OLYMPIC hopeful Stacey Smith has thrown her weight behind a picturesque Northumberland running event on Sunday.
The 22-year-old athlete, who is hoping to run in the 1500m at London 2012, will be putting competitors under starters orders at the Wallington Half Marathon.
Over 600 club and recreational runners are expected to turn out for the second staging of the race – 200 more than last year.
It means organiser Team Decathlon is on track to reach its own Olympic goal of 2012 participants for 2012 across all five Run Northumberland races.
Stacey, who hails from Prudhoe, said she was thrilled to be involved with the initiative, which is the brainchild of former Great Britain athlete Richard Hunter.
“How fantastic to be able to run against the backdrop of somewhere like Wallington,” she said.
“Run Northumberland is an inspirational event which I hope will not only encourage people of all ages and abilities to take up running themselves, but help put the area on the national and international race map.
“I like the fact that alongside the main Run Northumberland races, a series of children’s and family events have also been planned aimed at getting people off the sofa and out into the countryside to exercise.
“It would be great to think I might meet the next generation of up-and-coming athletes at Wallington.”
The race will take competitors along the banks of the River Wansbeck and on the roads around Scots Gap and Cambo before finishing under the property’s famous Clock Tower.
It will be followed by four 10k races. They are at fellow National Trust property Cragside at Rothbury on April 14, Bamburgh on June 17, a return to Wallington on September 9 and newcomer Matfen on October 14.
This year’s series has already attracted wide interest, with competitors from as far afield as the West Country, Edinburgh, Canada, the US and Australia signed up.
Richard, director of Team Decathlon, said: “This year is an exciting one for sport with London 2012 now firmly on the horizon, and it is great that Stacey has found the time to briefly step back from her Olympic preparations and support Run Northumberland and all those who will be taking part in the races.”
For more information on the Run Northumberland series, go to www.runnorthumberland.org
The half marathon costs £25 to enter for non-club runners and £23 for UKA club members. The 10K races cost £13 and £11 respectively.