A NEW international sports event is to be staged against the backdrop of one of the North East's most beautiful locations.
THE Kielder Marathon has been launched by Olympic athlete and world record holder Steve Cram. Scheduled to take place on October 17, it will follow an almost entirely off-road course around northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, Northumbrian Water-owned Kielder Water, in Northumberland.
Steve, who came up with the idea for the event, has called it “Britain’s most beautiful marathon”.
He has long wished for such an event to be staged in the area around Kielder Water, which is not far from where he now lives.
“Kielder Water & Forest Park is my favourite place to run in the world and with the water’s shoreline being 26 miles long it’s an ideal venue for the ultimate running challenge, the marathon.
“Most of the course is off-road and it offers a wonderful test for trail runners, adventure racers and marathon enthusiasts alike.
“Add to that the stunning setting, with a wonderful new view at every twist and turn, and I think that this is quickly going to establish a reputation as the most beautiful marathon in Britain.”
Runners will follow a route along the newly completed Lakeside Way, a trail that stretches right around the shoreline of Kielder Water.
The Lakeside Way, a £3m project which forms the marathon course, is a multi-user trail suitable for walkers, runners, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair and pushchair users.
The trail offers visitors new views and the opportunity to interact with even more of the park’s abundant wildlife and take in its scenic landscape.
For the inaugural event, the organisers are limiting the number of entrants to around 1,000, and expect to attract runners and outdoor adventure enthusiasts from around the world to the dramatic setting and unique course.
The Kielder Marathon will measure the official marathon distance of 26 miles and 385 yards and event organisers estimate that the best athletes will complete the race in less than two-and-a-half hours.
The event will start and finish at Northumbrian Water’s Leaplish Waterside Park and be part of a whole weekend of activities for all ages and abilities, with a big focus on attracting families to the site.
John Cuthbert, Kielder Partnership chairman and Northumbrian Water’s managing director said: “The breathtaking scenery of the tranquil park in Northumberland sets it apart from all other national marathons. We’re delighted to host such a special event and really put the region on the map.”
Northumbrian Water and regional development agency One North East have provided the necessary funding to turn the Kielder Marathon dream into reality. It will be jointly organised by Extra Mile Events and Roberts and Partners.
Dave Roberts, who heads Roberts and Partners, was a co-founder of the Great North Run. He says the Kielder event has taken more than a year of planning.
“We started talking about holding the event in January 2009. It’s the ideal place for a marathon. It will be one complete lap of the reservoir – so it’ll be hard for anyone to go wrong!
“The location is beautiful, with breathtaking sights.”
A ballot is now under way for those wanting to take part in the event.
“We’ve had a good response so far,” added Dave. “We’ll be closing the ballot in early April.”
And what about the course?
“There are some undulations,” Dave explained, “but there’s nothing severe.”
Organisers have chosen October 17 for the event, so it takes place after the Commonwealth Games – and to make the most of pleasant running conditions.
“October’s a great time of year for running,” said Dave.
The event hopes to grow in the years ahead –- hopefully reaching 5,000 runners in the next few years.
Stacy Hall, director of communications and tourism at regional development agency One North East, said: “We’re delighted such a prestigious event is taking place in North East England and hope it grows to become bigger and even better in future years. It will boost the regional economy, aid local business and will attract runners and visitors, not just from across the UK but also internationally and we are looking forward to showcasing the region and all it has to offer.”
Runners who are interested in registering an interest for a place on the Kielder Marathon should log on to www.kieldermarathon.com