Great North Run Unveils Prestigious World Athletics Heritage Plaque on 43rd Birthday

On Friday 28 June 2024 we are celebrating Great North Run’s 43rd birthday, and the unveiling of the prestigious World Athletics Heritage Plaque the Great North Run was awarded at the start of this year.

Founder Sir Brendan Foster, and Cherry Alexander, Vice President of European Athletics were joined by special guests from Great North Run’s incredibly inspiring history to unveil the prestigious World Athletics Heritage Plaque, including the first male winner from 1981, Mike McLeod, and the millionth finisher from 2014, Tracey Cramond.


To mark the day, runners from Great Run’s past and present were invited to join us for a 4k shakeout run setting off along the Quayside, before finishing back at The Great Run Company offices for some birthday cake. Runners were given a commemorative t-shirt, and the run was led by local running group Hii RunClub with 100 runners joining the celebratory shakeout run.

A chance to meet fellow runners, celebrate the Great North Run, and fit in a training run as we are just over one week to go until the Great North 10k and 11 weeks to go until the Great North Run.

About the World Athletics Heritage Plaque

Launched by World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe, the award is in recognition of ‘an outstanding contribution to the worldwide history and development of the sport.’

Sir Brendan Foster, Founder and President of The Great Run Company, said: “This accolade is only awarded to truly great athletes, stadia and events, and so we are profoundly honoured that the Great North Run is now among this select group. It’s recognition of 40+ years dedication to making it a truly world class event that stands apart from all others.  Along the way we have welcomed the sport’s greatest athletes alongside over 1.25m runners.

“We captured the imagination of our runners and the North East region, who year on year join us to do something extraordinary – raising an estimated £25 million in charitable donations. 60,000 runners take part in the Great North Run each year, travelling from every UK postcode and across the globe, and our attention is set on delivering another spectacular event on September 8.”

The Great North Run is the only half marathon to receive the accolade and is in the company of the Berlin, Boston and London Marathons, to name a few. It’s a fantastic award for the North East and recognition that will be shared between Newcastle, Gateshead, South Tyneside and the North East Combined Authority, with each authority receiving their own plaque to display on the Great North Run route.


Inspiring participants from over the years joined us to celebrate receiving the World Athletics Heritage Plaque and to join the 43rd birthday celebrations:   

  • Sir Brendan Foster – Founder and Chairman, the Great North Run was the inspiration of Sir Brendan Foster, 1976 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist and world record breaker at 3000m and two miles.
  • Cherry Alexander OBE, Vice President at European Athletics, Chair of Event/Competition Commission – for over 40 years, Cherry has forged a career in staging major athletics events in the UK, starting out as one of the original team at the Great North Run in 1981, and has had a central role in the bidding for and hosting of global events for UK Athletics.
  • Representatives from the Great North Run’s All Timers club, runners who have participated in all stagings of the run, including Alistair Dickson who will bring every medal from the last 42 years.
  • Carole Heppel has volunteered at every Great North Run as drink station leader, as part of her involvement with the South Tyneside Scouts.
  • Graham Ravenhall and Derick Jackson joined in with their lifesize Tyne Bridge, which they have ran the Great North Run with, and will do so again this year, to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
  • Vanessa Adair represented Grenada as part of our 2016 ‘Great World Run’ campaign where we highlighted runners in the North East and aimed to be the first running event to boast a participant from every member state of the United Nations – a total of 193 countries. We attracted entrants from 178 different countries, the most countries ever represented in a single running event in history.
  • Tracey Cramond – upon completing the 2014 Great North Run, Tracey was told she was the events official millionth finisher.  Making the Great North Run the first running event of its kind to welcome a millionth finisher over the finish line. 10 years on Tracey joined us to help us relive this inspiring moment in our history.
  • Mike McLeod is the winner of the first Great North Run in 1981, the Elswick Harrier crossed the line in 63 minutes 23 seconds – at that time the fastest time ever achieved for a half marathon in Great Britain. Mike went on to win the Great North Run again in 1982.  Before competing for Great Britain in the 1984 Summer Olympics where he won the silver medal, as well as a bronze medal for England at the Commonwealth Games in 1978.   

There are limited charity places still available to take part in this year’s Great Noth Run on September 8. Find out more here.