A MAJOR sporting event is being staged in the centre of Malvern for the first time next Saturday, March 10.

About 400 athletes will take to the streets, parks and commons for the first Great Malvern Urban Race.

A new type of orienteering, urban racing is sweeping the country, and the new race is part of the UK Cup, a series of races which will attract the country’s elite racers anxious to get noticed prior to selection for the World Championships.

Among them is former Malvern St James pupil Tessa Hill, the current British Elite Champion, who also made the podium in last year’s international World Cup series.

The Malvern race is also part of the Nopesport Urban League, a hotly-contested national series of events attracting racers from all over the country. The youngest entrant so far is six and the oldest more than 80.

The organisers are husbandand- wife team Lester and Lynden Hartmann of Harlequins Orienteering Club and Malvern and District Orienteers.

The route takes in the grounds of Davenham and Perrins care homes, Manor Park and the Malvern St James sports complex, as well as Malvern Library grounds.

Mr Hartmann said: “I’m laying on a special newcomers’ course which local adults or family groups can have a go at. It’s entry on the day so just turn up at the Priory Lodge, in Avenue Road, between 11am and 12.30pm to sign up.”

And Mrs Hartmann added: “There are not many sports where a complete newcomer can line up next to a national champion, but urban racing is one of them.

“We continue to enjoy great support with our traditional events on the hills and commons from the Malvern Hills Conservators but coming into the town it’s great that this has extended to the district and town councils. It has made my job a lot easier.

“My biggest worry is that the police and fire service will be bothered by people phoning up about ‘suspicious packages’ attached to trees and lamp posts round the town. The control boxes are a bit puzzling, but if they’ve got a red and white flag attached to them then don’t sound the alarm, that’s one of ours.”

For more details visit harlequins.org.uk.