THE eyes of the nation will be on the finishing line in South Shields tomorrow.
A record-breaking 56,000 competitors are taking part in this year’s Great North Run.
Double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah will be aiming to win the men’s event against a world-class elite field including Haile Gebrselassie, while London 2012 Paralympic sensation David Weir will be favourite for the wheelchair race.
The streets leading to the town’s seafront will be packed by spectators.
It promises to be a great day – although rain and wind are predicted to make running and viewing difficult.
As well as being an immense spectacle, the event also generates millions for the region’s economy.
We asked people in King Street, South Shields, how important the run is to the borough’s reputation across the country.
One man who can’t wait for the starting gun to fire is East London bus driver Stephen Scruggins, 47.
He and his wife Linda, 47, have travelled from their home in Dagenham and are staying in a guest house in Ocean Road over the weekend.
They deliberately coincided their visit – they have family in the area – with tomorrow’s run.
Mr Scruggins said: “This will be our first time watching the Great North Run and we’re really looking forward to it. The event is well-known in London and the south east.
“We have family in Washington, and when we arranged our visit it seemed a good idea to catch it at the same time. It seemed like the best time to come.
“I have watched it on TV in the past and the atmosphere seems to be great, but there’s nothing like seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.”
Linda added: “We’ve never been to an event like this before, not even the London Marathon. I think there will be a great atmosphere.”
Travel agent Steph Ness, 20, from Marsden, has a special reason to look forward to tomorrow’s run – Bob from TV’s Emmerdale.
Tony Audenshaw, who plays Bob Hope in the popular soap, is a regular competitor in the event, and even plays with his band in one of the beer tents afterwards.
Ms Ness said: “I’m a fan of Emmerdale and I always watch out for Bob. The run attracts people from all over the country. It’s a great asset for the borough.”
Anthony Barnes, 20, a tutor for life skills, who lives in Whiteleas, added: “It’s certainly a big day for burger vans – they do a good trade, and the pubs at the seafront are always packed – you can’t get in the New Crown.
“It generates an enormous amount of money and is a great boost to tourism. I’ve never taken part, but I plan to next year.”
One person who will be taking part is Gazette seller Alan Robb, 54, who has been in training for months and hopes to finish in under two hours 30 minutes.
He said: “I’m looking forward to the atmosphere on the day. The spectators really pull you through. I’m not looking forward to the bank at Marsden and the Coast Road, that’s a killer finish.”
HGV driver Lee Burns, 31, from South Shields, added: “I normally watch it on TV, but I’m working this weekend. It’s one of the busiest days of the year. It’s a great advertisement for the borough.”