Wilson Kipsang edged out Kenyan teammate Micah Kogo to provide a thrilling and fitting finale to the biggest ever Great North Run. After a battle that lasted the duration of the 13.1 miles, Kipsang kicked in the last 20 metres to surge past his compatriot and record the third fastest time the race has witnessed. The dark clouds and intermittent showers seemed to have little effect on yesterday's turnout, with almost 40,000 runners heading to Tyneside for the 32nd staging of the event.
Kipsang, who tasted success in this year's Virgin London Marathon, spearheaded a five-man leading pack of Imana Merga, Emmanuel Bett, Mike Kigen and Kogo that covered the first 5km in a blistering 13:52. At mile 12 and with the pair far ahead of the field, Kipsang had seemingly kicked too early as Kogo took the lead with 50 metres remaining.
The pair would exchange positions once again, however, with Kipsang providing a stirring and somewhat unexpected sprint finish to complete the half marathon in 59:06, one second ahead of Kogo. On the concluding section of the race, Kipsang commented: "The finish was quite fantastic. I decided to sprint. Towards the last part I believed in myself and I got the feeling that I could sprint." After his disappointment at the Olympics, Chris Thompson secured sixth position with a highly impressive time of 1:01:00. The time represents a PB for Thompson and places him third on the all-time British half-marathon list.
The women's field was similarly close, with Tirunesh Dibaba prevailing after a fierce contest with Kenya's Edna Kiplagat. Dibaba, who was making her debut over the distance, finished in 1:07:35, with Dibaba six seconds behind. After the race, Dibaba said she wanted to start the half-marathon in a cautious manner: "This is my first 21k so I wanted to run carefully. The course is good but I knew there were lots of challenges that a road race could have." Like Thompson, British runner Jo Pavey gave a strong account, finishing fifth in a close to PB time of 1:09:20.
As ever, competitors were given the ideal send off as the Red Arrows performed their iconic fly-past. With the UK's summer of sport drawing to a close, Olympic stars Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, Nicola Adams, Kat Copeland, and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds were on hand to greet runners at the start line. Celebrity participants included X Factor winner Joe McElderry, Nell McAndrew, and BBC News presenter Sophie Raworth.
One of the standout competitors was Tony "The Fridge" Phoenix-Morrison, who was raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation cancer charity. Yesterday's race was Tony's 30th consecutive half-marathon, all of which he has completed with a 40kg fridge strapped to his back. The 48-year-old, from Hebburn, South Tyneside, met childhood hero Brendan Foster as he completed the challenge: "I'm feeling honoured to be able to carry out this challenge. It represents the daily struggle people with cancer have, and the struggle to fight cancer."
Results of the Great North Run are available via northernrunningguide.com.