Thousands take part in 'Virtual Great North Run'

Runners across the world have taken part in the Virtual Great North Run on Sunday to celebrate what would have been the 40th year of the iconic half marathon.

Instead of running from Newcastle to South Shields, runners on six continents and 57 countries ran their own routes, with many raising thousands of pounds for charities.

Over 16,000 people signed up to the free run, which used the viRACE app to recreate crowd noises as well as motivational messages from famous voices including Ant and Dec, Alan Shearer, Sting, Lord Sebastian Coe, Paula Radcliffe and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson.

  • GNR founder Brandan Foster had this message for everyone taking part:

Rock legend and Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler has performed a new arrangement of Going Home: Theme of the Local Hero, a song synonymous with the Great North Run and is the first song heard by runners when the starting gun is fired. Participants will hear it on the viRACE app.

The streets are usually lined with spectators who cheer on the runners as they pass by Credit: The Great North Run Company

International runners took opportunity to join the virtual event, with competitors taking part in 57 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, North America and South America. Many are relishing the challenge of creating their own scenic half marathon, including:

  • Richard Taylor, who is originally from Northumberland but now lives in Japan. He will run his Great North Run in Tokyo with a route that passes Tokyo Tower, Imperial Palace and the Olympic Stadium.

  • Andrew Jarvis, who will complete 12 laps of his large neighbourhood in Colombia on the edge of the Andean mountain range as the sun rises.

  • Leigh Sedgley from Lairg in the Scottish Highlands, who is creating a route between the iconic hills of Canisp and Suilven.

  • British expat Paul Potter, who will be running in Tauranga, on the North Island of New Zealand. Having completed three previous Great North Runs, he is glad to be able to join his fellow countrymen from afar, albeit at what will be 9.30pm local time. He plans to take in the beautiful Mount Maunganui beach and the Tauranga Harbour Bridge.

The runners usually cross the Tyne Bridge and cheer as they pass the iconic bridge Credit: The Great North Run Company

Dave Taylor, from Ponteland, Northumberland, is a chef at St Oswald's Hospice, which provides care to people with life-limiting conditions.

In 2011 Mr Taylor ran the Great North Run with a fridge on his back and decided to do so again this time around for charity with a team of seven friends and family in his home town.

Colin Burgin-Plews, 52, from South Shields - also known as Big Pink Dress - took on the run in a different way.

Mr Burgin-Plews is known for running various races in a pink dress while raising money for charity.

He said: "Today was not in any way as electric as normal.

"But there (were) still a few bands on Coast Road in South Shields where the finish normally is.

"It was a nice run out and Great Run did an amazing job.

In a Twitter post, the event's organiserGreat Run, said: "We know it's no match for the real thing, but it's still a fantastic opportunity for us to celebrate all that is great about the event and the people who make it even greater."

They also confirmed: "We are planning to be back and better in 2021 for the 40th Great North Run."