EDDIE MADDISON is among a select group of just over 100 runners that have competed in every Great North Run since the first in 1981.
The Sunderland Harrier is one of 57,000 participants taking part in the World’s biggest half marathon from Newcastle to South Shields on Sunday.
The group are known as The Great North Run All Runs Club and they will be going for their 34th appearance in the 13.1 mile race.
At last year’s race their numbers stood at 112 and this number is sure to be revised after Sunday’s big test.
The first time many of them met was in the run up to the 30th run in 2010 when they were invited to take part in the The Long Run exhibition at the Great North Museum and also to the official launch of the run.
The South Hylton runner was introduced to Haile Gebrselassie and also to four-times Olympic champion Michael Johnson, who was also at the photo call.
“Michael had time for everyone and was interested to know how I kept myself fit to run every Great North Run,’’ said Maddison
The group decided that they would meet up again and, about 80 of them, got together at the pasta party the day prior to the run last year.
Most of them meet before the start of the race and they now have been issued with blue and white striped numbers which entitles them to start at the front, if they wish.
They have also been given their own special T-shirt complete with logo. The All Runs Club members are aged between 50 and 83, with finishing times last year ranging from one hour 34 minutes to four hours 33 minutes - with a third of members finishing in under two hours.
Maddison was also presented with a special plaque to mark his 20th appearance in the race. That is proudly displayed in his trophy cabinet. All his treasured GNR T-shirts are unused and hanging up in the wardrobe.
When he collected his first T-shirt he managed to complete the course in 1hr 32min 33sec on limited training.
“I was delighted with that. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I thought I would never run as fast again,’’ he reflected.
But after being encouraged to join Sunderland Harriers and steered towards a more structured training programme he recorded his fastest time as a 39-year-old of 1.13.24.
Last year at the age of 65 he completed the race in his slowest time yet – 1hr 51min 47 sec after suffering all year with injuries.
This time he is in better fettle having raced regularly and being the active coach to the Run England group of runners that meets at Silksworth Sports Complex on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
He has regularly represented his club in the North Eastern Veterans’ track and field league at Monkton, taking part in the middle distance events. His highlight came in the Tyne Bridge 5 mile road race in Newcastle where he won the North Eastern over-65 championship, which was held in conjunction with the race.
“I’m looking to run faster than last year. It was a struggle then. I have been in a lot more competitions this time, so I am in better shape,’’ added Maddison.
Asked how long he can keep up his continuous appearances in the GNR. He said: “Till I drop.’’
Sunderland Stroller Alyson Dixon, will be having her first race since dropping out of the Commonwealth Games Marathon with an Achilles’ tendon problem. But she will not be on the elite start line. She intends running with the masses as she continues her comeback to full fitness.
H The Sunderland Harriers fundamentals group run by George Harden and Barry Lane have an internal competition on Thursday at the Silksworth track at 7.00pm. Registration is from 6.00pm. Events are 75m, 400m, standing long jump, and howler (throwing).