Even if the Great North Run’s ambitious aim to have each of the 193 UN member states represented at Sunday’s race fails to materialise (the count is currently sitting at 178), the half marathon, celebrating what will be its 35th year with more than 57,000 runners descending upon the north east, still represents one of the stand out races in the global racing calendar.
As ever, the Great North will open its arms to first-timers, recreational runners and a sprinkling of Olympians, all of whom will be competing with the common incentive of crossing the finish line to the congratulatory cheers of spectators at South Shields.
Leading the field and just getting used to his status as the world’s most successful distance runner, Mo Farah will be looking to set another record and become the first athlete to win three consecutive Great North Runs. With a long-term aim of switching to marathon distance, Farah has his sights on emulating his 2014 and 2015 victories, yet will face competition from Dathan Ritzenhein, the World Half Marathon Championships bronze medallist, and Kenyan Emmanuel Bett.
If Farah does look likely to complete a hat-trick of wins on Sunday, the women’s race is less clear-cut with three athletes all capable of leading the field. Olympic gold medallist Vivian Cheruiyot will make her Great North Run debut having taken victory over 5,000m at the Olympic Games in Rio. Cheruiyot will be up against Tirunesh Dibaba and Priscah Jeptoo, with British hopefuls Gemma Steel and Aly Dixon also in contention.
The Great North Run will be the highlight of a spectacular weekend in the region, which also features the Great North CityGames, the Great North 5K plus the Junior and Mini Great North Run. Starting in Newcastle, the half marathon course takes in the iconic Tyne Bridge, goes through Gateshead passing the famous international athletics stadium and finishes in the coastal town of South Shields.
In the lead up to the race, the Great Run Company announced a three-year partnership with award-winning new and used car retailer Arnold Clark who will provide a fleet of vehicles across its mass participation events. Arnold Clark is Europe’s largest independently owned, family-run car company and will supply all vans and vehicles for Great Run, Great Swim and City Games events.