Everything you need to know about The great north run.

When tens of thousands of hardy competitors set off in this weekend’s Bupa Great North Run, they’ll be taking part in what is now an annual sporting institution. Countless runners have trod the demanding 13-mile Newcastle to South Shields course, and the event has expanded massively since the first ‘fun run’ 33 years ago.

Devised by Olympic medalist Brendan Forster in 1981, the Great North Run is now the largest half marathon in the world. Foster was inspired after running in the Round the Bays Race in New Zealand and decided to bring something similar over to his home town. The winner in 1981 was Elswick Harrier Mike McLeod in 63 minutes, with Foster finishing 20th. McLeod then went on to win silver in the Los Angeles Olympics 10,000 metres.
Forster commented after the first run: “It’s been a great day for the region – and a privilege to be there. We have no choice. We’ll have to have another one next year.”
Next weekend there is also a host of Great North Run events, including a mini run, a pasta party, and the Great North City Games, before Sunday’s main event which will welcome a record 56,000 runners.
The Chronicle reported on the spectacular event in late June, 1981: “Crowds estimated at between 250,000 and 500,000 turned out to watch the 12,264 runners on the route from Newcastle to South Shields seafront, making it Britain’s biggest road race.
One of the region’s fondest memories of the Great North Run, was the participation of Newcastle United legend Kevin Keegan, who ran in a specially-made black and white and red striped shirt.
Keegan was playing for Southampton at the time he did the run, however the following year he signed for Newcastle United and become a Toon legend as a player and later still as a manager.
Keegan was running for charity and had told the Chronicle: “The people up here have been wonderful to me, but the person I really did it for was Charlie Bear (a new cancer charity at the time). I’m just glad to be able to help such a good cause.”
Keegan finished a respectable 490th, a feat which cost the footballer nearly £250 as he had vowed to pay 50p to the charity for every runner who beat him.
Another Geordie legend Paul Gascoigne pushed a wheelchair athlete all the way round the Great North Run circuit, in a heart-warming act of respect.
This year, a paralysed woman who completed the London Marathon in a “bionic” suit has her sights set on completing the Great North Run. A former horse rider, she broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse threw her off as she took part in the Osberton Horse Trials in Nottinghamshire and was paralysed from the chest down. Claire Lomas will be the first person to take on the Great North Run using a robotic suit. She began the event on Wednesday, five days before the run starts, and will complete the final mile on Sunday.
Writing in a blog she said: “My accident was an eventing accident. Horses take up your life. I’d just got to the highest level in the sport about eight months before and it was such a big loss for me.
“But as much as I loved it, it stopped me doing other things so since then life has opened new doors for me.
“I always wanted to do the Great North Run because it looks amazing, with a brilliant atmosphere.”
Lomas has inspired thousands after completing the London marathon through her sheer determination and desire.
Who’s taking part in the run on Sunday? Get yourself some sport sunglasses to enhance your performance that little bit more.