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Run for your lives! (And the lives of others)

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 24 April 2018
Related property: Lucker Hall
Run for your lives! (And the lives of others)

If British distance running can be said to have seasons, then spring and summer are Marathon Season (for which the recent London Marathon fired the starting pistol), while autumn and winter belong to cross-country.

But one race which arguably ushers out the former with a last hurrah before allowing the latter its place in the (watery, winter) sun is the Great North Run, held every September (or occasionally October). Spanning 13.1 miles between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and South Shields, the Great North Run is the biggest half-marathon race in the world.

Dreamed up in 1981 by British former distance runner and Olympic 10,000-metre bronze medal winner Brendan Foster, the first Great North Run (promoted as a local, fun, event) was held in June and attracted 12,000 entrants.

Today, in its autumn slot, the event draws almost five times that number, in popularity easily eclipsing both London and Manchester.

As with marathons and half-marathons elsewhere, the Great North Run attracts many elite athletes – world-famous names at the top of their game. Mary Keitany, soundly beaten in the London Marathon on 22nd April 2018, remains the proud holder of the women’s record for the course: 65 minutes and 39 seconds, set in 2014. Paula Radcliffe, from whom Keitany took the record by a margin of one second, has won it twice. Last year, Mo Farah became the first athlete to win the event four times in a row. Other notable entrants and winners include Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie, while surely putting them all in the shade is Tanni Grey-Thompson, who has won the women’s wheelchair race no fewer than eight times. No wonder she’s a Dame.

But the professionals are vastly outnumbered by the amateurs. Some are club runners, others regularly jog for the exercise, but many, many more are doing it for charity: raising money for a host of good causes; either running for one or more of the Great North Run’s own official charity partners (and there are hundreds of them); or for a cause (or causes) close to the entrant’s heart.

While there are other events organised by the Great Run Company (the organisation behind the Great North Run), this one event pulls in over 50% of the group’s annual charity revenue: in 2016 the Great North Run was responsible for £26m of the Great Run Company’s total charity receipts for the year.

If you’re going to be holidaying at beautiful Lucker Hall on 9th September 2018 and fancy taking part in this fantastic event, I have less-than-good news. At the time of writing, all of the 57,000 official places have been taken, and while there might be places available through the Great Run Company’s partner charities (click here to view), a few quick clicks yielded no reward.

But it’s a great day out for spectators too. If you want to come along and see some of the best athletes in the world do their thing, and lend your support to the brave souls trailing in their wake (while raising serious amounts of cash for good causes), head for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Parking is likely to be difficult in the city centre, but car parks in the suburbs should be easy, and free all day on Sunday. Newcastle’s public transport system is famously good, so you should have no trouble catching a bus to and from the scene of the action.

And if what you see inspires you to take part next year, be sure to check in to the Great North Run website early in 2019. This year’s general entry ballot opened on 3rd January.

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Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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