Scotland's capital city will play host to a packed day of sport when the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run and the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry return on Saturday 13 January.

3,000 people of all abilities will line up on the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run start line in Holyrood Park to kick-start their New Year, where they will be set off by Scottish running legend Liz McColgan.

The 5k run takes participants on a scenic tour of the Royal Park, travelling up and around Arthur's Seat, offering stunning views of Edinburgh, before runners head on a welcome downhill section and cross the finish line near to the Palace of Holyrood House.

The event is followed by the Simplyhealth Junior Great Edinburgh Winter Run, where children from seven to 13-years-old get the opportunity to take on a 2.5k course in the park.

Participants and supporters are then able to watch some of the world's best athletes take on the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry, which pits the best of Team GB & N.I against the USA and Europe and is completely free to spectate.

Ahead of the event, inspirational runners gathered near to Edinburgh Castle along with elite athletes from the competing nations.

Among the runners in attendance was Lesley Forrest, from Newington in Edinburgh, who is taking part in the 5k with her son Mark and daughter Amy for the first time.

The family are running to raise awareness about organ donation, after Lesley received a life saving kidney transplant. She had her operation after suffering from kidney failure but has since taken up exercise with her son and daughter following a new lease of life.

Joining the Forrest family were paramedics Donna Hendry and Alan Stewart, who are both based in Kirkcaldy. Donna and Alan are running for Healthy Working Lives, an initiative that they support in the workforce to promote positive mental and physical health in their jobs as paramedics.

The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry, features world class talent competing in two events; the International Team Challenge, which sees junior and senior teams from GB & N.I. take on the USA and Europe and the innovative mixed Cross Country relay, where pairs of male and female runners from the home nations will compete with international teams over a fast and furious 1K lap for the coveted Stewart Cup.

The Stewart International Cup sees home support in the form of Laura Muir, who will spearhead the Great Britain team.

Muir, who narrowly finished fourth in the 2017 World Championships 1500m, goes up against two Scotland teams featuring Mhairi Hendry, Steph Twell and Jake Wightman.

In the men's senior race, three-time winner Garrett Heath will join Leonard Korir representing Team USA. Korir will return to Edinburgh to defend his title after pipping Callum Hawkins to victory in 2017.

In the women's senior race, Europe's Yasemin Can, fresh from her gold medal in the 2017 European Cross Country Championships, will defend her 2017 Edinburgh crown but faces stiff competition from Fionnuala McCormack and Great Britain's Harriet Knowles-Jones, who took gold in the U20 race at last month's European Cross Country Championships.

Romana Abdin, CEO of Simplyhealth said: “It is truly inspiring that Lesley is focusing on activity to help make the most of life and support her everyday health following her kidney transplant.

“We already help 3.5 million people live healthier lives and our ambition is to get #millionsmoving because we believe that movement is the cornerstone to better everyday health.

“On Saturday we will see people of every age and ability, from novice to elite athlete, enjoying the benefits of running. This truly brings our purpose to life.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland's Director of Events, said: “The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run and International XCountry will kick off what's going to be a big year of international sports events for Scotland in 2018.

“EventScotland is delighted to once again be supporting the event that uses the iconic backdrop of Arthur's Seat and Holyrood Park to show runners, spectators and the TV audience tuning in to the BBC's coverage why Scotland is the perfect stage for events.”

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run and International XCountry return this weekend, with Scottish running legend Liz McColgan ready to wave participants off!

“The events bring the very bravest runners to the fore, with Edinburgh's infamous winter weather providing an added challenge! Good luck and well done to everyone taking part.”

The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry is free to spectate and is also shown live on BBC One from 13:15 on Saturday 13 January.

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