MORE than a third of runners taking to the streets for Southampton’s newest mass running event are tackling their first-ever long distance race.

Over 1,500 people have so far signed up to compete in the city’s flagship half marathon.

Of these more than 500 attempting to set off on the 13.2-mile route will be braving their first ever half marathon.

Now the newcomers and the race’s organisers are urging more running novices to join them and be part of the city’s historic event.

The mass run is being held on the same day as the London Marathon on Sunday, April 26 next year.

It will pass some of the city’s most eye-catching sights including the Bargate, Southampton Common, St Mary’s Stadium and the giant Itchen Bridge.

The run sets off in Hoglands Park, winding its way north to The Common, east into Bitterne and returns to the city centre for crowds to welcome them over the line in Guildhall Square.

There are 6,000 places for the run and its shorter sister 10km event which is being organised by Marafun UK, a branch of Hampshire sporting events company TryTri.

It is one of the biggest running events organised for the city since the Great South Run in 1990, now held in Portsmouth.

First time runners include Lauren Lilly from Nelson Road, Freemantle.

The 24-year-old, who works as a freelance photographer, has committed to the challenge after Slimming World helped her lose 2.5 stone in four months.

She is training by regularly participating in Southampton Park Run and said: “It’s a big challenge but it is something that I am really excited about and looking forward to.

“It’s brilliant to have something like this on our doorstep at Southampton and it will really put the city on the map.”

Chris Rees, Marafun director, said: “We are very excited with the number of runners taking on the half marathon distance for the first time.

“They will be putting themselves through months of training and with nine months to go we are encouraging more first timers to sign up.

“They will not be alone and it is a chance to get healthy and be part of a race that will make Southampton proud.”

See to sign up for the half marathon and follow @marafunuk for more information.