THE traditional clash of the Runners v Cyclists for the Markham Cup gets underway at Friday Woods on Boxing Day morning - with a change in format in place.

This year, for only the second time in the 87-year history of the event, the cyclists will start one minute ahead of the runners.

The results will be based on overall times, with the decision made following a meeting between John Hyland and Paul Spowage of Colchester Harriers and Colchester Rovers Cycle Club duo, Colin White and Peter Hall.

The quartet felt that with the increased numbers of competitors taking part in the race the risk of injury at the mass start is high, with the change in format in place to help eliminate some of these risks.

The Cyclists are favourites to maintain the Markham Cup for the 15th time, with last year's individual winner cyclist Cameron Hurst, who broke the course record with a time of 16.39, out to make it a hat-trick of wins.

The Senior Men run three laps of the 2,000m course, the ladies two laps and the under-15 competitors one lap – which will be for the Neil Pears Trophy.

There is also an under-13 800m race of two laps in the woods starting at 10.20 am - all age groups compete at their own risk.

Colchester Mayor Peter Chillingworth, who won this race himself as a runner in 1962, 1965 and 1966, will be on hand to start the race which begins at 11am.