A HOST of top names and Olympic hopefuls are preparing to join fundraisers and amateur athletes in Edinburgh this weekend for the first big race of the year.
More than 2000 people are gearing up to take part in the Bupa Great Winter Run and junior run.
The 5K race around Arthur’s Seat will kick off at 11am on Saturday. It is part of a full day of events, including the Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country, which attracts some of the world’s best cross-country runners and will see Olympic champions compete in the UK for the first time in 2012, ahead of the games in July.
It is free to spectators and will be shown live on BBC1 from 1pm. Among those taking part will be Olympic champions Kenenisa Bekele, Asbel Kiprop and Brimin Kipruto.
The morning will also include the Bupa Junior Great Winter Run at 10.30am – a 2.5K route, which is expected to attract around 300 seven-to-13-year-olds.
The afternoon will see a series of elite races, including a men’s 8K, a women’s 6K and a men’s international 3K race featuring every reigning male Olympic champion from 1500m to 10,000m.
David Hart, communications director for organiser Nova International, said: “Edinburgh is hosting the first major athletics event of the Olympic year, and what a fantastic way to kick off the year by having three reigning Olympic champions competing against each other, and also Great Britain, USA and Europe competing in the team race.
“People will come along and see the very best runners in the world in their first event in the Olympic year. The Great Edinburgh Cross Country is the best quality cross-country event in the world. That is why it attracts the calibre of fantastic athletes who will use it to start their preparation for London 2012.”
Organisers are hopeful the weather will improve by the weekend but have contingency plans if the high winds continue.
Mr Hart said: “A couple of years ago we had to change the route for the winter run because of the amount of snow and ice on the course.
“We have got a number of contingency plans in place but the forecast at the moment is that the weather will calm down considerably for the weekend, which is great.”
The Great Winter Run course follows Queen’s Drive around Arthur’s Seat. The first kilometre climbs up past St Margaret’s and Dunsapie lochs before rewarding the runners with stunning views over the Capital as they circle Arthur’s Seat.
Mr Hart added: “Edinburgh is always the perfect backdrop to a world-class event.”