ONE of Southampton’s biggest employers is backing the city’s new half-marathon.

Up to 6,000 runners are expected to set off for the landmark Southampton Half Marathon in April next year.

Now Associated British Ports (ABP) has joined up with organisers Marafun UK to sign up as the race’s primary sponsor.

ABP – which owns Southampton Docks – has taken it a step further after port director Nick Ridehalgh confirmed he will be pounding the pavements too.

The ABP Southampton Half Marathon is one the city’s biggest running events in a generation and is scheduled to take place on the same day as the London Marathon on April 26.

So far more than 1,750 people have secured their place for the 13.1-mile route and its shorter 10-kilometre sister run, while a number of charity places have been launched.

Mr Ridehalgh said: “There is a special relationship between the city and its port, so as soon as we heard about this fantastic new event we wanted to do everything we could to support it.

“I’m looking forward to pulling on my trainers and giving it a go along with a team of my colleagues and thousands of other people from the city.

“It will be a great showcase for Southampton and no doubt there will be thousands raised for good causes too.

“The benefits will be felt right across the region for a long time to come.”

Runners will set off from Hoglands Park and pass key urban and coastal landmarks including the Bargate, the Itchen Bridge and St Mary’s Stadium as crowds of nearly 20,000 people are expected to line the route which  finishes at Guildhall Square.

The docks will form a dramatic backdrop for runners with two cruise ships, Saga Pearl II and Arcadia in port during the race

Marafun UK director Chris Rees, who is behind Hampshire sports companies Try Tri and Rees Leisure, said: “ABP Southampton has such a huge role to play in the life and economy of the city and local area.

“It is a great ambassador for the city and we are delighted to welcome the company as headline sponsor and the commitment of Nick to take part.’’

Half marathon entry is £28.99 and £17 for the 10-kilometre route.

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