No matter the weather, people line the streets from Newcastle to Gateshead to South Shields – in the pouring rain to the blistering sunshine – they cheer you on.
No matter the weather, people line the streets from Newcastle to Gateshead to South Shields – in the pouring rain to the blistering sunshine – they cheer you on. They hand out oranges, sweets and cups of juice. They pat you on your back and call you by your name. These people make the Great North Run what it is.
Sunday the 7th September 2014 will be a landmark for the Great North Run as one of the 56,000 runners will cross the finishing line as the millionth finisher. It’s a remarkable feat of astonishing progress from 1981 when it was advertised as a local fun run and there were just 12,000 competitors.
Thirty-three years later professional athletes from all over the world, including this year Mo Farah, join the thousands of average Joes running the 13.1 miles. Millions of pounds is raised for charities each year, this year I’m once again donning my running shoes for the Alzheimer’s Society (donate if you wish to!) – just one of the great charities who raise thousands on the day.
Places for the run are snapped up quickly. The demand is huge.
But what is so special about the Great North Run?
It’s hard to understand unless you’ve actually ran it. Words don’t quite do it justice. As a Geordie I wasn’t aware of its importance to the North East and the global attraction is carries, until I ran it for myself.
I never watched the coverage. Never took an interest. But now this will be my forth outing and now I plan to do it each year until my legs can’t carry me.
For local runners there is something special about running over the Tyne Bridge as the Red Arrows light up the skies above, something that makes you proud about your city and your region.
The little things like running through the tunnel near the beginning of the race shouting “oggy oggy oi oi!” or the Hi5's from the kids on the pavement, really make it special.
You’re often running for someone, perhaps in the memory of someone and the on the day, you’re running with a family of 56,000, with thousands more extended family members cheering you on from the side of the road.
Difficult but worthwhile
The atmosphere is something unprecedented. It makes the day and without that atmosphere the event wouldn’t be what it is today. Many people who travel up from the rest of the UK, especially those who are doing so for the first time, are overwhelmed at the people on the roadside.
The numbers often four deep surprise those first time runners and without a doubt help them break through the metaphorical wall that many hit at about the eight mile point, and then many come back every year largely thanks to those people.
I have no shame in admitting that without the crowd cheering me on – I’d struggle to fight onto the end.
Of course it’s no easy take: 13.1 miles. It takes training and commitment but you reap the benefits of that – you get fit and you feel better for it.
But more than anything, the whole day is like a drug. When you cross the finishing line, your legs may be hurting and your whole body aching but you know you’ll be here again next year.
So if there is one thing I recommend you do while your legs and lungs still can, no matter where you’re from in the world, sign up for the Great North Run.
Let the North East welcome you in a way that only we can and let us show you what we have to offer. The Great North Run is just the tip of the ice berg.
What do you think? Are you participating? Have your say in the comments section below.