Local Hero – John Maughan

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Since the very beginning, the Great North Run has been a celebration of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 

This year, the event is celebrating everyday heroes, people who give back to their communities and inspire those around them with their dedication and perseverance. 

John Maughan is a member of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, a search and rescue unit along the sea front at South Shields which covers the entire finish area of the Simplyhealth Great North Run.

Just three volunteer life brigades remain in the country  – including South Shields – and John will be running in his first ever Simplyhealth Great North Run to raise funds for and awareness of the registered charity.

John also works full-time alongside his duties as a life brigade volunteer, which he joined almost five years ago after seeing a post about them on social media.

He takes his role in his stride, saying: “It’s second nature, I don’t talk about it a lot. My family are quite proud that I am involved, they’re very supportive of it. It’s not something we discuss when I get home, I just go down, do my job and go home.

“We are up to 70 callouts this year which I think is a record.

“The middle of the night’s not a good one to get a shout, when your phone goes off and you don’t know where you are. They’re the worst ones, especially in the winter, when you’re jumping around, de-icing the car and coming down here.

“The one that stands out to me the most was when a young lad went over the cliffs, he had fell quite a way. Me and the captain went down the bottom and we found him on the bottom of the rocks and he was in a bit of a mess. We managed to get the lifeboat round and rescued him.

“That was quite a good one, he was only a young boy. That sticks out in my mind because it turned out alright in the end.

“It’s massively satisfying, especially when you get a good outcome. You just feel a kind of euphoria if there’s a good outcome.”

Tom Fennelly, honorary secretary South Shields Honorary Life Brigade, paid tribute to John who has grown to be a valued member of the brigade.

He said: “It’s fantastic to have people like John in the organisation.

“It’s always a great challenge to help the brigade to function. We have had peaks and troughs of interest, there was a time in the mid-1960s when there was talk of the brigade folding because there were no longer any shipwrecks.

“Our focus then switched to cliff rescue and search and rescue, we have been on the up ever since. There have been times when we could have done with a few more people but we have never failed to answer a call.

“As a registered charity we are constantly seeking running costs so that we can maintain our buildings and equipment, we’re very grateful to the local authority and local clubs and businesses.

“The Great North Run obviously finishes here in South Shields, and it’s wonderful that John like other members in the past, has decided to do it and raise funds and awareness for the brigade. Extra funds are always welcome here.

“As it happens, on Great North Run day this building is always open, to take advantage of the large numbers of people that are here, and it’s open this year as part of the local heritage open days scheme.

“We’re really pleased that we’ll get a double whammy of publicity through both events. Having one of our own members running in his own right, raising funds for the brigade will attract even more support from members, friends and supporters, and we’ll be doing our best to ensure that he raises a canny sum of money.

“John has been very typical of those who come and stay. He’s a very quiet, shy and reserved man, but he’s very rapidly become one of the brigade team, he’s joined in with the social activities and various other activities which the brigade get up to in fundraising.

“He’s a great supporter of our annual river trip which is a great fundraiser. He’s a great member of our socialising team and it’s really wonderful that all aspects of being a member of the brigade are embodied in John.

“He’s a great example of the kind of person we want, someone who is prepared to do the hard stuff, the training, the operational requirements such as jumping up in the middle of the night to attend a call to someone in distress, but also helping to raise funds as well.”

Living in South Tyneside means you are never too far away from the Simplyhealth Great North Run, and the half marathon has captured John’s imagination in the past having applied for it four times.

He said: “It’s my first Great North Run. I’ve applied for it four times and it’s the first time that I’ve been successful. I’m looking forward to it.

“Training has been hard, I’m 50 years old now so it’s not easy, believe me. I’m getting there, and I’m sure I’ll do it.”

Simplyhealth Great North Run is live on BBC One on Sunday 9 September, 09:30-13:30. For more information on the Simplyhealth Great North Run, visit: Greatrun.org/North