The Ali Brownlee Riverside Run was first renamed last year in honour of the local broadcasting legend who died last February after a short battle with cancer.
The new name for the Middlesbrough 5k Road Race and 2k Fun becomes a permanent fixture when the event returns on Sunday, July 2.
Middlesbrough Council and leisure services partner Everyone Active are hoping for another record turn-out for the run which takes in some of the town’s most striking landmarks including Temenos and the Transporter Bridge, before a memorable finish beside the hallowed turf inside the Riverside Stadium.
I chatted with Race Director Jimmy Wattis at a gathering of Alastair’s family and famous Boro personalities to officially launch the 5km run.
Q: We are here at the Riverside for the launch of the Ali Brownlee Riverside Run – I believe the name is now a permanent memorial to Alastair.
JW: Yes, Ali first ran the 10k probably about 10 years ago. We both decided that his skills were probably best used doing the commentary. Then I organised the Sport Relief Mile from the Town Centre in 2008 and we wanted to develop that and we felt that we could extend it to a 5k and take it round the Riverside. So from 2009 Ali did the commentary on this event as well. And I know how much it meant to him being able to come out and meet so many people in a position where he could encourage people and see the joy on peoples faces as he shouted their race number out or if they had their name on their shirt, he would shout their name out. He was just an incredible man all round and I know that he had these events in his heart and I thought that it was only right that we named the event after him.
Q: Of course one of Alastair’s daughter’s ran last year.
JW: Yes, I wasn’t involved last year but Alison ran last year and I think Emily, Alison and Alastair’s wife, Wendy are all going to do it this year.
It is great for the town. We hope that all those thousands of fans that still sing Ali’s name at the games come out in force and support the run and I am sure they will have a great time.
Q: For anyone that jogs, parkruns or races, whatever ability it is special to finish in a football stadium, isn’t it?
JW: Oh it is, there is a fantastic atmosphere because obviously there are two events, we have the 2k fun run and we also have the 5k run, so as people are finishing whichever one they are running in you have got the support of the other runners sat in the stadium cheering them on. Other than last year but it will be back this year, we play Chariots of Fire theme as they run into the stadium. I know that each runner loves that and it will be back on this year. Hopefully, all being well, we will have pictures of Ali and commentary of Ali up on the big screen, that is what we are hoping to achieve this year. So, it will be fantastic for all involved.
Q: So, people that run the 5k can progress to the Middlesbrough 10k can’t they?
JW: Yes, that is what we are trying to do. We have tried to create a stepping stone for the 10k because that has been a major event in the town since 2005. We are always out there beating the drum about people being healthier and fitter and so there are all the stepping stones there, there is a 2k, the 3k, the 5k and the 10k. Obviously and on top of that there is the Redcar half marathon that we would like to think people could achieve at some point as well.
Q: How long after the 10k is Redcar half marathon?
JW: It is 4 weeks after 10k, it is October 1st Redcar half marathon. So, you could train up for the 10k and then still get a couple of longer runs in and then start to taper off in time for the Redcar half marathon. So, I think the timing for the runs in Middlesbrough and on Teesside is perfect.
Q: It is a great thing that there seem to be more people running than ever before.
JW: Oh there are. I think everyone notices now the nights are starting to get lighter you can see people out all the time. The 10k route especially with it being marked, so people know the distances and they know the times and I think that route has been great for the town as well.
It is always a great event and one of my favourite day’s of the year but the permanent renaming after the great, late Alastair Brownlee and the involvement of his family is bound to make the Riverside Run that bit more special.
Alastair’s widow Wendy said: “I am really honoured to have such a wonderful and prestigious event named after Ali – he would be so proud.
“I know what this event meant to him, he was always excited when he was leaving the house on the morning knowing he was going to meet so many people and to be able to cheer and encourage each and every one of them on.”
To register for either the 5k or 2k please visit www.runmiddlesbrough.com
Entries are also being taken for the 2017 Taylor Wimpey Tees Pride 10k and 3k Fun Run which takes place on Sunday, September 3.
For further information contact Jimmy Wattis on 01642 20083