It’s September, the banners are in place, sponsorship forms have been signed and blister packs have been cleared from supermarket shelves. It can only mean one thing, Britain’s favourite half marathon returns as thousands of participants will be making the gruelling journey from Newcastle to South Shields in the Great North Run.
For many, including myself, the Great North Run is an event that we always promise ourselves we will take part in next year, and no doubt I’ll do the same next year! Thirteen miles is no easy feat, especially for a 400m runner who usually can’t stand after one lap of the track. It takes a lot of metal for a first timer to actually complete the application form and commit to the cause. Even if an applicant is completing their 20th run, it’s still not something to take lightly. They will be all too aware of the pain that is endured throughout and which sections of the course are the most troublesome, so hats off to them for going back for more!
Initiated by Brendan Foster, the Great North Run first began with just twelve thousand participants. At the grand old age of 32, the half marathon expects as many as fifty five thousand people to take to the streets, and produce that magnificent backdrop over the Tyne Bridge that has captivated audiences for years. Runners travel from far and wide to take part in such a spectacular event, which raises funds for hundreds, if not thousands of charities. Many also apply to take part in order to honour the memory of a loved one, and what an amazing tribute it is. The festival atmosphere that is created each year makes an otherwise daunting prospect fully enjoyable (at least until the running starts), and through the hype created it is often forgotten that it is also a competitive event for the elite athletes.
Not only does the Great North Run raise a fantastic amount of money for many wonderful causes, there are few better ways to test not only your fitness, but also your strength of character when the inevitable ‘wall’ finally hits. It’s a great way to encourage current exercise enthusiasts to push themselves further, and inspire others to invest in some lycra and give it a go.
Every person that chooses to take part is a winner, and I’m sure they don’t need a medal to let them know that. The feeling of relief as the South Shields shoreline approaches or the pride at crossing the finish line must be one of the greatest, most empowering feelings known to man.  Long may the Great North Run continue to flourish, and allow people to reap the benefits for years to come. Good luck to everyone taking part this weekend, and maybe I’ll see you there next year! Or maybe the year after that…