This weekend saw the North East come together for a spectacular celebration of the power of running at the 42nd Great North Run. Together, we gave a fitting farewell to one of running’s greatest ever icons, Sir Mo Farah. We cheered 102-year-old Bill Cooksey across the finish line, and watched on as Keith Turner set the world record as an untethered blind runner.
The power of running was made ever clearer by the ordinary people achieving extraordinary things, whether it be smashing fundraising targets, supporting each other around the course or providing shelter in the unprecedented weather conditions – it was a special weekend filled with moments of determined resilience, immeasurable community kindness and characteristic North East camaraderie. Read on for some of our favourite bits:
One Mo Time – GO Mo GO
Sir Mo Farah, an eternal legend of British running, completed his last competitive race, crossing the finish line to a deafening chorus of cheers, applause, and powder canons – a fitting end to a truly remarkable career. The crowds of supporters lining Mo’s last mile at South Shields waved around signs reading ‘Go Mo Go’ and made sure to get some selfies and shake hands with the man himself. There is simply no better place that Sir Mo could end his career, having won the AJ Bell Great North Run an incredible six times. He was made an honorary Geordie earlier in the week, and Sunday showed how loved he is by all of us. Thanks for the memories, Mo.
An All Star Line-Up
You might have spotted some famous faces at the start, with Newcastle United Manager Eddie Howe kicking off the event, or even on the course itself. Perhaps you saw TV Star and Entrepreneur, Sara Davies, who was raising money for the NHS, or Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, who ran to support homelessness charities. Comedian, Lost Voice Guy aka Lee Ridley also completed the race for the first time and fundraised for Smile For Life, a North East based charity which aims to improve the lives of young people with disabilities and learning difficulties. The AJ Bell Great North Run attracts well-known faces from all around the UK who want to take part in the world’s largest half-marathon, and raise money for amazing causes – did you spot anyone on the day?
An Unbeatable Atmosphere
As runners started to congregate around Claremont Road, it was clear that the AJ Bell Great North Run 2023 was going to be a special one – the sun shining (who could have guessed what was in store for us later on?), the tunes booming and palpable excitement in the air. There’s no feeling quite like the one at the start line, stood alongside 60,000 runners all raring to go.
This year has witnessed some remarkable feats of incredible achievements by local people, and those from further afield too. Chicago-based Jodi Gilmour travelled to the UK to take part in her very first Great North Run and meet run buddy of over a decade, Hebburn-born Toby Horner. Jodi and 10-year-old Toby connected on Facebook group ‘I Run 4’ which matches runners with kids and adults with some type of disability. Since their match, Jodi has dedicated her various races, including runs and triathlons, to Toby, sending him all her race medals and helping raise funds for his equipment online. They met for the first time in person for this year’s event, where Toby completed the Mini Great North 50, helped across the finish line by Jodi, and Jodi completed the half-marathon, cheered across the finish by Toby and his family.
More locally, 102-year-old WWII veteran Bill Cooksey, who has lived in the North East for the past 30 years, completed the half marathon, and raised vital funds for the NHS.
An Extra Special Display by the Red Arrows
On the backdrop of clear blue skies, the Red Arrows streaked across the sky in perfect harmony. We watched from the finish line – the crowds heard the roar of the jets coming in and quickly turned to watch them soar overhead, looping and twisting gracefully over the coast at South Shields. You might have seen them at another point on your run, maybe as they passed over the start line? If not, take a look at this shot!
World Records Set
The AJ Bell Great North Run has long been an event that pushes limits and breaks boundaries, as incredible people attempt to do what has never been done before- and 2023 was no different! Visually impaired runner Keith Turner successfully set a new world record for an untethered blind half-marathon attempt. His guide Jim Roberts helped him along the course by ringing a bell to direct him around. Keith Turner described the feeling of running untethered as “freedom”.
The Classic North East Camaraderie Came Out in Full Force
This year faced challenges that were somewhat out of the ordinary. After the hottest Great North Run on record, more than a month’s worth of expected rain fell in the space of an hour and a half, flooding roads and impacting the metro system. When people struggled to get home, the people of the North East banded together, sharing shelter and finding humour in the face of a challenge. Residents of South Shields opened up their homes and handed out warm cups of tea, whilst others took to social media to offer lifts and other assistance. It demonstrated the generosity and sense of community which makes the North East so great.
Amazing Volunteers and Partners
Along with the kindness of the local community, our travel partners and volunteers also enabled people to get round the course safely and find their way home afterwards. Nexus staff directed people to alternative metro stations and cleared the flooding at the South Shields station as quickly as possible. On the course, St Johns volunteers provided medical aid and handed out water to runners, whilst other charities sent volunteers who cheered runners around the course. Thank you to all the volunteers who made the day possible.
These are some of our best bits. We hope that your day was also filled with special moments and that you made memories to last for years to come. Thanks for joining us on the day and making this year’s AJ Bell Great North Run such a spectacular celebration of the power of running!