Thousands of runners in the final weeks of training for the Wigan 10k can look forward to being at the start-line with a very special guest.
Eight-year-old Jack Johnson - the inspiration behind charity Joining Jack - will officially start the race on Sunday, September 4.
The youngster, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, will be joined by Wigan Warriors players Sam Tomkins and Josh Charnley.
Jack has already recorded a special message at The Lounge Recording Studio in Wigan, which will be played as the runners prepare to set off at 10am. Participants will be asked to do the Joining Jack salute and one of Jack’s favourite songs, Adventure Of A Lifetime by Coldplay, will be played.
His uncle Matt Johnson said: “He is a little bit older than when we first did it four years ago and it seemed right that we asked Jack if he would start it.
“He asked if his two favourite rugby players could come along.
“We asked the question to Kris Radlinski and he came back to say they would love it.”
Previous Wigan 10ks have been started by top sport stars Bradley Wiggins, Andy Farrell and Jenny Meadows.
Having Jack as this year’s official starter will be extra special as the race is organised by Joining Jack to raise money for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy in his honour.
Last year Jack took part in the race, pushed in his wheelchair by his mum Alex.
“Hopefully with the medal signed by Jack - the first in production with his signature on - and Wigan Warriors getting involved, we are hoping to give a final push to people who are thinking of doing their first one.”Matt Johnson
And as well as setting off the runners, he will welcome them back as the medal given to finishers has a hand-written message from Jack.
Sam Tomkins said: “It’s a great race and for Jack to be able to put his mark on the back of the medal - that’s just going to make people want to do it.
“It’s a brilliant touch and everyone buys into Joining Jack and what a great charity it is.”
Sam and Josh will not be the only Wigan Warriors players getting involved in this year’s race.
Members of the current squad will hand out drinks to runners as they pass a water station on the course and running will be former player Jason Robinson and former Sale Sharks’ player Mark Cueto.
Music will be provided by another former player Martin Offiah, who now DJs and has put together a 30-minute music mix to be played before the race.
Matt said: “Martin has been a massive supporter of the charity ever since he heard about the launch of Joining Jack.
“He has done TV quizzes and raised a lot of money and awareness.
“He couldn’t come on the day but he offered to put together a music set to build the atmosphere up.”
Entries are pouring in for the fourth annual race, with this year set to be another record-breaker.
There has been a slight change to the course, with alterations to the park section of the route meaning runners will go onto the track at Robin Park.
Some participants will be taking on the challenge to raise money for Joining Jack, but people can support other good causes too.
Matt said: “It’s grown every year. The first year we had 2,750 runners, then 3,200, then 3,500. We are certainly on course for a new record. We hope to get to 3,700 or 3,800.
“Hopefully with the medal signed by Jack - the first in production with his signature on - and Wigan Warriors getting involved, we are hoping to give a final push to people who are thinking of doing their first one.”
Entry to the Wigan 10k costs £19.50, or £17.50 for running club members. Sign up at www.wigan10k.co.uk