ONE of the county's toughest cross-country races celebrates its 20th birthday this month.

The Crocodile 8 is a multi-terrain 8.8 mile race that will take place at Burghill Community Academy on May 27 at 3pm.

"We are asking people who have helped along the way to come and join us," said race director, Krissie Stevenson.

"It would be fantastic to see 20 years of Croc helpers! If you are or were a pupil, parent, friend or member of staff from Burghill School or part of our community and have helped over the last 20 years, please come and join in the 20th year celebrations at The Bell Inn."

Twenty years ago Paddy Nugent, who works for St Michael's Hospice, had children at Burghill school and a keen runner himself decided to set up a charity run with the aim of raising much-needed funds for the the school.

"All of us who were involved in the early days are delighted it's still going," Paddy said. "It was designed as a one-off event to raise funds for a new a school hall which was being match-funded by the Council. We thought we'd do the figure-of-eight run through the local woods as it was a run I was used to doing."

The 'crocodile' as it is now known has become a fixture within the local running fraternity.

"When we first started we had 80+ runners but it's built up to about 300 now. It's a tough run. People have a go, some people do it really fast in under an hour but it has steep climbs through the mud and you need to be pretty fit.

"We tried to get it to become a local celebration, and the pub (The Bell Inn) puts on a big party on the day, giving the profits to the school. Local causes now get a look in as after the first ten years there was more money and the school was less broke. It's a lovely atmosphere, some of the marshals are the same families and friends who were there in the beginning."

Over the years proceeds from the race have supported several local charities as well as helping to provide equipment for the children at the school.

Last year's event saw £4,000 donated to Burghill Community Academy which went towards new computers with three charities receiving the remaining £3,900 between them.

Sixteen charities were nominated for this year's race and race director Krissie admits it was a hard task deciding on three to support.

"We eventually narrowed it down to three," she said: "Born Sleeping, The CLD Trust and MARS - all of which will have representatives at the school on the day of the race.

"It's going to be a good one this year as it's a birthday celebration and we've had more sponsorship from local businesses than ever before," she said. "We are hugely grateful for their support."

Action begins at noon at Burghill Community Academy with plenty of activities to keep non-race participants amused.

If you would like to help out in any way please get in touch via the website where on-line entries are open (mini and junior race registration is on the day from 12pm).