What began as an idea, captured the imagination of a region, and went on to become the biggest half marathon in the world.
GNR40 Heritage tells the story of the run and the region.

Over the last four decades the Great North Run has become an inextricable part of the fabric of North East life. A badge of honour, a source of pride and the ultimate celebration of all that makes us great; perseverance, determination and a lot of heart.

As the run celebrates its landmark 40th staging, GNR40 Heritage will tell the history of this iconic event and the region that made it great. A lot has changed since 1981, but like the race itself, the North East keeps moving forward.

The project, funded by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, will shine a light on the region, its places and people, through the story of the Great North Run.

Our feature film ‘GREAT NORTH: A Run, A River, A Region’ connects the experiences of real runners with incredible archive footage that brings those memories to life. Narrated by award winning local actress Gina McKee, the film also includes interviews with lots of local legends including; Sting, Alan Shearer and Ant & Dec.

Throughout 2021 we’re also working with communities along the route of the run to gather memories and develop new creative responses to the heritage of the Great North Run. Those stories will be available to the general public in libraries and leisure centers closer to the event itself in September.

There’s still an opportunity to be a part of GNR40 Heritage, find out more about how you can share your memories of the Great North Run and the North East over the last 40 years.

See the Film

Great North: The Run, The River, The Region.

Book Tickets

Tickets for public screenings of Great North: A Run, A River, A Region at Customs House, South Shields (Fri 17 – Wed 29 Sep), ODEON Gateshead (Sat 19 Sep), and ODEON Silverlink (Tues 21 Sep)  are on sale now.

See the exhibition

As part of our GNR40 Heritage celebrations, we’ve made a special 10-minute taster of GREAT NORTH, screening for free in venues across Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyneside over the Race Day weekend and beyond.

The display at St Mary’s Heritage Centre also includes an exhibition of archive photographs from the race and the region over the last 40 years.

Details of venues are below, click through for dates and opening times.

Image courtesy of The Chronicle image library.

Share Your Memories

Everyone has a story about the Great North Run. Whether it’s family legend, your own personal triumph or memories of that special day in the calendar when you join your local community to create an unforgettable atmosphere, driving runners along the course, mile after mile. We want you to be part of GNR40 Heritage. We’re asking anyone with a story to tell, to send us their favourite memories of the last forty years.

How has the run impacted your life? What are the biggest changes you’ve seen along the course and around the event over the last four decades? How have the people involved in the event changed alongside it? And what stays the same?

Whether you’re a runner, volunteer or spectator we want to hear from you. Anyone who submits a story by midnight on Sunday 5th September will be in with the chance to win two tickets to the premiere of GREAT NORTH in Newcastle on Wednesday 8 September and a bundle of exclusive GNR40 merchandise.

Your submissions will be shared via the Great North Run social media pages and published on the GNR40 Heritage web page, to form a permanent reminder of the first forty years of the Great North Run. They will be offered to Local Family & History libraries and archives in South Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead and also provide content for digital skills training for volunteers and through our community engagement programme. (If you are not happy for your content to be used in any of the above ways, please do not submit it. Please also ensure that anyone else who features in your submission is happy to be included.) Please see Terms and Conditions for full details.

We have a selection of pre-set topics for you to film about, so all you need to do is record your memories and share with us.

Runner/Family member of a runner

What was your favourite Great North Run, your first? Your last? Your Fastest? Your Slowest? Tell us about your Great North Run experience. When was it? What was the crowd like? What was the landscape like? What were people wearing? What was happening in your life at the time?

If you’ve done the event more than once we’d love to hear about the changes you’ve seen in the region and along the course over the years and how your life has changed over that time.


Tell us about how long have you been volunteering at the Great North Run? Do you always do the same role? What keeps you coming back? How have the runners changed over the years?

We’d love to hear about race day from your perspective and what the event means to you.


Is cheering on the runners in your community an annual event? What does it mean to your local area to be on the course of the Great North Run? Do you have any special traditions, do you provide snacks or drinks for the runners?

What is your favourite memory of the event? How has the event, the runners and your local community changed over the years?

Submission Guide

We’ve set up a special app called SeenIt to make sharing your memories with us as easy as possible. If you don’t want to use the app you can email digital photos, or photos of photographic prints taken on your phone, along with a short paragraph about your memories to,, with the subject line ‘GNR40 Heritage Project’. Don’t forget to include your contact details to be in with a chance of winning tickets to the premiere of GREAT NORTH!

Here is a quick ‘how to’ guide on how to use the SeenIt Capture app to send in your memories to us.

  • download the app called SeenIt Capture from your smartphone app store (Google Play and App Store). This is completely FREE and takes seconds to download.
  • Once downloaded, you can either sign-up with your email details, or log-in using Facebook – whatever’s easiest for you.
  • Once you’ve signed up, the app will prompt you to join a project. Type in gnr40heritage and you’ll then land on our project page.
  • You will find 3 pre-set topic suggestions for you to film about (details above), whether you’re a runner, volunteer or spectator. Please bear in mind each video should be approximately 45 seconds to a minute long.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO FILM LANDSCAPE NOT PORTRAIT – this means turning your phone on its side so the long side is facing up. (We won’t be able to use video filmed as portrait)

If you would just like to submit an audio recording, simply point your camera towards a blank wall, hit record and talk.

If you have any questions, there’s a messaging service within the app so you can contact us.

View Terms and Conditions for content submissions here.


Kevin Keegan is helped by the British Red Cross after starting off the 1981 Great North Run in his football trainers.

Great North Run 2001. Start of Men's race. Photo by Mark Shearman.

Runners come over the Tyne Bridge, 19th September, 1993.

Benson Masya wins the Great North Run for the fourth time in 1996.

Competitors dressed up to raise money for charity at the start line in 1997.

Celebrities from Emmerdale, The Bill and Heartbeat prepare to start the Great North Run in 2003.

The leading group in the men's race, 4th October 1998.

Diane Roy wins the women's wheelchair race in 2008.

Haile Gebrselassie and Berhane Adere show their trophies after they win the men's and women's races respectively at the Great North Run in 2010.

Britain's Mo Farah after winning the Great North Run for the first time in 2014. Farah has won the Great North Run a total of six times.

Crowds wait to cheer on the runners on the Tyne Bridge, 2014.

Crowds cheer at the finish line in Great North Run finish line South Shields, 2014.

The Red Arrows fly over the Tyne Bridge for the 30th Great North Run in 2010.

Since 2014, Colin Burgin-Plews has completed the Great North Run in a Big Pink Dress raising tens of thousands of pounds for charity. Each weighs around 3st 9lbs.

An elite runner back in the nineties, Jane Eastham now finds that the fitness and exercise from running really helps her with her mental health.

Jodie Wafer’s nana Evelyn was pushed along the Great North Run in her wheelchair in 1985, raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

34 years after her Nana was pushed in her wheelchair over the finish line, Jodie Wafer completes the Great North Run in 2019. She raised £855 for St Barnabas Hospice in Lincoln who looked after her Uncle Barry, and she carried her Nana’s 1985 medal in her belt.

Ross Woods has run every Great North Run since 2004. His favourite was running the iconic race dressed as the equally iconic 1970s TV character Bagpuss. He plans to run every race until his body becomes like Bagpuss, too saggy to continue!

David Bennet completes the Great North Run with daughter Suzie Taylor. To date, David has completed 34 races, most recently at the age of 77. The family including grandson Henry will be racing in 2021.

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