'Keep training!' - Great North Run founder Sir Brendan Foster 'confident' event will go ahead in September
Keep training! That’s the message from Great North Run organisers who are confident the event will go ahead as they vow a covid-safe race to mark its 40th birthday.
Paul Foster, chief executive of the Great Run company, said the event looks set to go ahead on Sunday, September 12 – with some key changes to keep the 57,000 runners safe.
It comes after the 40th staging of the legendary half marathon planned for September 2020 was postponed due to covid.
Paul said: “If I was training for the race I would be carrying on training, if I was fundraising I would be out there knocking on doors and raising more money.
"If I didn’t have a place yet, then there are plenty of charity places available and I would be signing up for one.
"I am very confident that, barring another national lockdown, the race will go ahead and we have made lots of adaptations to it to make it Covid-secure.”
Such Covid-secure measures will include a staggered start time that is spread out over a few hours rather than 45 minutes, so that runners have more space on the course from Newcastle to South Shields.
It will also pay tribute to local heroes such as teachers, supermarket workers and the NHS, who have done extraordinary things to help people get through the coronavirus pandemic.
They will be nominated by their organisation or workplace to have their faces on posters and banners along the GNR course.
The event’s 40th birthday will also be marked by a special film, funded by the Heritage Lottery, called ‘Great North', telling the story of the event and its place in the history of the region.
Great North Run founder, Sir Brendan Foster, reassured runners and spectators the event would go ahead, subject to restrictions at the time.
Sir Brendan said: "The Government has done a fantastic job of the vaccination programme and the people of the North East have been amazing in the way they have behaved and obeyed all of the instructions.
"So we are in a position now when the Government makes an announcement in a few weeks time that we will be able to deliver a covid-safe Great North Run."
He continued: “We are extremely confident that we will deliver a Covid-safe event and if the powers that be allow that to happen and if another wave doesn't come, then we will be fine.
“There will be social distancing and we are going to extend that social distancing so it gives people the freedom to come on to the course – [so] instead of taking 45 minutes to get the start away it might take a couple of hours.”
The North East economy and charity sector as a whole will also hugely benefit from the race going ahead this year.
Great North Run founder Sir Brendan said that around £27million was raised for 600 charities across the UK when the Great North Run was last held compared to £5million raised from the 2020 virtual event.
“It a release for us as an organisation but for the public, charity fundraising, for the economic impact on the region, people just want to do it," Sir Brendan said.
"People want to get together, people want to see it.
"It will be an explosion when it happens and we are happy to be there."