Could the Great East Run 2017 in Ipswich rival the Great North Run?

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run 2017, in Ipswich - Credit: Gregg Brown

A major new half marathon in the region, the Great East Run, is set to launch in Ipswich this year, it has been announced.

The course map of the Great East Run Ipswich 2017. Pic: The Great Run Company.

The course map of the Great East Run Ipswich 2017. Pic: The Great Run Company. - Credit: Archant

In a major coup for Suffolk, the 13.1 mile flat and fast course will see around 2,500 runners in its inaugural year take part in the mass participation event on Sunday, September 24.

See here to sign up to the Great East Run Ipswich.

The event is being organised by the Great Run Company, which is responsible for The Great North Run in Newcastle, which attracts 57,000 runners, and The Great South Run in Portsmouth, which now features 25,000 runners after a similar small-scale launch in 1990. In 2009, Sir Mo Farah won the race, which is now televised and features a number of family fun runs and activities.

At the event launch at Suffolk County Council this morning, Alex Jackson, project manager at the Great East Run, said:

'I would question whether it is on the scale of the Great North Run. It has taken 35 years to get up to 57,000. Nowadays, it is a bit of a fragmented market, as far as running events go.

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'Our first-year ambition is 2,500 (runners), which is a significant increase on the previous Ipswich Half Marathon (1,400). There is no reason why we can't increase as we go forward, which is one of the reasons we have reshaped the course, so it can take much more capacity in its current form.'

He estimated attracting up to 6,000 runners by 2020, saying: 'If we get a strong showing this year, I think people will love the event, and I think that would be a realistic target.'

He said the event could be televised in the future and attract household runners and celebrities.

He added: 'Geographically, (Ipswich) has got a lot to offer and the relationship with Suffolk County Council is very strong.

'Originally, the Ipswich Half Marathon is a really fantastic event, and we feel that we can take that to the next level by adding a few ingredients into the mix.

The Great North Run in Newcastle in 2016, featuring over 50,000 runners. Photo: Steve Drew/PA Wire.

The Great North Run in Newcastle in 2016, featuring over 50,000 runners. Photo: Steve Drew/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

'Ipswich is within striking of London, a nice rural town with a nice town centre and countryside, it can be a really exciting race.'

Asked if the Great Eat Run could match the 25,000 attendance of the Great South Run, he said: 'Absolutely. The ambition has got to be there. The Great South Run started probably with the same numbers, a few thousand, and that's grown over 25 years to being live on television with some of the best athletes in the world, so there is no reason why we can't follow in the same footsteps.'

- See why runner Brad Jones believes the Great East Run Ipswich is such great news for the town here.

Team GB runner Andy Vernon backs the event and responds to question about rivalling the Great North Run

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run 2017, in Ipswich - Credit: Gregg Brown

The 31-year-old, who competed in the 10,000m at the Rio Olympics last summer, said: 'I was speaking to someone who ran the London Marathon and they said even though they were in pain for the last eight miles, they absolutely loved it, because of the crowds lining the streets.

'I know from experience the Great North and Great South runs are both like that as well and I'm sure this one will be too. Half of it looks to be in the town centre and I'm sure there will be big crowds.

'It is great doing races like this. It is constantly ear-bashing along the whole way which helps you to take your mind of the running part.

'There are not that many events where you could actually be racing against your whole family and you are running the same race as elite athletes as well. No-one can just go and play a game of tennis with Andy Murray.

'But everyone running these races can say, I've just run the same race as Mo Farah, or whoever it might be.

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run 2017, in Ipswich - Credit: Gregg Brown

'There are quite a few of these races (for elite runners), but not enough at the same time. You have got Manchester, the Great North and the Great North. This one is just starting out but I'm sure it will as big as that in years to come as well.'

He said he would run in the Great East Run if called upon, but admitted it would be a 'big ask' for the event to be held in the same esteem as the Great North Run.

He said: 'The Great North Run is their flagship event and they put a lot more money and time into it. It is one of the biggest races in the world.

'It might take a little longer than five or 10 years, it might be 15 or 20, but I'm sure this could be on the same scale as the Great South Run, which is their next biggest race in terms of capacity.

'That is growing year on year. These things just don't happen from one year to the next. It takes a long time to get up to the 25,000 mark. But these people are experienced and know how to grow these events.'

Highlighting the health benefits of running, he added: 'It gets you fit and out in the fresh air, improves your lifestyle and wellbeing, releases the endorphins to make you happier and it actually makes you less tired. People think that exercise will make them really tired, but it doesn't. It has the opposite effect. It makes you more alert and feel better about yourself.'

Team GB runner Andy Vernon (middle) with Suffolk runners Sara Spreadbridge and Tony Holland. Pic: Ma

Team GB runner Andy Vernon (middle) with Suffolk runners Sara Spreadbridge and Tony Holland. Pic: Mark Andrew Witter. - Credit: Archant

Could the event became a full marathon and run over the Orwell Bridge in the future?

Tony Goldson, cabinet member for health at Suffolk County Council, said: 'This is a fantastic opportunity to put Ipswich on the map. The Orwell Bridge is an iconic bridge. If we can build this event from a half marathon to a full marathon in a few years time, and nothing is insurmountable, it will bring in tourism, economic benefits and most importantly it will bring people into Ipswich who perhaps never come here normally.

'We will be the most active county. That's our ambition. If we can get that full marathon and persuade Highways England – you only have to close half the bridge, and there will only be three hours inconvenience on a Sunday morning – it will be well worth it. Let's go for it.

'Okay, we closed it before and there was a big uproar, but that's because of wind and danger. This isn't wind and danger. This is for fun. This is for bringing people in Ipswich and Suffolk and looking at our wonderful county, and that bridge is iconic.

'If you go up north and look at the Tyne Bridge, that's what they run over in the Great North Run in Newcastle, and it is wonderful. Let's do it here in Suffolk. We would be on national news.

'If we can't persuade them (Highways England), I would be absolutely shocked. There would be enough MPs, councillors and people of influence to bring pressure. We will get there eventually.'

Route explained

The race will start outside Suffolk County Council's headquarters, Endeavour House in Russell Road, and will quickly take in Portman Road football stadium, the home of Ipswich Town, as runners head out into the town centre.

They will pass the Willis building and head towards the Waterfront. The route then takes in Felaw Maltings on the way out of Ipswich along Wherstead Road, where runners will twice pass under the Orwell Bridge.

On returning to the town centre, they will pass over the Wet Dock lock gates and continue along the Waterfront for a second time, before crossing the finish line in Sir Alf Ramsey Way.

All roads included in the route will be closed.

Key partners

Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council and Ipswich JAFFA Running Club are partners in the event.

Alison Beech, chair of Ipswich JAFFA Running Club, said: 'After our hard work establishing this popular event we are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with the Great Run Company.

'This will enable us to help take the Ipswich Half marathon to the next level which will benefit our club, the town and most especially the runners.'

Bryony Rudkin, deputy leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: 'We welcome the Great East Run to our county town and are confident that it will attract thousands of competitors.

'This event builds on the success of the Larking Gowen Ipswich Half Marathon and helps us to promote sport and wellbeing to an even bigger audience.'

Philippa Morrow, project manager at the Great East Run, said: 'We are thrilled to be able to bring the Great Run series to East Anglia.

'Ipswich is a vibrant, historic town that will provide a stunning backdrop for this event.

'We have developed excellent relationships with our key partners in Suffolk and Ipswich through the success of the Great East Swim and we have over 30 years of experience in organising some of the world's biggest and most favourite running events.

'We plan to use this knowledge to ensure that the Great East Run is a must do event in every runner's calendar.'

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