The Great North Run

The BUPA Great North Run is one of the most popular annual races in the UK. The race is half a marathon long (13.1 miles) and starts at Newcastle Upon Tyne, finishing at South Shields in England. 47,000 runners take part in the race every year.


The Great North run was founded by former Olympic bronze medalist and BBC commentator Brendan Foster, after he was inspired whilst training for the 1980 Olympics in New Zealand in 1979. The first ever Great North Run took place on 28th June 1981. 12,000 runners participated including Brendan Foster himself, along with fellow athlete Steve Cram.

The first person to win the Great North Run was local boy Mike McLeod. After the race he went on to win silver in the Olympic 10,000 metre race three years later.

In 2005, the Great North Run celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Great North Run Cultural Programme at the Sage Gateshead was launched to mark the occasion. However, on the race day itself, four runners died during the race to South Shields. After this, more emergency services were brought in to ensure the tragedy would never be repeated.

In 2007, the race was started by Sir Bobby Robson. Kara Goucher managed to beat Paula Radcliffe in the Women’s Race, and completed the race in 1 hour, 6 minutes and 57 seconds.

Taking part in the race

Places for the 2008 BUPA Great North run taking place on Sunday 5th October have now closed. However there are still a number of guaranteed entries that are available if you want to run the race for charity. You need to be at least 17 years old to enter the race.

How to enter the race for charity

There are many charity places still available for the Great North Run 2008. Last year’s event alone raised £8 million pounds for charity. The official charity for the Great North Run is Leukemia Research. You can raise money for a range of other charities, however. You can view the approved list and register your interest online. Many charities will be able to provide you with sponsorship forms and sometimes can give you a T-shirt to run in. Ideas and tips for charity fundraising events can be found on the GNR website.

Entrants with disabilities

All wheelchair athletes wishing to enter the race must conform to the British Wheelchair Racing Association (BWRA) minimal classification system. It is strongly recommended that only wheelchair racers who are experienced at competing in races participate unaided. However, entries are welcome from assisted wheelchair participants, but all parties must have bona fide entries into the event.

The day before the Great North Run proper, wheelchair users can participate in a special 2km race. The course runs through the Tyne Tunnel between North and South Shields.


A great deal of information is available to help you get fit and plan your training routes, as well as racing tips, and exercises to help you in the race. You can buy a training plan for the race from the Great North Run website.

What to wear for the Great North Run

Lightweight shorts and a long sleeve waterproof top are recommended to wear on race day. For more information on what to wear, see the training information pages of the Great North Run official website.

Medical considerations

Medical advice should be sought before attempting the Great North Run. BUPA offer many health assessments. These can be booked online.

During the race, The British Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance provide medical care, covering every mile of the race. There is also additional paramedic cover available, with a team of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists at the finish.

How to volunteer and help out

There are over 2,500 volunteers who help out at the BUPA Great North Run every year. To volunteer to help, check out, one of several websites offering you the opportunity to register your interest.


If you don’t want to get sweaty yourself, but are attending the Great North Run to cheer on the runners, you are not alone. Around 80,000 people watch the BUPA Great North Run from the sidelines throughout the course. There is a family reunion area at the end of the course around the charity marquees. Alphabetical cards will be placed around the marquees to enable runners to find their families quickly and easily at the end of the race.

Great North Run Facts & Statistics

  • Great North Runs participants have clocked up more than 9,557,812 miles between them.
  • A total of 696,671 people have completed the run since it started in 1981.
  • Paula Radcliffe holds the record for the fastest woman to complete the Great North Run. She broke records in 2003, completing the race in one hour and five minutes.
  • Zersenay Tadesse holds the record for the fastest male to complete the race. Tadesse ran the race in 59 minutes and five seconds.
  • In the UK only the London Marathon and British 10K race attract similar numbers of athletes each year.
  • In 2007, over 350 charities were represented at the BUPA Great North Run.
  • Every postcode in the UK is represented in the starting line up.
  • There are 488 medics spread over the course. These include expert consultants and cardiac specialists.
  • The Great North Run was one of the first events in the country to provide fine-spray showers on a half marathon route. There are now three along the course.
  • This year, Leanne Symonds will be the millionth entrant to run the BUPA Great North Run race.

Famous competitors

The race has attracted many celebrities and elite athletes during its time, including over 20 Olympic gold medalists.


Newcastle football manager Kevin Keegan was one of the first runners to take part in the Great North Run. During the race he wore a top which had both Newcastle United’s black and white stripes on it and also Sunderland’s red and white stripes.

Football legend Paul Gascoigne also pushed a wheelchair athlete all the way round the Great North Run circuit.

In 2007 Steve McClaren became the third England football manager to compete in the Great North Run.

The Great North Run is also popular with TV actors and actresses and the likes of Steven Hartley (Holby City), Tony Curran (League of Gentlemen), David Lonsdale, Aislin McGuckin and Sarah Tansey (Heartbeat) and a fifteen-strong team from Emmerdale have competed in the race before now.

Celebrity chefs are also not unheard of in the race. Gordon Ramsay and Anton Edelman have participated in the race, as well as Ground Force presenter Charlie Dimmock.

Other celebrities to have competed in the race include Heather Mills, Christopher Eccleston and Sebastian Coe.


In 2007, Martin Lel from Kenya, who has won the London Marathon twice, ran the BUPA Great North Run. Commonwealth 2005 Bronze medalist Dan Robinson and Jon Brown, who was fourth twice in an Olympic marathon also ran the race in 2007.

The race has also attracted some famous women athletes. Paula Radcliffe, a world record holder for the London Marathon has also won the Great North Run twice. Jane Muia from Kenya also ran the race in 2007. She was the winner of the 2007 Bristol Half Marathon.

The Course

If you fancy studying the race mile by mile, check out this online course map.

Travel information for the Great North Run

By Rail

A Metro service operates between South Shields and Newcastle on the day. The nearest Metro station to the start of the race is Haymarket and the nearest to the finish line is South Shields. An express service also runs between South Shields and Haymarket station on race day. An online route map for the Newcastle Metro Underground is available.

By Ferry

A regular Shields ferry service operates on race day. A weekend ticket is available, providing unlimited travel on both the Metro and the Shields ferry. To find out more, call 0191 2020747.

By Car

Many roads are closed for the BUPA Great North Run and parking is limited, so runners are advised to use public transport where possible. However, there is free car parking space in the town centre and drivers are advised to make use of this. Shuttle buses also run from the finish area.

By Bus

Shuttle buses operate from Bents Park Road and the Town Centre Metro station and Shields Ferry before and after the race. For more travel information, you can contact Traveline Northeast by telephoning 0870 608 2 608.


The official provider of accommodation for the BUPA Great North Run is Nirvana Europe Ltd. Nirvana Europe provides race day transfers to and from the event and offers all types of accommodation packages. Those wanting to stay in the area overnight are advised to book well in advance, as availability is limited. For further information or to book a room at the hotel, call 0191 2936592.

Contact details

You can contact the Great North Run organisers in the following ways:



0845 389 2200

Postal Address

Nova International Ltd
Newcastle House
Albany Court
Monarch Road