IT is the landmark moment that Southampton has been holding its breath for.

The final gruelling training runs, gym sessions, specialist diets and frantic fundraising efforts have all been completed.

Now there is no turning back as more than 8,000 runners count down to the huge moment when the starting gun fires to usher in the start of another action-packed ABP Southampton Half Marathon.

The adrenaline will be pumping today when runners set off on the first of four exciting races taking place in the city this weekend in front of crowds of more than 20,000 people.

Last night organisers Marafun UK were making final preparations for the big day as they sounded a final call for people to give the runners a heroes’ welcome.

Today hundreds of families will take part in today’s mile long Schools Challenge and Family Fun Run through the city’s parks.

And tomorrow thousands more will set off on the main Half Marathon and sister 10KM.

Saints legends Francis Benali, Matt Le Tissier, and club chairman Ralf Krueger will be tackling the main 13.1mile route tomorrow which starts and finishes in Guildhall Square and passes some of the city’s most iconic landmarks including the Bargate, Itchen Bridge and St Mary’s Football Stadium.

Beavers, cubs and scouts from 2nd Southampton Scout group were among those filling yellow goodie bags with freebies and vouchers at Arthur Dawkins Hall in Shirley to hand to participants.

The scouts were rewarded with pizzas eaten as they crowded around a campfire for songs.

Scores of community groups and charities are serving as ABP Milemakers at the event, manning water stations and laying on entertainment to keep runners spirits up.

Daily Echo: Scouts, cubs and beavers from 2nd Southampton Scout Group filling goodie bags ahead of the ABP Southampton Half Marathon

The event is likely to top the £700,000 brought into the city from visitors staying in hotels and winding down at shops, cafes and restaurants after the races.

Race director Chris Rees said: “After the success of last year’s event we are so excited that the ABP Southampton Half Marathon and 10K has become an eagerly awaited fixture in the city’s sporting calendar.

“We can’t wait for everyone to get involved. Whether a runner, an ABP Milemaker, or cheering on from the sidelines you will be taking part in a momentous event for Southampton.”

Those taking part are urged to arrive 90 minutes before their race starts and anyone heading into the city is warned their journeys could take an additional 30 minutes due to road closures.