Happy Birthday Great North Run: Finishing line welcomes 40 runners to represent each year of the half marathon

A runner to represent every year of the Great North Run crossed the finishing line of the iconic event today as part of its 40th birthday celebrations.

The dash over the last 400 metres of the route was held on The Leas earlier today, Monday, June 28, with 40 people invited to join its founder Sir Brendan Foster, with grey skies giving way to beaming sunshine as the event began.

Each had their story to tell about their Great North Run journey, from those who have taken part every one to people getting involved for the first tie, alongside fancy dress runners and fundraisers.

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It follows GNR81, which invited people to cover the half-marathon distance between Saturday, June 26, up to midnight tonight, in one go or across the days.

Great North Run GNR81 virtual challenge to celebrate the event's birthday weekend with founder Sir Brendon Foster.

The team behind the event gathered photos from the archives to share online and lined up retro merchandise as a memento of the milestone, with around 5,500 people signing up for the run challenge.

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Sir Brendan said: “It’s a really significant day, we’ve set up this finishing line and as always in South Shields, the sun is shining.

"To come here on the 40th birthday of the Great North Run and reenact the finish was special.

Lots of the runners took the chance to chat to Sir Brendan Foster as part of the GNR81 celebrations.

"It’s great being here and these people have been fantastic.

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"We’ve been doing our best to give them what they want and it’s been bigger and better and we’re so happy, happy about today and about the Great North Run.”

Among the runners was Steve Cummings, 52, from Hebburn, who ran his first GNR aged 13, before the entry age was raised to 18, having been inspired after watching it from outside the Lakeside pub.

Runner Steve Cummings, who look part in his first Great North Run aged 13, was among the 40 runners invited to take part in the last section of the run along The Leas.

He went on to include it in a series of fundraising events after his late mum Doris was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013.

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“This goes back to my Mam, who told me she used to push Sir Brendan Foster around in his pram along Hebburn Quayside,” he said.

"This is the second time I’ve done an event since Covid, the first was a Parkrun test, and it’s been brilliant, it’s great to see so many people and the Great North Run means so much to them – it might not be the quickest race in the world, but it is the best.”

Carl Mowatt, right, who ran the first GNR and Jay Bowley are running the half marathon today as part of the GNR81 challenge.

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A team of 40 runners were invited to join event founder Sir Brendan Foster as they covered the final section of the run on The Leas in South Shields.
Great North Run GNR81 virtual challenge was held to celebrate the event's birthday weekend with founder Sir Brendan Foster, with the last 400 metres of the route set up to mark the occasion.