MORE runners than ever before have signed up for the Southend Half Marathon, despite a search for wartime bombs being carried out near its starting point.

About 2,800 people have already registered to take place in the 13.1mile run around Shoebury this Sunday, 400 more than at this point last year.

Organiser Havens Hospices opted to start the race from the grassy area above East Beach, Shoebury, despite the beach being closed for a mine sweep after live explosives were discovered in April.

The charity hopes to raise more than £95,000 for Fair Havens adult hospice, in Chalkwell, and Little Havens Children’s Hospice, in Thundersley, with the annual event.

Judy Grocott, events manager at Havens Hospices, said: “We are delighted that so many people have signed up to take part in this year’s Southend Half Marathon.

“As well as so many local people, we also have a high number of people from outside Essex coming to take part in this very popular event.”

Ms Grocott added: “With so many people taking part, and asking for sponsorship from family and friends, and using online fundraising pages, we are hoping to raise more than £95,000 from the event.

“We don’t charge a penny for our care, and that simply wouldn’t be possible without every single person who takes part on the day and the amazing support they are shown.”

Registration is now closed, but the charity expects between 200 and 300 more runners will sign up on the day.

The council closed East Beach, which it licences from the MoD as a public beach, on May 1 after 15 artillery ormortar shells and a dozen machine guns were found there in just 13 days.

A specialist explosive ordnance disposal team from the Royal Navy Southern Diving Group were continuing to survey the beach for bombs yesterday.

Runners and spectators are asked to respect the exclusion zone around the beach and the charity has recruited extra marshals to assist with this.

To sign up on the day for the race, or the 3km fun run, visit the registration tent at East Beach between 8am and 9.30am.

The half marathon costs £23 for affiliated runners and £25 for those non-affiliated. The fun run costs £5. For details call 01702 220324 or email jgrocott@