THOUSANDS of Winchester runners will pound the district’s roads today when the annual half marathon returns.

The route will take runners on a scenic tour of the area, and will include landmarks such as St Catherine’s Hill, Winchester Cathedral, the King Alfred statue, and the area’s countryside.

Runners will set off at 10am from Winchester Guildhall on a 13.3-mile course, before returning back to the Guildhall.

The route will head west along Sarum Road, turning south towards Hursley, before then returning north-east to St Cross and then back to the city centre via Bar End.

One of the teams taking part this year will be from ADAM Architecture, who have so far raised more than £1,800 in aid of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, smashing their £1,000 target.

This year the race is being sponsored by Connect to Support Hampshire, a source of help and support for those who want to look after their health and wellbeing and maintain their independence for longer.

Organisers ReesLeisure say they are thrilled at the new partnership. Nikki Rees, managing director, said: “Connect to Support Hampshire getting involved with the Winchester Half Marathon is going to be a great addition and the sustenance they are providing the runners through water station sponsorship, will be really gratefully received.”

Now in its third year, organisers are also seeking to make the race as green as possible.

Among the changes will be the use of reusable water pouches, donated by Winchester University. Plastic goody bags have also been ditched and replaced with 100 per cent recyclable paper bags.

Several of the event vehicles will also be replaced with hybrid vehicles to reduce air pollution thanks to the official transport partner, Hendy.

The event will also include a fun run sponsored by gas and electricity company Utilita Energy.