THOUSANDS of runners will kick off 2017 in style when the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run returns to the capital.

The hugely popular event reached its entry limit in December, with 3,000 runners signing up for the 5km around Holyrood Park on Saturday 7 January. Participants of all ages and abilities will run, jog and walk around Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh on the picturesque course.  The Great Winter Run will be the first event in Simplyhealth's sponsorship of the Great Run Series.

Commenting, Simplyhealth Chief Executive Romana Abdin said: “It's great to be kicking off our sponsorship of The Great Run series in such a fabulous city.  Simplyhealth is committed to helping people make the most of life through everyday health, and running, jogging and walking are the perfect way to maintain positive health and wellbeing”.

The programme will include the Simplyhealth Junior Great Edinburgh Winter Run, which takes place on the same day over a 2.5km course for 7-14 year olds.

Event director Alex Jackson said, “We're thrilled so many people are starting the New Year with us at the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run on Saturday. For residents and visitors alike, the picturesque course is a great way to enjoy this incredible city centre location. 

“The success of the event is in no small part due to the on-going support of our partners, the City of Edinburgh Council and Event Scotland”.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Festivals & Events Champion for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “I am delighted that, with the Council's support, the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry returns this weekend.

“The traditional start to the athletics year, the race in Holyrood Park attracts some of the finest endurance runners in the world. Laura Muir's return is sure to please the crowds as she competes to defend her team title and I'm sure we can expect huge crowds for Britain's double Olympic Champion Mo Farah as he returns to take part.

“This is a free event for spectators, a great day out in Holyrood Park, and one not to miss!”

Edinburgh's Lord Provost, Donald Wilson, will help start the race.


Action from last year's event, where Garrett Heath pipped Mo Farah to victory

Those who missed out on a place at the 5km event can still be a part of the electric atmosphere; the mass participation events are part of a packed programme that culminates in the Great Edinburgh International XCountry. Spectators can enjoy the thrilling elite competition free of charge, as they watch some of Europe's best athletes take to the hills and mud. 

The event features world class talent competing in two events; the International Team Challenge, which see's junior and senior teams from GB & N.I. take on the USA and Europe and the innovate 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. 

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland's Director of Events, said: “It is great to see so many people have signed up to take part in this event that brings together runners of all abilities in one of Scotland's iconic locations. EventScotland is pleased to again be supporting this event offering a spectacular backdrop for runners, spectators and worldwide TV audience through the BBC. It is events like the Great Edinburgh Winter Run and International XCountry that show why Scotland truly is the Perfect Stage for events.”

Mo Farah will lead the Great Britain team over the 8km course, with the four-time Olympic champion returning to Edinburgh having finished second to American Garrett Heath a year ago. 

Heath will be defending his title as he looks to make it four victories in a row, but will face stiff competition from a strong British contingent including Callum Hawkins.

Hawkins will be hoping to start 2017 in the best way possible having enjoyed a hugely successful 2016 where he finished ninth in the Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro and helped his GB team to victory in the European Cross Country Championships in December. 

Scottish athlete of the year Laura Muir leads the GB&N.I. team in the relay, and the home crowd will have plenty of local talent to cheer for as Scotland will also field two competitive teams in the relay event.  

Former European U20 1500m champion Jake Wightman will lead Scotland's A team as they seek to defend the Stewart Cup after a storming win in 2016. Jake will be joined by; U23 track medalist Neil Gourley, World Indoors 3000m representative Josephine Moultrie and European U20 800m finalist Mhairi Hendry.

The SimplyHealth Great Edinburgh XCountry is free to spectate and is also shown live on BBC One from 13:15 on Saturday 7 January.

For more information visit greatrun.org/xcountry.