Calls for Norwich half marathon to be held in the city centre

Calls have been made to hold the Norwich Half Marathon in the city centre to boost tourism and promote the city, while encouraging thousands of spectators to cheer on the event.

The current two-lap course starts and finishes in the Norfolk Showground and weaves through the villages of Honingham, Colton and Marlingford.

But despite calls to stage the event in the centre of Norwich, organisers said next year's race, which will be held on Sunday, November 24, will be held at the showground.

However, Active Norfolk director Laurie Hull backed the idea of moving the race to the city centre, saying: 'The advantage of holding it in the city centre is that it would draw crowds in.

'Other activities could then be held in the centre which people could go on to do.

'It would be good to run it in the city centre. It would attract people.'

Stefan Gurney, director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, said he would like to see the race taking place in the city centre and that it would encourage more people to visit the area.

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He said: 'I could see the benefit to the vibrancy of the city. It's good to have positive things going on in the city and I would see it as a positive thing to hold the half marathon in the city centre.

'It gets people out and gives them a reason to be here,' he said. 'They can see the heritage and the culture and do some shopping.'

However, Mr Gurney added: 'There needs to be an understanding in the context of delivering it in the city centre. There are road closures and consumer impact to think of. There would be some issues with the accessibility.'

This year's race reached its 3,000 entry limit on Monday, October 22, five weeks before the event was scheduled to take place.

Pete Waters, brand manager for Visit Norfolk, said: 'We have seen with the success of events like the Great South Run and Great North Run that sports tourism is increasing. It's called the City of Norwich half marathon.'

He said that events needed to be supported by good hotels, restaurants, shops and amenities, all of which Norwich has to offer.

'What tends to happen is people come and stay for the weekend and that can only be good for the economy.

'Norwich is a tourism destination. With events like the arts festival, more events can only increase tourism traffic.'

City of Norwich Half Marathon organiser Richard Polley confirmed next year's race would take place on November 24 and start and finish at the Norfolk Showground, but he declined to comment on the calls to move the race to the city centre.

In the frequently asked questions section of the half marathon's website, there is a explanation for why the race is held at the showground.

It says: 'When this race first got going in 1985, it was based in Norwich city centre and in the early years this was the perfect place to hold it. However, with the advent of Sunday trading and a growth in the popularity of this race, it soon became evident that Norwich city centre did not have the infrastructure to cope with such an event. And so we decided to move to the Norfolk Showground in 1993 and it's been there ever since.'

Entry will open on Saturday for the 2013 City of Norwich Half Marathon.

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