Great North Run legend Brendan Foster shares his memories as iconic event celebrates 40th year

Great North Run founder Brendan Foster has spoken of his pride in the iconic event as it celebrates its milestone 40th anniversary.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 1:15 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:10 am

Due to take place on Sunday, September 13, the 40th Great North Run - GNR40 - will be a celebration of this landmark staging and the people and places that have made the event great.

Speaking at the launch of the event, held at the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle, the Great North Run founder Mr Foster said the event’s iconic finish in South Shields was something all runner’s looked forward to.

He said: “The finish line in South Shields is iconic and the exciting thing is that people are now running, training today, all aiming for the moment they cross the finish line.

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Great North Run founder Brendan Foster.

“And then we have to make the finish line exciting, give it the music, the sound, give it a dimension, so that people come back and say I love that and want to do it again."

Looking back at the very first event, Mr Foster said: “I had run a race in New Zealand and it was a big race 10,000 runners and I had seen nothing like it.

"When I came back and retired I had said why don’t we do an event in the North East, starting in the city and running to the seaside.

Great North Run founder Bendan Foster speaking at the launch of the 40th Great North Run.

"That was where the idea came from.

"We had only planned to do the first one, we had no other plans beyond that day, because we didn't know what it was going to be like.

"It went off successfully, everyone was happy, everyone was excited, the atmosphere was amazing.

"And then I was asked the question at the end of the run are you going to do it again.

"My simple answer was ‘I've got no choice.’"

The Great North Run has become a mainstay of the North East calendar, with more than 200,000 supporters estimated to line the route from the centre of Newcastle to the coast at South Shields.

But Mr Foster said he had never imagined the event becoming what it is today.

"We couldn't expect it to get this big because nothing had ever been as big,” he said.

"We started off and had around 11,000 entries in its first year - that was almost 10 times more than any other event in the country and we couldn't envisage it then and we can't envisage it now.

“World wide athletes know about the Great North Run – it is one of the biggest events in the world and they want to be in it.

"One of the biggest challenges in the Great North Run is to stay top of the pile, unless you plan to be top of the pile in the future you won't be top of the pile.”

Last year saw Sir Mo Farah continue his running streak with an impressive sixth win in a row, while Brigid Kosgei became the fastest female over the half marathon distance of all-time.

They were followed across the finish line by runners of all abilities conquering their own personal challenges, with many helping to raise £15 million for good causes around the world.

Mr Foster credited the year athletes Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie, and Kenenisa Bekele competed in the 2013 Great North Run as one of his proudest moments in the events impressive history.

But said that the Great North Run's ability to include people from all walks of life is something he is incredibly proud of.

“The thing about the Great North Run is that everybody can come along, take part and come and watch,” he said.

“For young athletes, for people who like the sport and are interested in it, to see three of the greatest athletes run past their front door is something I am proud of.”

The general entry ballot for the world’s biggest half marathon is open until 9pm on Sunday, February 9, with all applicants being notified of whether or not they have been successful by email no later than Friday, February 14.

To register for the Great North Run ballot visit