SOUTH Shields mum Val Conely has tackled the Great North Run 14 times.
This year, the 58-year-old has had to hang up her running shoes due to health problems, but she’s still going to be a very special part of the event.
Val, a gran-of-one, is one of the volunteers taking part in the GNR Million opening ceremony, to mark the 13.1-mile event’s millionth runner.
The event is set to take place on the Newcastle Gateshead Quayside on Thursday, ahead of the race on Sunday.
It will mark the millionth finish at this year’s Bupa Great North Run, which sees participants run from Newcastle to South Shields.
Val, a specialist nurse colposcopist at South Tyneside District Hospital, said: “I’ve done the Great North Run in the past 14 times, but haven’t for a few years. I’ve got a number to take part this year but unfortunately I’m going to have to drop out because of health problems.
“I received an e-mail asking if I wanted to volunteer for the opening ceremony, and I thought it might be interesting so I decided to give it a go.
“When I was on my way to the first rehearsal, I started wondering what I’d got myself into, but now I’m really glad that I’m involved – it’s going to be a very special event. There’s going to be narration by two local actors, telling the story of the Great North Run, and performances and fireworks.
“It’s going to be brilliant.
“All the volunteers are the dancers, called the Angels, and we’ll stand all along the Millennium Bridge with the narrators.
“We’re not dancers, and for a lot of us, this is the first time we’ve done anything like this, and it’s going to be on the telly so we need to be at our best.”
She said: “It feels like a real privilege to be involved, though.
“The rehearsals have been a lot of fun, and it’s really going to be a very special event.
“The Great North Run is a fantastic thing for us, and anything to do with it is just fantastic.”
The event is set to include performances from Dire Straits frontman, Mark Knopfler, who will play his song Local Hero, North East actors Jill Halfpenny and Tim Healy, author David Almond, folk group The Unthanks, drum ‘n’ bass act Chase and Status and more.
Geordie musician Sting has also been announced as part of the line-up.
The Wallsend star will perform The Last Ship from his critically-acclaimed album and upcoming Broadway play of the same name, which was inspired by his childhood.
Crowds at the event, which will tell the story of the North East, will be welcomed by famous entertainers Ant and Dec.
Tickets for the event, which kicks off at 7pm, cost £12 for adults and £7 for children.
To book, go to www.gnrmillion.org
The ceremony will also be broadcast on BBC2. on Sunday.
THE Great North Run Million opening ceremony has brought the Port of Tyne on board as sponsors.
The event is an artistic interpretation of the heritage, history and future of the North East, told in music, film, pyrotechnics, dance and more.
Andrew Moffat, Port of Tyne’s chief executive officer, said: “The Port of Tyne is delighted to be one of the sponsors helping to make this exciting event happen and also to be supporting the operations behind the scenes.
“We are very much behind the numerous events each year that see people enjoying and using the river especially as they also support the local economy and the businesses that depend on the river.
“The sheer scale and creative quality of this event means it will not only be fantastic for people to see and enjoy here, but will bring the national profile and acclaim that is so important for a strong and vibrant image for the region.”