The starting gun has been fired on a major new north-east sporting event which will provide a huge economic boost to the region and attract top athletes from around the world.
The first ever Great Aberdeen Run will be staged on Sunday, August 27 – and hundreds of people have already signed-up to take part.
The event – which will feature 10K and half marathon races – is also expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors to the city and help raise millions of pounds for charities.
Tourism chiefs also hope that if the run is a success, it could provide the catalyst for bringing the Great City Games to Aberdeen.
In the past, the event has attracted sporting legends such as multi-Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt to Newcastle and Manchester.
Starting and ending in Union Street, the Granite City run will provide entrants with a variety of routes for all abilities and showcase Aberdeen’s most famous landmarks, including the university, Beach Ballroom, Pittodrie Stadium and Marischal College.
It will be staged by The Great Run Company, which launched the popular Great North Run in Newcastle in 1981.
The Geordie challenge is now one of the biggest running events in the UK with more than 57,000 participants in 2014, and the organisation has expanded its winning concept to cities across Britain.
The firm has joined forces with Aberdeen City Council, Visit Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen Inspired and other north-east tourism and trade bodies to make sure the Great Aberdeen Run will become a highlight of the region’s events calendar for years to come.
Mark Hollinshead, chief executive of the Great Run Company, said his organisation was still willing to bring the Great City Games to the north-east within three years of 2017’s inaugural run.
Mr Hollinshead said: “It’s an ambition that is still there.
“We own and run the Great City Games, and when we were talking to Visit Aberdeenshire and the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce they knew of the event, and asked if there was an opportunity to bring the event in.
“So we started that dialogue, with a view to bringing it into the city centre within a couple of years.
“And this run could be the catalyst to do that.”
Mr Hollinshead explained his company chose Aberdeen to be the next Great Run host due to the huge demand in the north-east.
He said: “We’ve answered lots of calls and lots of e-mails asking us to bring the Great Run to Aberdeen, so we approached the council and the city partners and they welcomed us with open arms.
“We believe this will be a world class event, and what makes it world class is not only the organisation capabilities of the Great Run Company, but the course itself and the fact we’ll be able to both start and finish on one of the most famous streets in Britain.
“The routes have been planned to show the city off in all its finery, all of its iconic landmarks in every part of the city, new and old.
“And not only will the Great Aberdeen Run be hugely beneficial in terms of tourism, it will be beneficial to charities.
“Around 60% of runners in our Great Runs participate for a local charity or a national charity
“So if there are causes people want to support, a Great Run is an amazing way to do it – and we know there are a number of local charities in Aberdeen that are interested already.”
The cost of hosting the event has previously been estimated at about £150,000.
But economics experts believe the event will be a significant investment in the city’s future.
Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “The route will showcase the very best of the city and we expect tens of thousands of people, both participants and spectators, to flock to the city – providing a welcome boost to hotels, retailers, cafes and restaurants.
“It will be a very special weekend with family races, a 10k race and a half marathon, and the popular Celebrate Aberdeen festival playing a key part in the activities.
“As well as the economic benefits, an event such as this provides a real positive focus on health, wellbeing, charity and community.”
North-east swimming star Hannah Miley has also backed the event.
She said: “I hear about the Great Runs in Newcastle, Glasgow and Stirling, but Aberdeen always seems to get forgotten about – there’s more to Scotland than just the central belt.
“So it’s great that this will give people the opportunity to come up to Aberdeen and explore a city they might never have wanted to visit before.”