The clock is ticking as the closing date approaches for the entry ballot of Britain’s biggest running event, the Great North Run.
The deadline for prospective entrants to apply to take part in the iconic half marathon from Newcastle to South Shields is midday on Monday 8 February. The event takes place on Sunday 11 September.
In 2015 Double World and Olympic Champion Mo Farah became the first British male to win back to back Great North Runs since Mike McLeod won the first two events in 1981 and 1982.
Although too early in the year to announce the elite field, if Farah returns to Tyneside this year he would have the chance to complete a unique hat-trick of victories.
The Great North Run is, of course, not just for elite runners, with thousands of regular runners pounding the pavements of Tyneside.
The emotional, heart-warming and inspiring stories have become a mainstay of the event, with 2016 expected to be a similar story.
One man who is running this year’s event is Hartlepool’s Phil Holbrook, who is no stranger to the 13.1 mile route from Newcastle to South Shields.
Phil completed his 25th Great North Run last year, two years after almost losing his life in a tragic car accident that killed his wife Sally.
Phil broke 30 bones in the accident which took place just two days before Christmas in 2012, but he returned to running a year later and took part in his first Great North Run since the accident as part of Team Sally, raising money for the Hartlepool and District Hospice, in 2014.
The 54-year-old has signed up for this year’s event and hopes to raise even more money in his wife’s memory.
Sally and I had talked about doing it, and I said I’d definitely do 25, and of course, following the accident, I had to put 2013 on hold. I was stuck on 23, so doing 2014 and 2015 was a big thing for me.
First staged in 1981, the Great North Run is televised live on BBC television and across Europe. It attracts runners to the region from every postcode in the UK and is the highlight of a weekend festival of running that includes junior events, the Great North 5k and the Great North CityGames.
In 2014, Tracey Cramond became the millionth finisher over the line in South Shields, with 57,000 people signing up for the event each year.
To register for the Great North Run ballot visit www.greatrun.org/north. All successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified by 12 February.