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Great East Run in Ipswich should grow into international event ‘in no time’, Team GB’s Andy Vernon says

PUBLISHED: 18:39 22 September 2017 | UPDATED: 08:21 23 September 2017

Team GB Olympic runner Andy Vernon visited St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich to promote the Great East Run 2017 and the Daily Mile scheme. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Team GB Olympic runner Andy Vernon visited St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich to promote the Great East Run 2017 and the Daily Mile scheme. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The Great East Run has “endless potential” and should feature world-class runners among a 10,000-strong field well within a decade, a Team GB Olympic runner has said.

Former European silver medallist Andy Vernon, who competed in the 10k at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was the star of the show when promoting the Great East Run and the Daily Mile scheme at an Ipswich primary school yesterday.

The Great East Run ambassador was swamped with requests for signatures by excited pupils at St Matthew’s Primary School, which is one of 18 schools in Suffolk to have signed up to the Daily Mile.

The first road closures will be put in place in Ipswich today ahead of the inaugural Great East Run tomorrow when 3,000 runners will take to the streets in Ipswich and surrounding areas.

Children enjoying their run. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Children enjoying their run. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

• See a list of the road closures here.

Team GB Olympic runner Andy Vernon visited St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich to promote the Great East Run 2017 and the Daily Mile scheme. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Team GB Olympic runner Andy Vernon visited St Matthew's Primary School in Ipswich to promote the Great East Run 2017 and the Daily Mile scheme. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The event features a flat and fast 13.1 mile course, and replaces the Ipswich Half Marathon, which had 1,400 runners. Vernon, 31, who has just started training after a bad hip injury, believes the event has “a lot of scope” to grow.

The Great South Run in Portsmouth now has 25,000 runners, up from 3,000 in 1990, providing a £3.3m annual boost.

Asked if the Great East Run could reach 10,000 runners in a decade, he said: “If anyone can do it, the Great Run can. They have got the Great North Run from a handful of thousand people to 50,000. The potential is endless.

Runners taking part in the Great East Run 2017. L-R: Jeff Allum, Sara Spreadbridge, Faith Archer, Tony Holland. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Runners taking part in the Great East Run 2017. L-R: Jeff Allum, Sara Spreadbridge, Faith Archer, Tony Holland. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“I think they can do it even quicker than a decade. They have got the capacity, infrastructure, staff and the know-how. They will be up to 10,000 in no time.

“Give it a couple of years, let it find its feet, and then we’ll have an elite race I reckon. This will bring the world’s best athletes, more sponsorship deals, and could even make TV.”

He backed advice for people to plan ahead to avoid being hit by the disruption. He said: “It’s just one day a year. I’m not sure how it can disrupt your life that much. If you have got to travel mid-Sunday morning, plan ahead.”

Andy Vernon high fives St Matthew's Primary School pupils. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Andy Vernon high fives St Matthew's Primary School pupils. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Andy has spent the last nine months providing expert advice to four Suffolk runners, including Tony Holland from Rushmere in Ipswich, who has shed four stone.

Mr Holland said: “It’s been tough but enjoyable. I feel like a more happier person. I ran past a person who was slightly overweight recently. I said ‘come and join me’ and she said ‘no, fat people don’t run’. I said ‘yes, they do’. If I can do it, anyone can. Seriously. Set yourself targets.”

Meanwhile, primary school heads in Suffolk must seriously consider signing up to the pioneering Daily Mile scheme, Vernon said.

St Matthew's Primary School pupils enjoying the Daily Mile scheme. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN St Matthew's Primary School pupils enjoying the Daily Mile scheme. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

• See here to sign up officially.

The course map of the Great East Run Ipswich 2017. Pic: The Great Run Company. The course map of the Great East Run Ipswich 2017. Pic: The Great Run Company.

Eighteen primary schools in Suffolk have signed up within the last year. Children are taken out of lesson and walk, jog or run a mile in the playground or field at least three times a week.

The scheme has been credited with improving children’s focus, behaviour and attainment, reducing obesity levels, and helping with mental health issues.

Vernon said: “It’s such an easy concept to put in place. Even if it’s not a measured mile, just get them running for 10 or 15 minutes. If you do that daily, you’ll get fit kids. It’s a no-brainer. I hope all primaries and secondaries start it, with two or even three miles at secondaries.”

Promotional photograph for the Great East Run 2017, Picture: PETER LANGDOWN Promotional photograph for the Great East Run 2017, Picture: PETER LANGDOWN

Sarah McCraw, teacher at St Matthew’s Primary School in Ipswich, said: “It’s an easy, no-cost activity. Pupils’ fitness have really improved and it helps them concentrate.”

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