WORLD triathlon star Jonny Brownlee has led the many tributes to Keighley couple Dave and Eileen Woodhead, who are retiring at the end of the year after more than three decades of organising the popular Woodentops fell races.

The pair have been staging runs on Haworth Moor since their first in 1984 and their events have attracted elite athletes from far and wide.

But they will step down from their roles after their final two scheduled races of 2017 – The Stoop race on Sunday, December 17 and the Auld Lang Syne event on Sunday, December 31.

Brownlee and his double Olympic gold medal-winning brother Alistair have been regular competitors in the annual New Year's Eve race, Jonny having last won it in 2012 and Alistair in 2014.

The star siblings, who nominated Dave for a BBC Sports Personality of the Year unsung hero award in 2011, credit the Woodentops races as being an important influence in attracting them to running as youngsters.

And on hearing the news this week that the Woodheads were stepping down, Bingley Harrier Jonny tweeted: "Very sad. One of the reasons I love running was because I did one of your races as a seven-year-old. See you on a fell soon!"

The good news for the hundreds of local athletics club members – both young and old – who sign up for the Woodentops races from Penistone Hill, which include the Stanbury Splash and the Withins Skyline, is they are set to continue.

Members from Silsden-based Wharfedale Harriers will be organising the competitions next year.

Dave, who was awarded the British Empire Medal with Eileen in 2015 for services to athletics, explained their decision to step down while confirming that they would still be involved in their beloved sport.

He said: "Eileen has always said that she would retire when she was 60 and, although she doesn't reach that for another two years, I am 60 in January and have had two pulmonary embolisms.

"I am just getting old, but we will still be organising the Yorkshire senior and junior championships and the inter-county teams, as well as taking photos of the competitors enjoying it and sweating on the hills, mountains, bogs and Dales we all love – whether they're having a good day or a bad day.

"Wharfedale Harriers have assured us that they will keep the ethos and tradition of how all our races are run and keep the Woodentops fun element thriving."

Dave, who worked for Magnet Joinery before retiring, remembered: "Our first race was the Soreen Stanbury Splash in 1984, which my sister asked me to organise.

"A village fell race, it was said to be 25 minutes but Jack Maitland won it in 9min 11sec, so I re-designed the course, and the following year it was six miles long and the course record is 41 minutes.

"We have never had a race cancelled, even when the foot-and-mouth outbreak was on.

"We just moved the race from Haworth Moor to Cliffe Castle in Keighley, where Keighley & Craven Athletics Club still run events."

While attracting a raft of elite athletes beside the Brownlees, Woodentops races are renowned for their light-hearted side, with fancy dress and chocolate 'throw-outs'.

Dave said: "The funniest thing that happened to me was when I was reading out the Auld Lang Syne race rules to competitors before the start and one of the competitors, Chris Barnes, shoved a cream pie right in my face.

"Everyone was laughing, but I was still getting shaving foam out of my eyes days later!"

The announcement on Monday provoked a large reaction on social media as people expressed thanks for their contribution.

Among the tweets were Pete Bland Sports: "The sport won't be the same without you both", and Joe Baxter: "Gutted! Part of the race experience was your famous presentation antics! I shall make sure I'm hit with a flying sweet at ALS for old time sake!"

Graham Pearce tweeted: "What a pair of legends you are", while Horsforthfellanddale added: "Cheers for putting on some amazing races guys, and taking all the great pictures. All the best."

Ilkley Harriers tweeted: "Life as we know it will cease", while several called it "the end of an era".