ATHLETICS legend Sir Roger Bannister will send 4,000 runners ‘off their marks’ at this weekend’s British Heart Foundation Blenheim Half Marathon.

Former Oxford University student Sir Roger, the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, will start the charity’s Half Marathon and 10k event on Sunday.

He said: “I’m delighted to be starting the BHF’s Blenheim Palace Half Marathon and 10km event, as the location, the activity and the cause are all close to my own heart. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by heart disease and this event will do a great job in helping to raise much-needed funds to help the BHF continue its life-saving and life-changing work.”

Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer and about 370 people in Oxfordshire will lose their life to it this year.

The Blenheim Half Marathon raises money for continuing research into heart disease and attracts thousands of competitors, with its half marathon, 10k, two kilometre family race and corporate relay.

Among the runners from Oxfordshire this year is Graham Turner, 64, a television technology consultant from Oxford, who will be running for the second consecutive year. He wants to show his gratitude to the medical staff at Oxford’s John Radcliffe who saved his daughter Catherine’s life when she was a baby.

Catherine, now 31, was diagnosed with the heart defect pulmonary stenosis, which means the valve that lets blood flow from the heart to the lungs is narrowed.

Mr Turner said: “It’s a great cause and it looks like we will also be having a much easier day to run in, last year’s event took place in 27-degree heat!”

Hannah Townsend, regional events organiser for the BHF, said: “Completing an event like this gives you an unbelievable feeling because you know that what you’ve done is actually making a difference to us, the nation’s heart charity.”

The half marathon starts from the prestigious Great Court at 10.30am and there is still time to sign up.