THE world’s first ‘Green Marathon’ is set to put Milton Keynes on the map just weeks before the 2012 Olympics.
More than 6,000 athletes will descend upon the city next April to pound 26 miles of roads and redways for charity.
Already local businesses – including the Citizen – have pledged support for an event that will undoubtedly provide a huge boost for the city economy.
And several of the country’s most elite runners, wooed by the unique environmentally-friendly branding, have vowed to take part.
“This is a city marathon with a difference,” said MK Dons chairman Pete Winkelman, who announced the marathon yesterday with Milton Keynes Council chief executive David Hill.
The event will be organised by Anne and Andrew Hully from Caldecote-based PB Running Ltd.
Said Anne: “With 4,500 acres of woodlands, lakesides, parks and landscaped area within the city boundary, Milton Keynes is the ideal venue for a Green Marathon.
Like the famous London Marathon, the Milton Keynes event will be traffic free – but far more scenic.
It will take in parks, woods and two circuits around the city’s most spectacular lakes.
The aim is not only to showcase some of our finest areas but also to promote the city’s green policies and the council’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions.
The race has been given the backing of key organisations in Milton Keynes, including the council, Dons and Destination Milton Keynes, the city’s official tourism and information provider.
Last week saw the launch of the bid to become an International Sporting City, and a successful marathon would certainly go the extra mile in convincing committee members that Milton Keynes is the ideal candidate, say organisers.
Already the Hullys anticipate a queue for places from both experienced and non-experienced runners and 500 charity places have been released.
Olympic Marathon runner and Commonwealth Games medallist Liz Yelling is already excited about the new venue.
“It’s great to see an exciting new marathon coming to Milton Keynes,” she said.
“This lovely course offers real potential to both beginners and experienced runners to have a great race.”
Almost all the city will be on its marks when the firing pistol heralds the start of the Milton Keynes Marathon next April.
Beginning outside stadium:mk, athletes will be put through their paces on a mixture of redways and closed grid roads, rounding both Caldecote and Willen Lakes en route.
Stretching as far north as Giffard Park and taking in Linford Wood, the runners will make their way back for a victory lap of stadium:mk before crossing the finishing tape.
And while this could be the fate for up to 6,500 runners in 2012, organisers hope that numbers can increase the following year, with route issues ironed out to enable disabled athletes to take part.
Pete Winkelman, chairman of MK Dons, was delighted to have the event start and finish around stadium:mk and expects the event to become a highlight in the city’s calendar.
He said: “We will have a unique selling point in that it is a green marathon, exposing all the great things this city has to offer.
“It will be great to have everyone’s family and friends in the stadium at the end of the marathon to cheer them over the line.
“We hope that if we can get this right, the Milton Keynes Marathon can become a major event on the national sporting calendar.”
David Hill, chief executive of Milton Keynes Council, believes the city has every amenity already set up to accommodate the athletes and the race itself comfortably.
And, he says, there is with plenty of scope to expand in years to come.
He said: “We have everything in place to really make this marathon work.
“The MK Marathon already ticks all the boxes – we are easy to get to, we have all the accommodation in place and we are eager to succeed.
“It will be a showcase for Milton Keynes, and of course, it is all in the name of charity.”
Alongside the Green Marathon there will be a Corporate Relay, in which any business with an MK postcode is invited to compete.
Each team will need four runners, with one designated team driver to run relay legs of 6.5, 8.5, 6.5 and 4.7 miles. There will be a prize for the fastest team.
The marathon will take place on April 29. Entry is based on a first come, first served basis, with around 6,500 spaces available.
Already city hotels, bed and breakfast and camping sites are gearing up for one of the biggest influxes of people ever.
> For more information, or to sign up for the 2012 MK Marathon, visit www.mkmarathon.co.uk