Closing Date Approaching For Entry Ballot

Great Comeback 3

The clock is ticking as the closing date approaches for the entry ballot of Britain's biggest running event, the Great North Run.

The deadline for prospective entrants to apply to take part in the iconic half marathon from Newcastle to South Shields is midday on Monday 8 February. The event takes place on Sunday 11 September.  

In 2015 Double World and Olympic Champion Mo Farah became the first British male to win back to back Great North Runs since Mike McLeod won the first two events in 1981 and 1982. Although too early in the year to announce the elite field, if Farah returns to Tyneside this year he would have the chance to complete a unique hat-trick of victories.

The Great North Run is, of course, not just for elite runners, with thousands of regular runners pounding the pavements of Tyneside. The emotional, heart-warming and inspiring stories have become a mainstay of the event, with 2016 expected to be a similar story.

One man who is running this year's event is Hartlepool's Phil Holbrook, who is no stranger to the 13.1 mile route from Newcastle to South Shields.

Phil completed his 25th Great North Run last year, two years after almost losing his life in a tragic car accident that killed his wife Sally.

Phil broke 30 bones in the accident which took place just two days before Christmas in 2012 and was in hospital for three months, but he returned to running a year later and took part in his first Great North Run since the accident as part of Team Sally, raising money for the Hartlepool and District Hospice, in 2014.

And last year, Phil joined a team of 13 runners completed the Great North Run for Team Sally, raising more than £5,000 for the hospice, after raising a similar amount 12 months previously.

The 54-year-old has signed up for this year's event after a year in which he completed his first marathon, and hopes to raise even more money in his wife's memory.

“We've raised around £10,000 now, and hopefully we can get more people to join the team,” said Phil.

“The Great North Run has always been special for me but even more so now."

Phil's quarter-century of Great North Runs is something he is very proud of, having thought in 2013 he would never be able to run again.

“It was a major thing for me,” said Phil. “Sally and I had talked about doing it, and I said I'd definitely do 25, and of course, following the accident, I had to put 2013 on hold. I was stuck on 23, so doing 2014 and 2015 was a big thing for me.

“In hospital, the injuries were so bad that I had ten weeks of bed rest, then they got me up and it was a case of learning again how to walk. They sent me home with a wheelchair, crutches and a walking stick. So that was where their heads were. 

“The big thing for me was discovering that I could run again. I was just walking and I thought ‘I'm going to have a go at this'. So I put my shoes on and walked the dog and just started to do a couple of steps, jogging, and I was still standing up. 

“From then it was just on and on.

“The support on the route from start to finish is brilliant, really. There's not that many places where you don't have people standing at the sides, cheering you on. It's something I look forward to.”

First staged in 1981, the Great North Run is televised live on BBC television and across Europe. It attracts runners to the region from every postcode in the UK and is the highlight of a weekend festival of running that includes junior events, the Great North 5k and the Great North CityGames. 

In 2014, Tracey Cramond became the millionth finisher over the line in South Shields, with 57,000 people signing up for the event each year.

The address for registering for the Great North Run ballot is www.greatrun.org/north. Applicants must be aged 17 or over on the day of the event. All successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified by 12 February.