Great North Run 2022: Iconic half marathon returns to South Shields bringing thousands of visitors to region
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Thousands of runners and spectators descended on the region once more in support of the iconic half marathon.
While there were celebrations to see the race finish in its rightful home of South Shields, there was a sombre tone to Sunday’s event following the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II who passed away on Thursday, September 8 at the age of 96.
‘A great example to us all’
Speaking ahead of the race’s start, Sir Brendan Foster – the event’s founder – paid tribute to the “amazing life” of Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
He said: “We felt it was in tune with what would have been the Queen’s wishes in our view.
"People coming together as a community, coming together to do what they aimed for, to be the best version of themselves they could be to raise money for charities.
“She spent a lot of her life raising money for charity, so we felt it was the right thing to do.
“If you look at the atmosphere, it’s reflective – the overriding picture of The Queen there, ’26 to ’22, an amazing life she led and a great example to us all.”
A minute’s silence was also held to honour Queen Elizabeth II’s lifetime of service – a poignant moment for a day that is so loud and proud at its heart.
In South Shields, people stood along the finish line paying their respects. Moments later, the first racers arrived at the coastal finish line, prompting an outbreak of clapping and cheering.
‘It’s brilliant every year’
The Great North Run was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with a revised route around Newcastle held in 2021.
But the people of South Tyneside were out in force on Sunday to welcome the world-famous race home again.
Jill Barnett, from Jarrow, was one of those watching.
She said “It’s a completely different feel in South Shields compared to Newcastle, there’s a lot of local residents who come out to support the race and the charities, it’s like a community.
"I was worried they were going to cancel it after the Queen’s death so I was over the moon when I heard it was still going ahead, it’s a fantastic event for such deserving charities.”
Robert Stokes, from Harton, was volunteering at the race handing out water. He echoed Jill’s relief at the event being able to go ahead, especially after the hard work from organisers and runners alike.
He added: “I’ve been involved in the run for years, I think it’s fantastic!”
"The run is huge, people come from all over the place – it’s brilliant every year.”
The Great North Runners
So many runners arriving at the coastal finish line in South Shields had their own inspiring stories to tell.
Damien Todd, from Washington, was running for Grace House; a charity aimed at enriching the lives of disabled children.
He said: “Grace House is such a deserving charity that means a lot for so many people. So what better charity to run for!”
Also sharing in the race-day rush was Jennifer Oakley, from South Shields, who took on the half marathon challenge for Mind.
After months of training, she described the feeling of finally coming to the end of the race and said: “I’m really proud of myself and the feeling when you cross the finish line is surreal.
"I decided to run for Mind because I think we’ve all struggled with mental health at some point in our lives, and especially after the pandemic it’s even more important to look after our minds.”
Running club member Tim Jones, of Washington, joined his fellow participants in shouting out the thousands of spectators for bringing some good feeling to the day.
"I’m preparing for the London Marathon in three weeks, so this run was good practice,” he said.
"The crowds have been great this year, it keeps you going. It’s a wonderful atmosphere.”
And he’s a famous face in the world of North East fundraising, but Colin Burgin-Plews – also known as the Big Pink Dress – is hanging up his costume after Sunday’s GNR.
He’s raised more than £150,000 for good causes over eight years.
Speaking after crossing the line on Sunday, he said: “I didn’t think I would get emotional but I burst into tears when I approached the finishing line.
"It was when everyone was shouting my name – it was just so lovely!
"I’m glad to see the race back in my hometown – it’s been amazing, I’m finishing on a high.”