THURSDAY 4 MAY 2017 11:51 AM


Traditionally heralding the coming of spring, the annual London Marathon – this year held on 30 April – also signifies the beginning of the UK’s main running season and its numerous sponsorship and charitable opportunities.

The Great Run series, in partnership with health insurance provider Simplyhealth, is sponsored by battery and smart power systems manufacturer, Duracell. During 2017, numerous Olympic athletes will don bunny ears and become ‘pacers,’ encouraging Simplyhealth Great Run participants to run as far as possible.

Among the regular participating athletes is a sprinkle of Olympic talent. Birmingham-based heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, best known for her bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics and heptathlon and 4x400m bronzes in Beijing 2008, was the first Duracell Bunny Olympian pacer at last weekend's Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k. Sotherton said before the event, “It’s a great honour to be pacing during this year’s Great Birmingham 10k, and taking on the ‘Duracell Bunny Challenge’ in my home town makes it even more special. I’ll be helping to pace with some brilliant experienced Duracell Bunnies who can hopefully share some of their knowledge to get me through it."

Joining her next in the endeavour is Jason Gardener, current UK Athletics president and part of the gold-winning 4x100m sprint team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. On 28 May, Gardener will challenge himself to transition from 100m to 10,000m by becoming a Duracell Bunny pacer at the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run.

Gardener says, “I appreciate that this isn’t a natural distance for me but I also have a lot of respect for the amazing job the Duracell Bunny pacers did last year, so I’m going to embrace the challenge and do my all to get both myself and others across the line on the right pace.”

Joining both Sotherton and Gardener is current British 400m record holder Iwan Thomas. Thomas takes on the iconic Simplyhealth Great North Run on 10 September, as well as the 10 mile, Portsmouth-based Simplyhealth Great South Run on 22 October. Thomas says, “It’s exciting to be part of the ‘Duracell Bunny Challenge’ alongside some of my running contemporaries in Kelly and Jason. I’m taking this very seriously and there’s added pressure for me to deliver where the Great North Run is involved.”

Christina Turner, associate marketing director at Duracell UK, says, “The Duracell Bunny pacers provided a truly intuitive element to our sponsorship of the Great Run Series last year. Continuing into 2017 means we want to take the Duracell Bunny journey even further with runners and supporters. The support of Kelly, Jason and Iwan taking on their respective pacer challenges and going for longer continues that story of embedding Duracell’s power and longevity credibly into the running community.”

Duracell first became corporate partner to the Simplyhealth Great Run series in 2016 – its running bunnies are an integral motivational feature at each event. As well as Duracell Bunny pacers present to provide encouragement, Duracell is also reintroducing its power boards (#PowerBoard) for 2017. Fully customisable, the #PowerBoard allows spectators to draw messages for participating relatives or friends.