Great North Run will return to South Shields 'as soon as possible', vows Sir Brendan Foster
The Great North Run will return to South Tyneside as soon as it is safe to do so, founder Sir Brendan Foster has promised.
The run is back this weekend after a year off due to the Covid pandemic.
But for the first time in its 40-year history, it will not finish on the seafront at South Shields. Instead of the usual Gypsies Green, the finishers’ village will be built on Newcastle’s Town Moor.
And rather than make its way through South Tyneside before heading for the coast, the route will see runners turning back on themselves in Gateshead and crossing the Tyne Bridge a second time before passing through Newcastle city centre on the return leg then finishing on the Great North Road.
Instead of the traditional mass start, runners will be allocated specific timeslots, with the final participants setting off several hours after the elite runners.
The news has come as a bitter blow to many South Tyneside businesses, which had been hoping for a post-pandemic boost from the thousands of spectators the run attracts every year.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has even written to Government Ministers asking for support for the businesses which will be left out of pocket.
At a launch event for this year’s run in Newcastle today, Friday, September 10, Sir Brendan said he understood how let down people felt by the decision, but there had been no other way to stage a run this year.
And he promised the finish line would be back home on the South Shields seafront as soon as possible.
"It is exciting to be back,” he said. “It is exciting because there were times in the last 18 months when we wondered if the thing would ever happen again.
"When we first started to hear about a vaccine, we were thinking ‘How can we do it, is it going to be the same?’.”
He said the organising team had worked closely with medical experts to draw up a route which would allow maximum safety.
“There were three possible solutions we came up with and this is the one that was accepted by all the experts,” he said.
Sir Brendan is looking forward to returning to South Shields as soon as it is practicable: “The whole idea of the run is it leaves the city, follows the river and goes to the sea,” he said.
"We absolutely will be back in Shields at some point. People will cross the Great North Run finish line in South Shields again as soon as possible.
"It is ridiculous that people think we would choose not to finish in South Shields.
“It was a choice to have no Great North Run again this year or to change the course.”
Instead of the usual celebrity starters, this year’s gun will be fired by four health workers, in honour of their contribution during the pandemic, including South Tyneside General cardiologist Dr Mickey Jachuck.
“I’m looking forward to doing my first real run, after taking part in the virtual event last year,” he said.
Mickey is running for the British Heart Foundation: “As a cardiologist, it’s a cause close to my heart.”
To sponsor Mickey, visit his Justgiving page.