THE starting gun is set to be fired on Inverclyde’s 2017 Santa Dash.

The race will make lots of money for local charities next month – and children can take part for free.

Inverclyde MP Ronnie Cowan will have the honour of setting the runners on their way and says he is delighted to support Dash founder Tommy ‘The Clown’ Armstrong, above, with his annual 5k fun run/walk.

Mr Cowan said: “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone turn out in their best festive attire, to supporting Tommy’s charitable work and walking the course.”

The dash features entrants dressed up in Santa outfits and beards, or other festive costumes, running or walking from the Waterfront to the Esplanade buoy and back.

It starts at 12.30pm on Sunday December 17 at the Waterfront Leisure Centre car park, where registrations will be taken from 11.30am.

Tommy, 76, said: “Children up to the age of 14 can take part for free so long as they run with an adult. The entry fee for adults is £15, including a Santa suit, and £5 of it will be donated to charities.

“There will also be trophies for the top adults.

“There will be goody bags and medals for everyone, as well as a buffet.

“We hope to make it a real festive occasion.”

More than £20,000 has been raised by the dash for good causes since it started in 2006.

Almost £3,000 was collected at last year’s race, with cash distributed to Ardgowan Hospice, Cancer Research, Sense, Royalheart Greyhounds, Help for Heroes, Erskine Home, Age Concern and Cat Rescue

Entry forms are available now at local sports centres.