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Half marathon joins elite events on world stage.

Byline: KATBALDWYN

Plans have been unveiled to turn Birmingham's half marathon into one of the greatest running events in the country, bringing in millions of pounds to the region.

The new-look half marathon is being relaunched as part of the Great Run series, and takes place on Sunday, October 23.

Renamed the Bupa Great Birmingham Run, it will sit alongside some of the UK's most popular running events, including the Great North Run which regularly attracts 55,000 participants and last year brought in pounds 30 million of economic activity, and the 10k Great Manchester Run - the most popular 10k race in the country which attracts 38,000 entrants.

Brendan Foster, former Olympic medallist and chairman of organisers Nova, said: "The Bupa Great Run series features eight major mass participation, televised events in the UK but we felt the picture was not complete without an event in the Midlands. When we started talking to Birmingham City Council with a view to creating the Bupa Great Birmingham Run, it quickly became obvious that it would complement the series.

He added: "Some people will ask why we haven't done it before and the truth is, we should have done. It will bring the city to life and really put it on the map.

"Every major city in the world has a mass participation event and Birmingham should be no different. In nine years, the Great Manchester Run has gone from nothing to attracting 38,000 people. An independent company's economic impact study of the Great North Run found it brought in pounds 30 million of economic activity. Birmingham can do the same and with the support of the community there is no reason why it can't become one of the greatest sporting events in the world - that's our ambition."

The Birmingham half marathon was first staged in 2008, and in 2009 also incorporated the World Half Marathon Championships. Last year 14,000 people took part.

The Bupa Great Birmingham Run will feature an international field of elite athletes, but the vast majority of the expected 15,000 participants will be runners of all abilities. The event will be televised terrestrially with an international highlights programme also planned.

Mr Foster added: "We want the people of the Midlands to see this as their London Marathon or their Great North Run. People will take part for a variety of reasons; to raise money for charity or the chance to run alongside elite athletes. Whatever the reason, it is down to the community to really get behind this.

"It's not just about what happens on the day either, when people commit they have to train for it. It is a fitness campaign, not a one-day extravaganza."

Councillor Martin Mullaney, cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture added: "We are proud of how the half marathon has become an important event on the sporting calendar, but our priority is to ensure more people can participate. There are obviously challenges associated in organising an event of this scale and we are pleased that Nova is keen to get involved to take it to the next level.

"The Bupa Great Birmingham Run will become part of a hugely successful series which has not previously included an event in Britain's second city. It will be promoted across the UK and internationally and we are excited about its future."

Entries open at noon today (Thursday) at www.greatrun.org and will be accepted on a first come, first served basis
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 2, 2011
Words:580
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