Portsmouth and Southsea will play host to a festival of sport as up to 25,000 people get set to take part in the Great South Run this weekend.
With four events across two days including the flagship 10-mile run, there will be something for all ages and abilities in the south’s biggest running event.
Triple Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba will make her 10-mile road race debut to take on the best of British in the Great South Run, in its 27th staging.
The Ethiopian world champion distance runner returns to the UK following her third-place finish in September’s Great North Run half marathon.
The 31-year-old’s opposition in the world’s leading ten-mile event will be an almost entirely domestic field.
The Isle of Wight’s Jess Andrews, Olympic marathon representative Aly Dixon, Lily Partridge, Charlotte Purdue, Beth Potter and Eli Kirk lead a stellar cast of Britain’s best distance running talent along with European half marathon silver medallist Veronica Inglese.
In the men’s race, Andy Vernon will be seeking to follow his Great Birmingham Run half marathon victory with success in his home event.
Vernon will take on Aldershot, Farnham and District teammate Chris Thompson in a bid to become the first British male winner since Mo Farah in 2009.
Olympians Thompson and Vernon face domestic opposition in the shape of Jonny Mellor, Scott Overall and Adam Clarke, with USA’s Jeffery Eggleston and Ireland’s Paul Pollock providing the main overseas interest.
The Great South Run starts and finishes in Southsea and features a fast and flat 10-mile course that has been graced by world-class athletes such as Liz McColgan, Paula Radcliffe, and Sonia O’Sullivan.
The event gives participants the unique opportunity to run through Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, passing iconic landmarks such as HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose Museum.
Olympic athletes Alan and Della Pascoe will return to Portsmouth where their athletics career began to be official starters.
Alan is best known for winning Commonwealth and European gold in the 400m hurdles and Olympic silver in the 4 x 400m relay and previous British 100m record holder, while Olympic semi-finalist Della competed in the sprints at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and the 1972 Games in Munich.
Olympic gold medallist sailors Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark will join the couple on the start line to set off the elite women before Alan and Della send the runners on their way around the city.
Television presenters Helen Skelton and Radzi Chinyanganya will front Channel 5’s live coverage of the Great South Run, from 10am until 12noon.
Helen and Radzi will host the two-hour programme showing 20,000 runners taking on the scenic fast and flat course around the south coast.
TV presenter Radzi, as seen on Blue Peter, will also be commentating and entertaining the crowd at the Junior and Mini Great South Run, which is staged the day before on Clarence Esplanade in Southsea.
Radzi will be there to cheer on the 2,000 children taking part in the biggest children’s running event in the south, for kids aged between three to 15 years old – where participants are encouraged to turn out in fancy dress!
The action kicks off with the Great South Run 5k on Saturday morning, where up to 1,000 runners will take on a fast and flat seaside course in Southsea.
There will be a unique challenge to all 5K runners in 2016, with Olympian Tom Bosworth, one of Britain’s greatest ever race walkers, challenging participants to run the event quicker than he walks it.
The British number one will walk the route and any runner who beats his time will be rewarded with a free entry into next year’s Great South Run 5k.