A new 5k run will take place ahead of this year's Sunderland City 10k and half marathon events.
Former world champion athlete and Olympic medallist Steve Cram formally launched the first Sunderland City 5k race in the shadow of the city's new Northern Spire bridge today.
The run will take place on the evening of Saturday, May 11 and will start and finish on the new Northern Spire bridge - the first time that the bridge will close to traffic for a mass participation event since it was opened.
The event is designed to appeal to people in the region who are keen to make a start at running and be ‘inSPIREd’ to challenge themselves to tackle a 5K.
The Sunderland City 5k joins the well-established events that form the Siglion Sunderland City Runs weekend – the Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon and 10K, and the Active Sunderland BIG 3K, all to be held on Sunday 12 May.
To launch the run, Steve and Sunderland City Council leader Councillor Graeme Miller were joined by four people who admit that running has changed their lives for the better.
Ann Rush, Richard Borrowdale, Deb Watson and Bill Wright will all be taking part in at least one of the runs this May.
Steve said: “Every runner starts somewhere and aiming to complete a 5K event is a really sensible and achievable objective.
"We’re really excited about the new Sunderland City 5K on many levels.
"We’re going to have the privilege of putting on an event that uses and showcases the region’s newest iconic structure.
"It’s going to offer a great opportunity for runners of all ages and abilities, whether they want to build up from scratch to the 5K distance and have the experience of being part of a vibrant, mass participation event, have a gentle warm up before one of the longer races the following day, or simply set a fast 5K time.
"We’re so pleased that Ann, Richard, Deb and Bill are able to help us launch the 5K - each of them has a wonderful story and perspective and I am sure that they will inspire people in Sunderland and further afield to sign up and join us on 11 May and 12 May.”
Coun Miller added: “I am delighted that this year we are adding a new 5K run for the first time which takes in Sunderland’s new iconic landmark, the Northern Spire Bridge.
"I can say without doubt that this year, the Sunderland City Runs weekend really will offer a distance suitable for everyone, whatever your age, from beginners right up to serious athletes.”
Running has quite literally offered 38-year-old Deb a lifeline after she was diagnosed with liver disease in 2017 and told that if she if she didn’t improve her unhealthy lifestyle, she would have just six months to live.
Determined to turn things around she began her fitness journey by walking 2K and after a few weeks gained the confidence to lightly jog 2K.
With some gentle coaxing from her husband, Alan she gained the confidence to take part in some local events and joined a running group.
Over the past two years, Deb, from Hendon, has achieved a six stone weight loss and, despite a shoulder injury, is fitter and healthier than ever and is preparing to line up in her first Sunderland City 10K this May.
Deb comments: “I took part in the Active Sunderland BIG 3k in 2018 which was so much fun and great for my confidence.
"I always said the Siglion Sunderland City 10K 2019 would be my comeback run after my shoulder injury."
Thirty-nine-year-old Richard Borrowdale from Houghton had his passion for running reignited after taking part in a Start Me Up for Sunderland (SMUFS) free training session in 2015 where he was inspired to join a regular 5K parkrun.
Four years later, Richard has completed 141 parkruns including some in Italy and Poland, and has several 10K races, half marathons, marathons and even an ultra-marathon under his belt.
He is now a qualified coach and running club leader.
With her 60th birthday on the horizon, Ann discovered a new love of running after she had to reluctantly give up the sport 18 years ago.
The former county standard archer had used running to support her overall fitness, but a neck injury, coupled with work and family commitments, led to her giving up both activities in 2001.
Ironically, a broken bone in her foot in 2015 was the start of her return to running, as she set herself physical and mental goals to overcome the setback which had saw her sink into depression, starting with completing a 5K Cancer Research Race for Life event.
Over the past two and half years Ann has been running regularly, competing in many races including the Great North Run and supporting Start Me Up for Sunderland training sessions.
After becoming a running leader in October 2018, Ann hopes to use her experience to inspire others by starting up a Run Together Group in the spring.
Bill, from Grangetown, is proof that age is no obstacle to taking up running.
After getting involved in the Active Sunderland Wellness Walking Programme in 2015 the 71-year-old decided was ready for a bigger challenge, so he downloaded the Couch to 5K app and started following the programme.
In 2017 Bill felt confident enough to join a local running club where he slowly worked up from a 2K to a 5K run and took part in his first race, the Active Sunderland BIG 3k.
Over the next 12 months, Bill’s fitness levels and confidence grew, culminating in his first Sunderland City 10K which he is set to take part in again this May.
The entry fee for the 3k run is £15, but anyone who has already entered the Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon or 10K and fancies a warm up the night before, can claim a £3 discount for the 5K.
Anyone who enters two events over the Siglion Sunderland City Runs weekend will get £3 off the second event that they enter.
Every finisher in the 5k will earn a medal, t-shirt and goody bag.
The events are delivered by a partnership between Events of the North, Sunderland City Council and their Active Sunderland team.
Organisers are hoping that 5,000 runners will take part in the runs this year.
Entries for the half marathon, 10K and 5K are open now at www.sunderlandcity10k.com