South Shields will welcome the world’s largest half marathon this Sunday (13 September) as a field of up to 50,000 runners prepare to tackle the Morrisons Great North Run. As ever, the race will exhibit a nice blend of elites at the top—Mo Farah and Mary Keitany will surely finish in the podium positions—with recreational, club and first-time half marathoners, all of whom will be relishing the unique atmosphere on Tyneside.
For those taking part in the race, the weather forecast looks positive: although persistent rain is expected today, (which may put a dampener on the Great North 5K, the Junior or Mini Great North Run), dry conditions are anticipated on Sunday, with temperature around 16°C.
Starting in Newcastle upon Tyne, the 13.1 mile course takes runners through the city centre and over the iconic Tyne Bridge, where the Red Arrows will make their customery flyover. Moving through Gateshead, the route reaches South Shields where at the top of Prince Edward Road they will be provided with a stunning view of the sea before moving into the last mile and down the final straight towards the finish gantry.
Mo Farah, fresh from his double victory at the World championships, will return to Tyneside to defend his title. Farah won the race last year after a thrilling battle with Kenya’s Mike Kigen, and if he manages to secure victory on Sunday, will become only the third runner to do so.
Yet Farah will face still competition from a field that includes London Marathon runner up Stanley Biwott of Kenya; South African Stephen Mokoka, winner of the 2014 Great Scottish Run; former Pan American Games 5000m champion Juan Luis Barrios. British interest will be centred around Scot Callum Hawkins.
In the women’s competition, Mary Keitany will return as the course record holder after her scintillating performance last year, shaving one second off Paula Radcliffe’s time to win in 65:39. Keitany will be up against compatriot Tigist Tufa, the athlete who bested Keitany at this year’s Virgin London Marathon and prevented her from securing a third victory.
The celebrity field includes Professor Brian Cox, BBC presenter Steph McGovern, retired cricket coach Geoff Cook, author Terry Deary, Olympic rower James Cracknell and ex-Sunderland players Michael Gray and Kevin Kilbane. As ever, expect a number of mid-race, mildly exhausted interviews from one of the above if you are watching the live coverage.
While much attention will be at the front of the field and celebrities taking part, the Great North Run has become known for opening its arms to everyday and first-time runners from across the world: last year, the race made history as it became the first International Association of Athletics Federations event to welcome its millionth finisher.