One of the founders of the Great North Run, Johnny Trainor, has passed away at the age of 66 after a long illness.

Johnny was a talented athlete in his early days and ran for Gateshead Harriers, regularly winning age group races on Tyneside. Coached by the inimitable Stan Long, in the mid 1960's he won the North of England Cross Country championship in the 15 year old age group.

It was through his love of athletics that Johnny became friends and running rivals with Brendan Foster, John Caine, Max Coleby and Dave Roberts.

Initially working as a team on events in the 1970's, the five of them came together to create the Great North Run in 1981, little knowing that they were to create such a hugely successful half marathon now known across the world.

When Brendan Foster started working at Nike in the mid 1980's, the rest of the team joined him. Johnny was to remain at Nike for the remainder of his working life.

Brendan said: "I had the pleasure of running against, working with, and being friends with Johnny over many decades. His contribution to the Great North Run was considerable and I know he took huge pride in its success."

John Caine recalls working with Johnny in the first days of the Great North Run.

“In pre-computerised results days, Johnny and I worked on a manual recording system to generate finisher positions and times for the thousands of Great North Runners, It was a sophisticated, labour intensive system that even accommodated start line delays into the end result. As Finish Director it was Johnny's responsibility to implement and control this system, as well as design the overall finish management structure. The end product was very successful and his dedication was so thorough that he was invited by the London Marathon organisers to relocate and redesign their finish layout following the shambolic conclusion to their first event in 1981. Therefore from 1982 to 1984 he was the Finish Director of the two biggest running events in Britain!

“It's testament to his efforts that apart from growth in numbers, nothing has changed in the Great North Run finish layout since he planned it in the 1980's.”

Fellow founder Max Coleby says: "Johnny was a very well-known figure in North East of England distance running circles - always a tough rival but also a great bloke to work with who always raised a smile.  He will be fondly remembered by all who knew him who recognise his contribution to the sport he loved."

Dave Roberts, the youngest of the five, has fond memories of Johnny too.

“I'll always remember Johnny as a friend and colleague and the ‘Peter Pan' of the team with a great sense of humour to go with his boyish good looks!”

“Time passes by so quickly, he will be greatly missed.”