The thirty first Great North Run today was a truly bumper edition. Nearly 40,000 runners set off across the iconic Tyne Bridge and ran 13.1 miles through some not quite as photogenic bits of South Shields to end up at the coast a couple of hours or so later. The winner, Kenyan Wilson Kipsang, did it amazingly in under an hour. Actually about 54,000 people registered to do the run but about 14,000 didn’t actually make it to the starting line. Intentions don’t always turn into reality, anyone will tell you that. Even though I’ve lived in Newcastle for twenty years I’ve never felt moved to enter the run or even go to watch it. Until today. I decided for some reason that I would amble down to the start line and see what all the fuss was about. It is certainly a heartwarming sight to see so many people happily going in the same direction. The red arrows flew overhead as the music swelled. Highway to the Danger Zone from Top Gun blasted out just as they zoomed by trailing coloured smoke. I’ll be your wing man anytime Maverick!
In flight entertainment
Most people, if not serious competitors, seem to do the run for charity and there is certainly a village of charity tents at the end of the race where the many organisations can welcome their benefactors across the finish line, with cakes and warm beverages. I think myself that the real motivator is the chance to do something that feels positive together with large numbers of other people. We are social animals don’t forget, and it is rare we get the opportunity to participate in this kind of mass group effort. After all, we haven’t had a proper war for years. The other thing people like to do is run in fancy dress. I counted three Scooby Dos, a bunch of carrots, three little pigs, some princesses, at least two sets of Batman and Robin, several cavemen the odd incredible Hulk and a large green dragon all in the first few minutes.
Robin emerged from the bat cave
My favourite competitor however has to be Tony Morrison – Fridge Man. The forty eight year old grandfather finished his 30th consecutive half-marathon when he completed the Great North Run with a 40kg fridge strapped to his back. After being cheered all the way, he was met at the finish line by his childhood hero Brendan Foster, the runner who founded the race in 1981 and, like him, is also from Hebburn. He was raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson cancer charity and when asked why he ran the race with a fridge on his back he replied ‘Because the wife wouldn’t let me have the cooker!’ A true British eccentric, Well done Tony!