Hearts and Hibs fans join forces for charity marathon

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FOR the past ten months, their weekends have been spent cheering on their heroes from the sidelines.

But now, dozens of football fans are set to swap their team colours for running gear as they join thousands of other runners hoping to cross the finish line as part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival.

Over 35,000 athletes are set to line up on the start line to take on distances ranging from the Saturday morning 5K to the full 26.2 mile marathon on Sunday afternoon.

And supporters of capital clubs Hearts and Hibs are set to be among the chasing pack after benefitting from club-run schemes designed to get fans more active.

Hearts fanatics Rebekah Smith, 24 and sister Sophie, 26, signed up to the Tynecastle club’s running group after initially joining the Big Hearts Community Trust as volunteers on its kinship care programme.

They are now set to join a group of other volunteers from the programme for a double challenge by running the 10k race on Saturday, followed by the half-marathon the next day with the aim of raising £7,000 for the Trust. The charity works to support individuals and families across the city who may be at risk of social isolation.

Rebekah, a season ticket holder at Tynecastle with dad Jimmy for ten years, said: “I had always wanted to be a runner so when we heard there was a running group starting up involved with the club, we were straight along. It has become such a big hobby and such a big part of my life.”

“It makes you more confident, we were warming up in the home dressing room when we started and training on the track round the pitch and obviously last summer we got to see the new stand go up bit by bit.

“The group is fantastic, there are people of all different abilities and they are really good at helping you to keep pushing yourself and achieve better.”

PE teacher Rebekah continued: “Everyone is feeling good ahead of the weekend, I think we are all feeling ready, so hopefully we can go out and hit our target.”

At the other end of the city, Luca Basso, 37, is preparing to hit the ground running on his marathon effort – by aiming to complete all four adult races over the weekend.

Luca, originally from Gaiarine, near Venice, plans to run the five and ten-kilometre events on Saturday.

However, he will then return on Sunday to complete the half and full marathon races – going a total of 48.7 miles over the course of the weekend to raise money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

Luca, who moved to Portobello six years ago, began running after getting involved with the “Healthy Hibees” initiative, run at Easter Road as part of the Hibernian Community Foundation.

Luca revealed he was “determined” to complete the challenge in memory of brother Paolo, who tragically took his own life at the age of just 20, adding: “For Paolo’s 50th birthday last year, I ran five marathons to raise money for some mental health charities, so this year I thought I would do something a bit different.”

“For me, the biggest challenge is getting the timing right on Sunday, I only have an hour and a half between the half-marathon ending and the full marathon starting, so I have to be quick round the first race to get back on the starting line.”

He continued: “Right now, I just want to get out there and raise some awareness and funds for SAMH.”