The Great North Run – 57,000 people can’t be wrong

 

It’s the Red White and Blue Arrows!!

The Great North Run is the largest half marathon in the world. It is both an athletic competition and something that everyone can participate in, whether as a runner who wants to improve on their own best time, or as a fun runner raising money for charity. It’s a special year this year as the race is celebrating its one millionth runner, beating both the New York and the Boston Marathon to this global accolade.Organisers of the event, which began in 1981, named Tracey Cramond as its millionth finisher.Well done Tracey!

A LOT of runners

Sting,the famous Geordie pop singer, (and Northumberland county champion for the 100 yards in 1966) was performing over the weekend and he started the run off in a previous year. He reckons he shook hands with about 10,000 people on that day. It’s such a famous race worldwide and people have heard of Newcastle because of it. Sting is back in Tyneside to support the race and was chuffed to see a salmon rising in the river Tyne as it is now so clean.
This year those great monoliths (metaphorically speaking) of light entertainment Ant and Dec started off the proceedings, and, as usual, the thousands and thousands of runners got themselves pumped up for the challenge to the booming anthems of Eye of the Tiger, Rhythm is a dancer and There’s No Limit!

Serious runners – silent at speed

The elite runners go first and then the serious amateurs. It’s quite a moving sight to see them all powering over the central motorway, silent apart from the thundering thud of the herds of advancing trainers. Mo Farah won in one hour exactly. The women’s elite race was won by Mary Keitany from Kenya, and  Briton Gemma Steel came second. But it’s not really about the elite runners for me, it’s about the spirit of the competitors and the positive atmosphere created by the thousands and thousands of ordinary folk who take on that 13 mile road running challenge which gives you that feelgood vibe.

Go coloured box people!

The runners come in all shapes, sizes and ages. There are lots of fit looking people, but there are also quite a lot of folk competing who look like they would have trouble running to the bus stop, and some were perspiring heavily after just a few hundred yards. I think they might be having more of a long walk today than a run. Different styles of running are employed.Some easy, economic streamlined, some with arms pinned high to the sides like small stuck on flippers and some with limbs flailing, indicating perhaps  a lack of natural co ordination.

I don’t see the funny side..

The Great North Run is a bonanza day for charities. I wouldn’t be surprised if they double their income today there is so much support for good causes. And of course there are some amazing costumes on display. There was Sponge Bob Square Pants, quite a few Supermans a couple of Scooby Do’s, flowers, cowboys, pantomime horses, clowns, animals, and a couple of Minions from Despicable Me.

I’m happy!

There was a Mexican wrestler, a man with a bike on his back, a man singing on a Karaoke machine as he ran along (I’ll bet he didn’t keep that up for 13 miles) and even Walter White from Breaking Bad was running, finally making it into the mainstream.

Man with a bike on his back

One old lady dressed as Minnie mouse was running for St Oswalds’ hospice.She has run in every event since it started and has been wearing the same costume for the past 22 years. I just hope it’s had a trip to the dry cleaners in between.

Tigger gets his bounce back

All kinds of charities benefit from this explosion of generosity.. The Antony Nolan Trust, Macmillan, Marie Curie, Breast Cancer, Diabetes UK, the RSPCA, the Dogs Trust, Freeman Heart hospital. Barnados, Leukemia Research, Sue Ryder. It goes on. Everyone has their own charity that is dear to their hearts for some, often very personal, reason.
The Royal Marines were there celebrating 350 years. It was a bit of an easy exercise for some of them, they even ran in standard issue boots rather than trainers. Fine physical specimens, they looked like they’d just had a stroll in the park. The Royal Marines motto is Per Mare, Per Terrampare –  by sea and by land – so I guess this qualifies as the by land bit.. Running for bereaved families and injured veterans, they led off the race.

I wonder why I took this picture..

At the end of the race at South Shields most people were checking their watches and looking relieved that they had made it to the finish line. Some who had found it tough were helped over the line by fellow runners but they still made it.
A record number of people took part this year, and there’s no doubt that this is something positive to do as a mass participation event.

What a happy bunny!

The opening ceremony was on Thursday night held at the quayside across our beautiful bridges. This space across the two banks of the mighty Tyne is now becoming one of the world’s great Arenas. There was poetry and spectacle and music and fireworks. ‘Where we’ve been is only to prepare us for where we’re going..’ So true.
The Great North Run is a unique combination of outstanding athletes and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is a good example of how sport can be truly inclusive. You may not be able to run thirteen miles in under two hours but you can do it quite slowly, dressed as Elvis, and raise some money for charity along the way. It puts the North East in the spotlight in a good way and the thought did actually cross my mind for a brief moment that I may even do it myself next year. But only for a moment – so for the rest of you – just keep on running!

Go for it!