SIR Roger Bannister will fire the starting pistol to set off Oxford’s half marathon as organisers say they hope to triple funds raised this year.

Those behind the marathon say they hope 6,000 runners will take part and raise up to £75,000 for Helen and Douglas House in East Oxford.

In last year’s race, more than 2,000 runners took part and raised about £25,000 for the hospice in Magdalen Street.

Now in its second year, a new route has been devised for the marathon, with runners going past the Iffley Road running track where Sir Roger became the first man to run a mile in under four minutes on May 6, 1954.

Speaking at the official launch yesterday, the legendary 83-year-old, said: “The 26-mile marathon can be too much for the average recreational runner, so I think half marathons like this have a great future. I’m delighted to be involved.”

The route will also take in Christ Church Meadow, the Mini plant in Cowley and the Oxford Academy. Once again, the race will start and finish at the Kassam Stadium, and 1,200 runners have already registered for the event on Sunday, October 14.

Poppy Hanbury, the events fundraiser for Helen and Douglas House, said: “With 6,000 runners, it’s possible that £75,000 could be raised for the hospice which would be fantastic.

“We are hoping runners will raise between £50,000 and £75,000, but people raised more money than we expected last year so £75,000 is a possibility.

“The Santa Run, which has been our biggest fundraiser, made more than £70,000 last year so it would be lovely to have two major events bringing in a similar amount. With £75,000 we could pay for four care team members, who provide one-to-one care for our guests, or it could pay for a doctor to work with us for a year.”

Mini Plant Oxford is sponsoring the half marathon while the Oxford Mail is media partner.

Race director Andy Heyes said: “We think the Oxford half marathon could grow to be as big as half marathons in Bristol, Bath and Reading, which get between 15,000 and 17,000 runners.”

Cllr Mark Lygo, city council executive member for parks and sport, said: “I ran the race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to running the new route which comes past this iconic running track.”

The entry fee for members of a UKA-affiliated running club or association is £29, and £31 for unaffiliated runners.