Over 50,000 runners tooks part in yesterday's Bupa Great North Run where charity runners, celebrities and serious athletes alike put their stamina to the test in the iconic half marathon race. Newly-crowned 5,000m world champion Mo Farah started the race, with the Red Arrows displaying their aviation skills over the Tyne Bridge in spectacular style.
It was a fantastic spectator event, with the elite athletes demonstrating their super-human qualities with jaw dropping performances all round.
Kenya's Martin Mathathi followed in the footsteps of 12 of his previous countrymen, winning the men's race ahead of team mates Jonathan Maiyo and Emmanuel Mutai in what was the first podium clean sweep of the medals from the east African nation for a decade. The 25-year-old who is based in Japan sliced 9 seconds from the previous course record belonging to Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese with his fantastic time of 58 minutes 56 seconds.
Behind him Jonathan Maiyo better known as a pacemaker in major global marathons took second with a time of 59:27 while pre-race favourite Emmanuel Mutai had to settle for third in 59:52, albeit a personal best for this year's Virgin London Marathon winner.
The race started slowly before Maiyo edged his nose into the lead just after five miles with a change of pace which was good enough to draw himself and Mattathi clear of a small pack which was led by Mutai. Despite a 10 yard gap opening, Mattathi always looked the more comfortable of the two and between 7 and 8 miles which he passed in 35:57 went into the lead before proceeding to go even faster. Upping the pace, he ran the final 1.1 miles towards the finish with a performance he hadn't expected.
Mathathi said, "I expected to run 60/59 (minutes), but my manager (Ricky Simms who was travelling in the nearby media vehicle) told me that if I kept going at the pace I was I was going to run 58 minutes. I had a done a lot of speed work before I came here, but I didn't know what the course was like. However the further I ran the more I began to like it."
His victory may have been very convincing but it was the tiny figure of former Commonwealth 10,000 metres champion Lucy Kabuu who thrilled spectators with one of the greatest ever front running performances the Great North Run has seen. The 27-year-old's first major race since giving birth to her daughter Angel in May last year saw her win by almost two-and-a-half minutes, clocking the third fastest time over the Newcastle to South Shields course of 1:07:06.
Kabuu broke clear just before four miles, stifling the threat of 2009 winner Jessica Augusto who crossed the line in 1:09:27 and her Portuguese colleague Marissa Barros who repeated her third position of a year ago and recorded 1:10:29. The trio were followed home by top Britons Jo Pavey and Helen Clitheroe who on her debut at the distance was thrilled with her performance.
Kabuu said, "My preparations made me very confident that I would do well here, it's only my second half marathon and I'm very happy to win and in a good time as well. The pace was a little slow and so I went with my pace which I was happy with. I knew the Great North was hilly and my training has been with hills so I was happy to race hard."
Looking to the future, Kabuu added, "The weather was fine and the crowd cheered me which was fantastic and I will definitely come again. Next year I'm looking towards the Olympic 10,000 in London and planning to beat Vivian Cheruiyot. She's a very strong runner but so am I."
Pavey back in action after a foot injury prevented her taking part in the recent World Championships Marathon and currently planning an autumn marathon, said, "I'm pleased to be back racing. It would have been nice to get a quicker time but the plan is to do well in New York. Today I lacked a bit of race fitness so it was good to have Helen with me so we could pick people off together. I think it was a great stepping stone for my bigger plans."
Pavey who clocked 1:10:49 was not surprised by Kabuu's win, adding, "It's nice to see her again. We both ran at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and we both had babies around the same time. Once she's in the line up everyone knows it's going to be a fast time."
Clitheroe in what has been the greatest year of her career said, "I really had no expectations of what I could do, there was no time set in my mind. At three miles I went through horrible problems. But I got back and with Jo we worked really hard together. I felt like doing cartwheels down the last mile."
Also taking part was Dr Emma Egging, the 33 year old widow of Red Arrows pilot Jon Egging; after completing the race, she said, "It was just amazing, the atmosphere has been amazing. This is the first halfmarathon I've run without him. I've had support all along the way and it's been fantastic." Emma was not only running in her husband's memory but also for the Jon Egging Trust which has been set up to give disadvantaged young people opportunities to help them achieve their potential.
There were plenty of celebrity runners in the field, including Eastenders 'super-bitch' Janine, also known as actress Charlie Brooks. She has taken part in a number of races for Marie Curie Cancer Care after a close family friend died of liver cancer at the age of 25; since 2004 she has been involved in raising over £20,000 for the charity. Completing her third Great North Run in 2:18:46, perhaps she will be back next year to achieve her goal of sub 2 hours.
Full results are available here, and if watching the TV coverage this year has inspired you then you can register interest for next year here.