More than 4,000 people get ready to run as Sunderland festival returns

Olympic athlete Aly Dixon packs race bags ahead of Sunderland City 10k and half marathon events with volunteers.

Olympic athlete Aly Dixon packs race bags ahead of Sunderland City 10k and half marathon events with volunteers.

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More athletes than ever are limbering up for this year’s festival of running in Sunderland.

Entries for Sunday's Sunderland City 10k and half marathon events have seen a 15% increase on 2015, with more than 4,000 people set to take part.

The races have a new start and finish location, in Keel Square, the city centre.

And Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon, who finished as the fastest Great British woman in last Sunday’s London Marathon to book a place at this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil, will be firing the starting pistol for both events, with the 10k starting at 10am and the half marathon getting underway at 10.25am.

Aly, who has also been helping out with race preparations by filling goody bags for the finishers, said: “What happened last Sunday still hasn’t really sunk in.

“This has been a dream of mine for 25 years so to know I’m going to be competing in an Olympics is amazing.

“I was walking around Sainsbury’s the other day and people were coming up to my saying “well done” and asking for autographs. I don’t know if they realised I had beer and doughnuts in my basket!”

Although Aly won’t be running in either of this year’s events, both of which she has previously won, the 37-year-old added that it was good to see a big increase in participant numbers.

“Maybe the change of venue has helped as I know some people from Newcastle probably won’t have wanted to take part in something that was at the Stadium of Light,” she said.

“The weather was terrible last year so fingers crossed it’s better this time.

“My sister is doing the half marathon and my mam is doing the 10k so it’ll be me cheering them on for a change.”

Organisers are asking all runners to remember Afghanistan veteran Cpt David Seath, who sadly passed away during last week’s London Marathon after a cardiac arrest with 3.2 miles to go – there will be a sign asking runners to remember David as they pass the 3.2 miles to go point.

A group of friends and family are running the 10k to commemorate Joe Conlon, a Sunderland grandfather who died in October, just over a year after completing the Great North Run and raising hundreds for Centrepoint.

The Run Sunderland Festival is possible thanks to a partnership between organiser Events of the North, Sunderland City Council and Active Sunderland.

Roads closed across city

A number of roads and cycle paths will be closed to the public tomorrow as the races take place.

St Mary’s Boulevard will be closed from 6am and Wearmouth Bridge from 8am, with both re-opening at 4pm.

Fawcett Street, Burdon Road, Sunniside/Tatham Street and Toward Road will all be shut from 8.45am onwards.

West Wear Street and Hendon Road, in Hendon, will both be closed from 8.45am, as will Ryhope Road, Mowbray Road and Park Road.

Dame Dorothy Way at Sunderland Riverside will also be closed to traffic from 8.45am, as will Roker Terrace from the A183 to Side Cliff Road.

The footpath leading from Bonner’s Field to Palmers Hill Quay, the footpaths along the west, north and east sides of North Dock will also be shut.

Footpaths between Normanby Court and Wheatsheaf Court, the path between Craven Court and Hallgarth Court and the coastal footpath that runs along the cliff top from Roker Park/Side Cliff Road to Seaburn Terrace/ Seaburn Beach will also be closed.

And the National Cycle Network off-road cycle path, from Palmer’s Hill Quay, will also be shut during race time.