IT will be a landmark moment in Southampton’s proud and illustrious sporting history.
Today the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal plans to create a new Olympic-style legacy in the city by launching its first half marathon.
Nearly 20,000 people are expected to take to the streets next spring to celebrate what will be the city’s biggest ever running event.
Up to 6,000 runners will be pounding the pavements past teeming crowds and some of the south’s most iconic landmarks.
Organisers Marafun want to showcase the city and boost tourism, while promoting the area’s grass roots sports clubs and community groups.
They say it will whip up similar excitement as in 1990, when the city hosted the first ever Great South Run – now held in Portsmouth.
The half marathon, scheduled for April 26, 2015, begins in Hoglands Park, travelling north to Southampton Common, continuing east to Bitterne, before returning to the heart of the city via the Itchen Bridge.
It climaxes in front of cheering crowds at Guildhall Square.
Thousands of residents and community groups will form an army of volunteers keeping the runners’ strengths and spirits up.
A shorter 10KM race will also be starting and finishing at the same locations.
Marafun UK managing director Chris Rees, pictured, hailed it as the city’s running “revival” and said: “This will be the biggest running event in Southampton’s history.
“Southampton has so many parks and green areas and running clubs and our idea is to create a large community event to inspire people.
“All the city’s iconic locations will be joined up in one big event and we have the unique mix of coastal, urban and green areas in the same race.
“It is going to be an enjoyable, competitive experience where people will want to keep coming back.”
He anticipates increasing participant numbers year on year to 10,000 by 2017.
Thousands of volunteers are needed to serve as marshals, water station and bag drop attendants and as entertainers.
Groups offering outstanding service will be in the running for the Best Comm-unity Support Award.
He added: “This is going to be an all-inclusive event and if you are not running you can still get involved.”
Organisers and transport chiefs have already drawn up a meticulous schedule to keep major traffic routes flowing to avoid gridlock.
The course focuses on pedestrian routes, but residents on the route will receive newsletters and maps outlining rolling road closures.
Measures include ensuring The Avenue and the inbound carriageway of Northam Bridge are open throughout.
Southampton City Council events manager Craig Lintott anticipates every runner will invite an average of two spectators along.
He said: “This will give the city a huge economic boost. We are supporting Marafun in their plans and will do all we can to ensure it is successful.”
Are you in the running?
Entries are now open for both the half marathon and 10K routes.
The first 500 signing up for both races receive an early bird price of £23.99 for the half marathon and £17.99 for the 10K.
Full prices are £28.99 and £21.99 respectively.