Thirty six years in and the Simplyhealth Great North Run seems more than comfortable with its status as the world’s biggest half marathon, with more than 50,000 runners preparing for its latest event on Sunday (10 September). As a fitting commencement to this year’s race, Brendan Foster, who devised the GNR after competing in the Round the Bays event in New Zealand, will be in charge of starting duties for the first time.
Foster’s presence will no doubt set at ease the first-timers, recreational and club runners and celebrities who will all be coming to the North East with the hope of realising their half marathon goal.
Starting in Newcastle, the course will take runners from the iconic Tyne Bridge and through Gateshead before passing the famous international athletics stadium and finishing in the coastal town of South Shields. The field could be in line for some rain, with the Met Office’s forecast showing this to be a distinct possibility for the duration of the morning.
The extent to which this impacts on the leading runners will add a further layer of intrigue to what is shaping up to be an exciting contest at the front, with Mohamed Farah aiming for a fourth successive victory. While Farah has become a regular fixture at the race, his participation on Sunday – his first after bowing out of track competition – will mark a new direction in his career.
An odds-on favourite for many, Farah will, however, face a relatively strong field, with Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa the most recent runner to add his name to a list that includes Dathan Ritzenhein, plus New Zealand twins Zane Robertson and Jake Robertson. The quartet all look to be capable of dipping beneath the hour mark.
While one of the four look likely to enjoy the South Shields cheers first on Sunday, the event marks the finale to a weekend of racing that includes the Junior and Mini Great North Run and the Great North 5K. The 5k has gained even more attention this year with runners competing as part of the Newcastle Can initiative, a project that is aiming to get the city fitter and healthier.
The Great North Run will be broadcast live on Sunday on BBC One from 9:30am. Highlights will be available later at 6pm.