THE sun was shining as more than 400 people took on a gruelling duathlon in aid of The Fire Fighters Charity.

Fire crews from Bolton, Bury and across Greater Manchester were among those brave enough to take on the Fire Fighters ‘2UP’ in Rivington yesterday morning.

Professional triathletes and novices alike pulled on their running shoes for the testing four-mile trail run that topped and tailed a 25-mile cycle up to Rivington Pike.

Overall winners of the event were brothers Tony Cullen, aged 45, and Dave Cullen, aged 38, who completed the race in an impressive one hour, 56 minutes and 39 seconds.

Rob Macleod, one of the EPIC Events organisers,said: "It was a fantastic event with a great turn out.

"This is the first race of the season for a lot of people so everybody was excited.

"The run is brutal. It is quite a challenging course but people love it."

First up were three keen youngsters who took on the Tri Kids race ahead of the main event.

They enjoyed a 1km run across the fields at Rivington and Blackrod High School in Horwich, next to the duathlon start line.

Winner Sam Brereton, aged five, said: “It felt really good to win. I was very pleased.

“I usually go on 2km park runs with my dad and this was 1km but it was hard.”

His grandma Denise Brereton said: “I was very proud of him. He has travelled from Cardiff to watch his dad and uncle take part in the race."

Next up were the adults who set off from the start line just after 8am, cheered on by supporters and 30 dedicated marshals.

Race organiser Joanne McWilliams said: "This is one of our favourite events. The atmosphere has been electric. It is a big competition."

Geoff Leech, aged 52, from Horwich, was one of the brave souls to take part, in preparation for the Greater Manchester Marathon in April.

He said before the race: "I'm quite excited. This is my first one.

"I've learned the route and will take it as it comes.

"My main aim is to enjoy it."

Known locally as the 'start of the season social race', the EPIC Events duathlon sees participants pair up to run and cycle alongside a friend or race partner.

Dozens of firefighters from Bolton, Ramsbottom and Bury had turned out.

Ramsbottom fire station watch manager Ady Tonge used it as a training opportunity for his upcoming Ironman South Africa in April.

The 54-year-old said at the start line: "I cannot wait to get going.

"Today is important because The Fire Fighters Charity does such great work for injured firefighters."

Fellow firefighter from Bury, Graham Rands, said: "This is a good training race for us. It is a difficult course with lots of hill sections."