THE Great North Run's search for a representative from every country in the world to take part in the iconic half marathon is on track for success, with less than six months to go until the big day.
The Great World Run initiative was launched in February, with event organisers The Great Run Company seeking a runner from all 193 United Nations member states to take part in the 13.1-mile run from Newcastle to South Shields on September 11.
And the response – just a month after the plan was revealed – has been emphatic. Moldova is the latest country to be announced, leaving just 50 countries remaining to be represented on the start line in September.
The former Soviet republic becomes the 143rd country to boast a representative at the Great North Run, following in the footsteps of countries such as Rwanda, Antigua, Paraguay and Somalia all to announce in the last few weeks.
Togo, Iceland, Mali, Mozambique, Palau and Ivory Coast are among the nations yet to be represented.
“Last year we had runners from every single postcode in the UK, which makes it Britain's biggest and favourite run,” said Great Run chief executive, Mark Hollinshead.
“By inviting participants from every single country on the planet, it will reassert its credentials as the world's favourite run.
“We're inviting the people of the United Kingdom to help us find those runners which will make it a spectacular event.
“It's an event that over its history has celebrated lots of firsts, including the greatest road race in history in 2013 with Kenenisa Bekele, Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie, and the first event in the world to have a million finishers.
“This year, we'll hopefully celebrate the fact that there's someone born in every country on the planet in one place, on one day, in the same event which will make it a world first.”
From Albania to Zambia, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, from Angola to Vanuatu, the route will carry flags from all 193 UN member states and will be transformed into a carnival of colour.
The Great North CityGames, Junior and Mini Great North Runs and the Great North 5k held on Saturday, September 10, will be accompanied by a food festival with dishes from around the world on offer.
And there will be interactive digital and social media elements leading up to and on the day of the event using the hashtag #GNRWorldRun.
It is the latest stage in the development of the Great North Run, 35 years on from its first staging in 1981, where 12,000 people took part.
In 2014, Tracey Cramond, from County Durham, was the millionth finisher over the line.
And, according to research produced by Bluegrass, the Great North Run has had a positive economic benefit of almost £24 million for the region, excluding the additional benefits associated with TV coverage.
It was also found that 52% of visitors attending the event left with a more positive view of the region than before they arrived and 93% rated it as a good or excellent place to visit.
All applicants will be requested to supply proof of their nationality before being accepted into the event, and a dedicated email address – email@example.com – has been set up to handle enquiries from anyone who could be eligible.
To find out more about the World's Favourite Run campaign, visit greatrun.org/gnrworldrun or contact on social media using #GNRWorldRun.