IT'S the gruelling 26.2 mile challenge that returned to Southampton after a 33 year absence.

More than 10,000 runners took to the city's streets for the ABP Marathon back in April.

Now, organisers have announced that not only will the marathon, half marathon and 10k races return on Sunday, April 22 2018, but there will be new routes for those who dare to take them on.

Following runner feedback, participants in all distances will cross the Itchen Bridge with its stunning views earlier in the 2018 routes.

For the first time next year runners will continue into Woolston waterside and the full and half marathon runners will experience the sensational scenery along Weston Shore out to the Solent.

Race director Chris Rees said: “We have spent a lot of time working directly with the council, our pacing team, and listening to feedback from all of our runners to make sure these new routes will be the most enjoyable for our runners yet.

“We are very excited to announce the new routes and can’t wait to see them being trained upon in the months leading up to the big day.”

Participants at the ABP Southampton Marathon will enjoy twice the fun as they tackle the two-lapped route.

All races will start and finish in the heart of Southampton’s city centre with the course passing iconic local landmarks including Bargate, the QE2 Anchor, St Mary’s football stadium, Riverside Park and the Common before reaching the finish by the Guildhall.

Previous famous faces in the event have included former Saints and England international footballers Matt Le Tissier and Franny Benali as well as a trio of Olympians, Dee Caffari MBE, Helena Lucas MBE and Sarah Ayton OBE.

Since 2015 when the ABP Southampton Half Marathon and 10k launched, runners have raised more than £600,000 for good causes both locally and further afield.

The lead national charity Macmillan Cancer Support benefited greatly from the link up with the event last year and have come on board for a second year to help improve the lives of people affected by cancer.

Organisers are soon to announce the new lead local charity for 2018.