Every year, hundreds of voluneers give up their time to work tirelessy at the Great North Run; giving the biggest cheers on the course, welcoming runners into the charity village and even organising the baggage buses on the start line.
This year, they're taking the opportunity to run the virtual version of Britain's biggest running event on Sunday 13th September, and for some it's their very first half marathon.
Here, we meet some of the volunteers who are lacing up their trainers to take on the challenge…
Zoe Thompson – Cats Protection
Zoe is no stranger to the Great North Run, having run it once before, but these days you're more likely to find her at the Cats Protection cheering point at mile 5, supporting and taking photos of their runners.
She said: “The best thing about volunteering is seeing the runners' beaming faces when they hear you cheering their name. It gives them a spurt of energy to keep going and in turn it gives you the energy to keep cheering until the very last runner has passed by. Also it's a lot of fun to get to use a megaphone!”
This year Zoe will take on the Virtual Great North Run to fundraise for her local Cats Protection branch, after they have suffered with funding during the covid pandemic.
Christine Mellor – Water Aid
Volunteer veteran Christine has been welcoming runners into the charity village at the finish line for 10 years; greeting them with cheers, sweaty hugs and well deserved cups of tea and chocolate bars.
For her 10th anniversary and the Great North Run's 40th year, Christine had hoped to experience it from the other side, but will take on the virtual version instead.
She said: “I'm not a natural runner, I'm slower than a snail running through peanut butter, but I will make it around the 13.1 miles of my own Great North Run route. And like the runners I welcome back each year I will also be fundraising for WaterAid.”
After running the early Great North Runs, including the very first one in 1981, Dave turned his hand to volunteering, and for the last three decades has been a huge support to the course team on the day of the run.
He takes on any job that comes his way, from picking up injured elite athletes to putting up signage and cones, and these days you will find Dave somewhere on the John Reid Road.
The Virtual Great North Run is Dave's chance to be on the other side once again and he'll be taking on the 13.1 mile challenge.
Great North Run day is a busy one for John, who has not only run every single event since it started in 1981, but for the last 30 years has arrived early to volunteer at the baggage busses on the start line.
Even after suffering a cardiac arrest whilst training in 2019, in which he died for 14 minutes before paramedics revived him, he bounced back to walk the Great North Run a mere three months later.
Since he's never missed a Great North Run, he's not going to start now, and will complete his virtual run around his village.
Fliss Hunter-Nott – Stroke Association
Fliss has looked after the Stroke Association cheer bus for the last two years, but now the first-time runner is putting down her megaphone and lacing up her trainers as she prepares to run her first half marathon.
As part of her day job, Fliss works tirelessly to support stroke survivors to connect with one another, reduce social isolation and develop a peer support network, so she knows how important fundraising is to the charity sector at the moment.
She wouldn't call herself a runner, but she is determined to complete the Virtual Great North Run this year.
Lee Walker – Tyneside and Northumberland Mind
Since 2016, community fundraiser Lee has been supporting runners from aboard the cheer bus at the 12 mile mark on Great North Run day. Always willing to go the extra mile, quite literally, every year Lee walks up to 13 miles between the cheer bus and the Mind charity marquee at the finish line; getting refreshments for runners, offering post-run support and even giving runners a lift home!
This year she is walking the Virtual Great North Run with two volunteers from Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, a local charity that provides mental health support and services throughout the region, which needs to raise as much as possible to help these services continue.
Lee said: “I will be walking the Virtual GNR. I am training now, I live in Morpeth and am doing regular walks most evenings, around 4 miles but am up to 7 and 8 miles on weekend walks. I am looking forward to experiencing the usual race day buzz for myself.”
The Virtual Great North Run will see runners all over the world complete 13.1 miles on 13th September, the day the 40th staging was scheduled to take place.
Working with app provider viRace, organisers have created a unique running experience that uses iconic sounds from the event to take the runner on a Great North Run journey on their doorstep. The app will highlight popular course features, provide distance updates and play motivational messages through the runners' headphones as they take on the challenge anywhere in the world.
The Virtual Great North Run is free to enter and open to everyone, regardless of whether they had a place in this year's event, and participants are encouraged to raise money for charity.