Runners from across the country have been preparing to take on the new-look Wollongong Running Festival this year, with the event scheduled to be held at Stuart Park in June.

The event will feature a half marathon for the first time in its 10-year history, as well as the 2km, 5km and 10km events.

Committee member Nikki McCarthy Hicks, who has been involved with the event since it began in 2011 when it was known as the Bulli Burn, said the attraction of a half marathon, and the chance to get out and socialise had boosted this year’s entries.

“I think that having so many things cancelled in 2020 people are pretty keen to get out and participate in events,” said Ms McCarthy Hicks.

“It’s about supporting local business, charity, and yourself. If you are training or running by yourself it gives you something to look forward to and gives you a goal and a purpose in training.”

The event will support two local causes, the Burn for Mark 5km run, which supports past event winner Mark Scott and his family, after an injury left him requiring full-time care.

The Running Festival will also support Lifeline South Coast, with many runners setting up fundraising pages to help contribute to the local organisation.

Lifeline South Coast’s PR & Marketing Manager Paige Pollard said she was looking forward to being involved with the festival this year.

“Lifeline South Coast is committed to building resilience within our community, and this event gives us a chance to access a wide range of people,” said Ms. Pollard.

Lifeline will be present on the day of the festival, with a tent set up and resources available, as well as members of staff donning Lifeline singlets and participating in the events.

“We have a lot of avenues with the work we do at LLSC,” Ms Pollard said.

“Recently we’ve been able to hold free courses on awareness training and provide it to those who possibly can’t afford to attend.”

These courses stretched across LLSC’s entire area, which runs from north of Wollongong to the Victorian border, giving vital information on suicide prevention.

“Our Question Persuade Refer (QPR) courses are usually attended by teachers, carers, health professionals and community members that those considering suicide may approach and train them in communication skills and how to refer those who are struggling to get appropriate help,” she said.