England

Birmingham bidding to become European Capital of Running

Birmingham half marathon
Image caption Thousands of people take part in the annual Birmingham half marathon

Birmingham is bidding to establish itself as the European Capital of Running.

The city council has backed a £3m investment to fund running events and encourage some of its most inactive residents to get involved.

It includes a £1.55m grant from Sport England for grassroots funding.

The authority has also announced an agreement with British Athletics to host major athletics events over the next three years.

Over recent years, the city has hosted an annual half marathon, the British world athletics championship trials as well as an international Diamond League event.

The 2015 British Athletics Championships will be held at Birmingham's Alexander Stadium in July, a month after a grand prix event.

Meanwhile, a new 10km race through the city is to be held on 3 May, as part of the European Capital of Running bid.

'Next Mo Farah'

Andy Paul, chairman of Birchfield Harriers running club, who is involved in the project, said the city had a "deep tradition" of running, with seven running clubs already based there.

"It's not really about discovering the next Mo Farah or Paula Radcliffe," he said.

"We might do, but it's more about making it accessible, encouraging people, whatever their ability, to take part and making sure there are regular events for people."

The aim is to encourage 5,000 people who are currently inactive to start running, especially those from deprived communities.

Ultimately the scheme hopes to inspire 100,000 people in the city to take up and, crucially, continue running.

Steve Hollingworth, Birmingham City Council's assistant director for sport and events, said it was an opportunity "to promote healthier lifestyles" as well as put "Birmingham on the map".

Inactivity in Birmingham is believed to cost the local health service some £20m a year, according to the council.

It includes the cost of treating cases of diabetes, chronic heart disease, breast cancer, bowel cancer and strokes, thought to be caused by inactivity.

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