The Great North Run is definitely one of the highlights of the sporting calendar in the North East – indeed, of any calendar! It is a half marathon, starting near the Town Moor to the north of central Newcastle and finishing in South Shields on the coast to the east. Soon after starting, the runners cross the Tyne Bridge en masse, creating one of the iconic images of the city which is shown on news footage around the world.
This year (2010) was the 30th in which the race has been held, and 54,000 runners took part. Most of these were as usual the so-called “fun runners”, including our friend Barry, but there are also elite races for men and women, and wheelchair races, all of which attract top athletes every year. The 2010 winner of the men’s race, for instance, was the legendary Ethiopian, Haile Gebrselassie, while his compatriot Berhane Adere won the women’s race and Brits David Weir and Shelly Woods won the wheelchair races.
The race takes place on a Sunday, and on the Saturday there are races for children – the one-mile Mini Great North Run, for girls and boys aged from 3 to 8 years and the three-mile Junior Great North Run with categories for boys and girls aged 9 to 11, and boys and girls aged 12 to 16. These take place on the Quayside in the centre of the city, on a route that starts on the Newcastle side, crosses the Swing Bridge to Gateshead, and returns via the Millennium Bridge to finish where it started in Newcastle. There is a wonderful family atmosphere down by the river all day, with music, shorter races and even this year a pole vault competition. It’s well worth checking out as a spectator, as is of course the main race on the Sunday. The prime viewing spot for this is at the finish in South Shields, where a large grandstand is erected for this purpose, but you’ll need to get there early and be prepared to stay all day, as roads in the area are either closed or jammed all day. It’s easier to watch and cheer on the runners from further back along the route, maybe in Heworth or on the approach to South Shields, although even there you’ll need to arrive fairly early if you want to avoid the traffic jams. We planned to go this year but were put off by the hour-long wait to get through the Tyne Tunnel – you have been warned!
And if you’d like to take part, check out the website below for details on how to register.
Equipment: Your usual running gear if you’re competing, plus an old top to wear while waiting to start – clothes discarded on the road as runners set off are collected and donated to charity. And if you’re watching, wear layers and bring something waterproof, as the weather here can be changeable.
The Great North run is an annual half-marathon that is run every year towards the end of September.
It is by far the largest running event in the UK, with nearly 50,00 odd (some very odd) completing the 13.1 mile course from just noth of Newcastle city Centre, across the Tyne Bridge (a great moment) and along the south side of the Tyne to the seaside at South Sheilds.
The atmosphere is terrific, and further enhanced by the large number of charity runners in exceptionally silly costumes.
I have run it a number of time, and usually start witha collection of giant Rhinos from Billericay.
If you are a runner, then don't expect a great time, the mass start is very slow for a mile or two - but do expect a truely great day out.
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