Facebook Runner Paul McCann who died during the Great Eastern Run

A dad who died while running a half-marathon yesterday had been close to reaching the end when he was taken ill.

The sportsman – being named locally as train driver Paul McCann – had been taking part in the Great Eastern Run in Peterborough.

It is understood he suffered a massive heart attack during the race, yet to be confirmed.

Tributes were this morning being paid online to the much loved father as news of his death reached friends and work colleagues in the railway family.

And a JustGiving page set up to raise money for his family is already 260% over target.

Close friend Gavin Smoker – who said Paul had been his best mate for the past 20yrs, best man at his wedding and godfather to his three children, posted online: "What a legend this guy was. Missing him already.

"Wish i cud have another beer with him. (sic)

"He helped me in life and was always there for me Rachelle Smoker and my kids whenever we needed him.

"u will be truly missed by so many people.

"Always in my heart forever and my kids will always know who there godfather was.

"Sleep tight mate xxx."

Runners in the Perkins Great Eastern Run half-marathon in Peterborough yesterday

Another friend, Sean Turner, posted online: "Can’t believe what I’m reading and waking up to…

"Paul was a top bloke who was kind hearted always putting others first

"I’m devastated for the whole family."

Former colleague Nick Hatcher, also a train driver, wrote: "Heard the shocking news of the passing of a young, good, funny and caring man Paul McCann.

"My thoughts are with his friends and family and am truly gutted. RIP mate xx."

Our thoughts and condolences go out to Paul McCann and his family from everyone at AFC Stanground Sports. Terrible news.#OneOfOurOwn

— AFCStangroundSports (@AFCStangroundS_) October 10, 2016

A local football team’s official Twitter feed – for AFC Stanground Sports first team who play in the Peterborough & District Premier Division – posted: "Our thoughts and condolences go out to Paul McCann and his family from everyone at AFC Stanground Sports. Terrible news. #OneOfOurOwn."

RIP Paul McCann. A truly delightfully warm man who was instantly likeable. Taken from us far too soon. #GER #greateasternrun #peterborough

— Fidge PT (@FidgeFit) October 10, 2016

Another friend said online: "A truly delightfully warm man who was instantly likeable. Taken from us far too soon."

A personal trainer called Fidge PT on Twitter posted: "RIP Paul McCann. A truly delightfully warm man who was instantly likeable. Taken from us far too soon."

Another Facebook user, Daisy Gibbs, posted: "That’s so sad.. he was always so chatty and lovely when he came through."

A JustGiving page set up by friend Bianca Rennie says: "As many people know it is with great sadness that we lost a fellow driver and to may a friend yesterday.

"Paul Mccann was running the great eastern run, a half marathon in peterborough yesterday and had a major heart attack about a mile away from the finish line.

"I’m sure all of us can agree this man was a wonderfully human being and just an all round nice guy who will be so badly missed.

"I was with his wife and kids last night I know all your kind messages were very much needed so thank you all."

To donate to the fund CLICK HERE.

It is not the first time athletes have died in connection with running the race.

In 2010 two men died after taking part in the run.

Peterborough City Council confirmed that a man died during the Great Eastern Run yesterday.

In a statement they said: "On behalf of everyone involved in run, I would like to say how saddened we are.

"We offer our heartfelt condolences."

The Coroner’s Office and Mr McCann’s employers have been contacted for comment.