenage boxer.

Undeterred, the “ghost runner” would defy the ban to turn up at races undetected and win.

He died from stomach cancer in 1975, aged 42.

His story has been kept alive since and, in Hereford, a group dedicated to securing his recognition believes its time has come with a marathon in Tarrant’s name. That’s what drives the running festival towards its start date on September 21.

The one day festival is the result of a two-year partnership between Herefordshire MIND and local fitness company Fit+Healthy. That partnership is known as Fit+HealthyMinds.

Behind the festival is the aim of not only promoting wellbeing and resilience to the wider community but increasing awareness of mental health issues – and the impact that good physical health can have on them.

The partnership has “road-tested” its festival over two successful 10k road race events.

Now, organisers expect to host around 1,200 runners in a fun run, a 10k, a half marathon and the John Tarrant marathon. Race and performance director Richard Danks said that, from the off in September, the festival is on track to be a “unique” national event within five years.

And, by then, competitors might just be passing a John Tarrant statue along the way.

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