GRAEME Hardie, 40, is events director with 113 Events, which is organising the revived Swindon Half Marathon. The organisation has spent several years organising middle and long-distance races.

Graeme is married to Nicci, a child minder, the couple have two children and live in Grange Park. The 2017 Swindon Half Marathon will be held on September 3.

WHY does Swindon need a half marathon?

“It’s massive exposure for a town,” said Graeme Hardie.

“It’s nothing but good to bring health, wellbeing and fitness for people into the town. Swindon has a huge running community. People realise the importance of health and wellbeing nowadays, and running is the easiest sport to do.

“If you are a cyclist you have to have a bike, you have to have a route and you have to get your kit on. If you’re a runner you can literally put a pair of shoes on, be out of the front door and run.

“For me and many other runners it’s a great moment of solitude. It’s no telephone, it’s no screaming kids, it’s no traipsing around the shop.

“It’s a chance to get away, be yourself, have a good think, get your mind straight.”

Graeme comes from Highworth, and is the younger of two children born to parents who were in the RAF. He studied vehicle design and technology at Swindon College but sport was always his passion.

A club swimmer as a child, he went on to become a world-class professional in BMX, and regularly featured in that sport’s magazines. He signed autographs at events all over the world.

Later, while working at Honda, a colleague said he was taking part in a triathlon. Graeme’s interest led to his own participation in races and eventually a business organising them.

He is full of praise for all the past organisers of the Swindon Half Marathon, but feels it became a victim of changing trends.

“It was started by the local running club as a hilly, hard half marathon training run. They devised a route which was tough.

“But then, as that evolved, it turned into a formal race and became the Swindon Half Marathon.

“Running itself evolves like any other sport, hobby or interest. Ten, 12 or 15 years ago a hilly half marathon was very popular. People liked challenging themselves, they liked something that was difficult. It was an honest course. I suppose would be the best description for it.

“Over time it declined. People know the Swindon Half Marathon as a hilly course, and that attracts the core nucleus of runners who like to do a hilly course. But in terms of mass participation what you want is something that’s not easy – because a half marathon isn’t easy – but a relatively easier introduction to the distance.

“As other events came about in the region – Bath, Bristol, Reading, Oxford – they had flatter courses and appealed to a broader audience.

“The participation in half marathon has changed from people who want to do it because they’re runners and half marathon is the challenge, or something to do routinely as part of their training.

“It’s changed to people who see half marathon as easily achievable, which it is for 90 percent of fit adult people. They wanted something which was an easier introduction to a distance and flatter, relatively.”

Graeme first inquired about organising the event in 2012, when Nationwide pulled out of sponsorship amid recession woes.

“We went to Swindon Borough Council and said: ‘We’d like to take the race on, but we believe it needs a level of reinvention, it needs a flatter course and it needs to showcase Swindon more as a race.’

“Swindon’s got a lot of things which people know the town for, but the course as it was previously started on the outskirts of Swindon and went up through Chiseldon and Wanborough. It wasn’t really a Swindon Half; it was something outside the town.

“Also it started at Nationwide. A lot of building a race to be bigger and grander is that you need to bring in competitors’ families. Where it was at Nationwide, you’d wave your husband or your wife ‘good luck,’ give them a kiss and then stand around a Portaloo and a burger van for two or three hours and wait for them to come back.

“Where the course previously went out into the countryside, it affected the level of support on the course from spectators. You’d have stretches where you wouldn’t see a spectator, only a cow and a pig in a field.”

In 2012 the council opted to go with a British Heart Foundation bid to organise the race. The charity had hoped to recoup the costs and raise extra funds through sponsorship, but its association with the race was short-lived. So was that of social enterprise SEQOL.

Graeme salutes both efforts, but believes a complete rethink was the only option. 113 Events got the go-ahead last autumn.

“We’ve got a route in and approved.

“Our course is much more Swindon. We take in some of the things Swindon is known for. We’re starting at the County Ground, we’re closing the Magic Roundabout, we’re going past Coate Water roundabout, past BMW Mini, through what I know as North Star College but is now Swindon College, the Oasis Leisure Centre, McArthurGlen Outlet village, along the side of the railway past the Weighbridge, up through the back of Wichelstowe to Pipers Way, which is like a nod to the previous race, where it started and finished.”

Wood Street and Victoria road will be next, and the runners will sweep through Regent Circus before reaching the finish line at Wharf Green.

“We’ve managed to get everything we wanted in the course,” said Graeme.

The route is horseshoe-shaped, meaning local people won’t find themselves marooned when roads are closed.

In addition, every yard of closed road will be re-opened as soon as the last runner has passed.

Graeme explained: “We want to make this an event that the general population of Swindon don’t just tolerate but embrace.”

Entry costs £38. Registration opens on February 1, and further information can be found at and on the newswindonhalf Facebook page.