TOMORROW morning will see the first parkrun in south-east Essex get underway.

Runners will toe the line at 9am in Gunners Park for the 5km Southend parkrun – an event that has been 18 months in the planning.

The parkrun format has been popular across the country – and indeed the world – but until now runners have had to travel to Ilford’s Valentine’s Park for the nearest one.

But keen runner Alex Thornton decided to change that by setting up the event in Southend.

The basic premise of the parkrun is that it is a free, timed 5km event which is open for runners of all abilities and newcomers to the sport.

All runners have to do is sign up to the parkrun beforehand and take along the barcode you are given to the race.

The event in Southend will take in three laps of Gunners Park, in Shoebury, all bar a small section on Tarmac.

And Thornton says he can’t wait for the first event to take place.

“I visited the one in Ilford and thought this would be a great thing to have in Southend,” he said. “It’s free, accessible and would be a good thing for the town.

“That was 18 months ago, so it has taken a bit of time to get it sorted since then!

“It’s a great event though and one that suits everyone. My 10-year-old runs them, my seven-year-old is a bit too young but won’t be far off and my wife runs them too. So it’s a great thing for the whole family.

“It’s a three-lap event, but there’s nothing to stop you just doing two laps or whatever you want.”

The appeal of parkrun does stretch the boundaries from newcomers to the sport to the very elite end.

It has been credited with getting many people started in running, while the appeal to the country’s best runners in shown by the parkrun record of 13m 48s, which was set by GB international and Olympian Andy Baddeley in Bushy Park earlier this year.

To sign up to the Southend parkrun visit southend/home Tomorrow’s race starts at 9am.