The Stage is Set for the 40th Great North Run

GNR40 will be a landmark occasion for world’s biggest half marathon

On Sunday 12 September the Great North Run, presented by ExpressTest by Cignpost, will mark a momentous milestone as the world’s biggest half marathon finally celebrates its 40th staging. GNR40, which was postponed last year due to Covid restrictions, will bring 57,000 runners together to mark four decades of the iconic event this weekend.

Sir Brendan Foster, along with his team of original founders, staged the first ever Great North Run on a sunny day in June, 1981. From day one the Great North Run was breaking records, with around 12,000 runners lining up on the central motorway it instantly became, and remains to this day, the UK’s biggest mass participation running event. 

Since 1981 there have been 1.2 million finishers, the event now raises around £25M for charity each year and contributes around £31m to regional economy.

Sir Brendan said, “It’s a privilege for me to be here talking about the 40th Great North Run, and I’m only able to do that because of the way the event has been embraced by the people of the North East.

“Since the very beginning the Great North Run has been an unapologetic celebration of ordinary people doing extraordinary things – it embodies everything that’s great about the region; our grit, determination and sense of community.

“That support has elevated the event to one of the best in the world, welcoming runners, elite and amateur, from across the globe.

“If you’d told me 40 years ago this is where we’d be I would have found it hard to believe, I can’t wait to see what the next 40 years bring.”

This year’s event will also pay tribute to the heroes of the pandemic. The Great North Thank You Campaign, with support of proud partner HSBC, will feature 13 inspirational individuals in a large-scale visual installation along the route of the course.

Four of those heroes, local NHS Staff, will also be the event’s official starters. Dr Mickey Jachuck a Consultant Cardiologist from South Tyneside District Hospital, Senior Sister Jade Trewick from the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Community Staff Nurse Dorathy Oparaeche and Deborah Southworth Occupational Health Team Lead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, will have the honour of officially setting runners on their way.

Things will be a little different this year, and for the first time the course will start and finish in Newcastle City Centre, there will also be changes to the start in order to keep runners as safe as possible on the day.

Chief Executive Paul Foster explained, “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to stage this the event, despite the uncertainty surrounding pandemic restrictions at the start of the year which meant many events of this scale were postponed or cancelled. 

“We have been working in close consultation with our partners in Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyneside councils, with local Public Health Directors, transport providers, local NHS and other stakeholders, and we thank them all for their strong support for the Great North Run.” 

Joining the masses, a competitive elite field will also be in attendance. It will be all change in the elite races in 2021 – on a brand-new course, there will be two first-time winners over the 13.1mile distance.

Eilish McColgan makes her half marathon debut on Tyneside this weekend, having excelled at 5,000m and 10,000m. The 30-year-old Scot, who represented Great Britain in last month’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, stepped up to the 10-mile distance for 2019’s Great South Run and took a memorable victory on the South Coast. McColgan, the Scottish 5,000m record holder, will be gunning for victory in a race previously won by her mum, Liz.

McColgan will be up against two-time Olympic medallist Hellen Obiri and American Molly Seidel, who competes in her first Great North Run just a month after taking a sensational bronze medal in the Olympic marathon in Sapporo.

In the men’s race, Bashir Abdi will be looking to upgrade his third place achieved in 2018 at the Great North Run with victory at the weekend. The Somali-born Belgian, a training partner of six-time winner Sir Mo Farah, was a bronze medallist in the Olympic marathon in Sapporo last month.

Abdi will face stiff competition from another of Farah’s training partners with American Galen Rupp also confirmed for the race. The 35-year-old memorably finished second to Farah at the 2012 London Olympics 10,000m final, before stepping up to the marathon at Rio 2016 where he took bronze.

Rupp, with a half-marathon PB of 59.47, finished eighth in the Olympic marathon in Sapporo last month, three minutes behind champion Eliud Kipchoge.

Marc Scott, this year’s top ranked British athlete at 5000m, 10000m and half marathon will make his Great North Run debut, chasing another PB and a first sub 60’ half. The Richmond and Zetland Harrier represented Great Britain in Tokyo, finishing sixth in the 10,000m final in the Olympic Stadium. In 2019, Scott took an impressive victory over 10 miles in the Great South Run in Portsmouth.

In the wheelchair race, Shelly Woods will be looking to add to her six Great North Run victories this weekend, while Simon Lawson is confirmed for the men’s race. The Cumbrian last tasted victory on Tyneside in 2017.

All the action gets underway on Friday night with the Great North 5K starting the party at 6PM, before the Junior Mini Great North Run will see thousands of young runners lining up on the Quayside on Saturday.

This year’s Great North Run will be televised live on BBC Two between 09:00 – 10:00 before coverage moves over to BBC One until 13:30.