The stage is set for the second annual Wirral Charities Marathon on Sunday, which is expected to raise about £50,000.
About 1,000 athletes, joggers, fun runners - even a snail! - will form an ever lengthening multi-coloured column that will thread its way round a 26-mile 385-yard route.
Like last year, the marathon starts and ends at Parksfield, Parkgate, and follows a circular route via Heswall, Caldy, West Kirby, Hoylake, Greasby, Arrowe Park, Pensby, back to Heswall and on to the Shrewsbury Arms and Neston before returning to Parksfield.
Organiser Mr. Eddie Griffiths has appealed to the public to support the event as it did 12 months ago. This marathon belongs to the people of Wirral,' he said. 'They are so important and can encourage competitors beyond their capability.' Mr. George Fena, Chief Constable of Cheshire, will officially start the marathon at 11 a.m., and the first runners are expected back at Parksfield about two-and-a-half hours later.
The bulk of competitors are expected to complete the course in between three and five hours. The race officially ends it 5 p.m. and competitors still on the course after that will be picked up by the course marshalls.
This year's title will probably rest between just half-a-dozen runners, including the defending champion. Doug Wilson, of Wirral Athletic Club, who completed the course last year in two hours 30 minutes 37 seconds. Fittingly, he will be wearing No. 1.
But it is certain to be a close-run race. Watson's Wirral A.C. colleague, Peter Kilgannon, reckons he will finish in two hours 29 minutes, while four other runners have estimated two hours 30 minutes. One of these, Alf Lennon of Fairview Road, Birkenhead, also a Wirral A.C. member, is the European veterans 25 kilometre champion.
After its astonishingly successful baptism last year, the Wirral Charities Marathon is now well-established in the national calendar. And, as if to back up this claim, Sunday's line-up will Include competitors from far and wide - the Channel Islands, London, York, North and South Wales, Hereford, to name but some!
Three competitors who are bound to get a big cheer from the crowd - and deservedly so - are Eben Wallace, Philip Moss and Chris Reith.
Eben, of Clarence Road, Birkenhead, at 70 is believed to be the oldest entrant. He will be wearing No. 10 and thinks he will finish the course in four hours.
Philip, aged 15, of Inglewood Avenue, Moreton, will be tackling the last half of the course, from Arrowebrook Road - in a wheelchair.
Philip, suffers from spina bifida and hopes to raise about £200 for Meadowside Special School, where he is a pupil. He completed the same 13 miles last year in two hours 42 minutes.
It won't be hard to recognise Chris Reith - he's the snail referred to in the first paragraph! Chris, aged 30, who lives in Heswall, will be wearing a snail's costume made at Theatr Clwyd, Mold, where he is company manager. On top of his 'shell' will be a collecting bowl, and spectators are asked to make a donation to the charity Chris is supporting, Wirral Hospice.
Medical student Sally Ann Hales, of Springcroft, Parkgate, is expected to retain the women's title she won last year in two hours 55 minutes. She will be wearing No. 47.
Those who decide at the last minute to enter the marathon can do so at Neston Sports & Health Club. Neston, up to 1 p.m. tomorrow or between 9 a.m. - 10.30 a.m. on Sunday at the registration headquarters at Parksfield. Entry fee is £5.