The sound of thousands of feet pounding on the tarmac will echo around the city for tomorrow’s inaugural Great Aberdeen Run.
Business leaders say the race will fire the starting pistol on the rejuvenation of the city, with more than 8,000 runners taking part across three different events, many of them experiencing the Granite City for the first time.
Runners from as far afield as Canada, America and Singapore will cement their place in the history books with the race expected to be one of the biggest dates on the region’s calendar for decades to come.
Following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Great Scottish Run in Glasgow, the Great Edinburgh Run and the Great North Run in north-east England, the race begins and ends on Union Street and takes in iconic sights and landmarks such as King’s College, Old Aberdeen and the Castlegate.
Other Great Run events have grown beyond simply being sporting events for their host cities, with choirs, live bands and other attractions springing up to provide a vibrant accompaniment.
With thousands of supporters expected to line the route to cheer the runners on, shops, hotels, restaurants and other businesses are preparing for a huge boom.
Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “It’s great that organisers are telling me we’ve had interest from all over the world. We’ve got a good contingent from the north-east, but we’re hoping to show off the city and that’ll encourage people to come back – not just for the run in future years but also enjoy the city in leisure time as well.”
Tomorrow’s debut race, sponsored by Simplyhealth, puts the cap on a year which has cemented the region’s place on the sporting map, following May’s Tour Series cycling event.
Amateurs and champion athletes alike will take on the half marathon – the first in the city for 20 years – the 10k or the fun run.
Great Britain mountain running international Robbie Simpson, who was second British finisher in this year’s London Marathon, is among them.
The 25-year-old, who is competing in the half marathon, said the event has the potential to match some of the world’s most prestigious races.
“Every city has a really big running event, I’ve been to ones in Paris, Berlin, all the big cities in Europe, it’s just a special experience to be a part of that, especially when the roads are closed and you’re going places you wouldn’t be able to normally because of the traffic,” said the Banchory man.
“It’s a really nice city, there’s a lot of varied landscapes and buildings and architecture, and I think it has the potential to match these other events.”
The last time the city held a half marathon was the late 1990s with the Aberdeen Half Marathon, sponsored by the Press and Journal’s sister title the Evening Express.
Russell Borthwick, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, said: “The success of attracting and hosting high-profile events like the Great Aberdeen Run and the Tour Series has not only engaged people within the local community but also sent out the message that the north-east is a vibrant and positive region with big ambitions and the capability to deliver.”
But organisers have stressed the race is also about those taking part.
Not content with being a part of the inaugural event, Jim Tole is also hoping to set the world record for the fastest half-marathon runner in a kilt. He said: “They’ve said try and get under 90 minutes, that will be the new record.”
Stuart Turner will also be running it without the standard shorts and T-shirt, but as the Clan Cancer Research’s mascot, Clancy the rabbit.