Celebrations to mark the 40th birthday of The Great North Run

The Great North Run has turned 40 today.

This half-marathon is the largest event of its kind in the world and first took place on June 28, 1981.

To mark the birthday, the event's founder Sir Brendan Foster had a jog along its finish straight in South Shields, joined by 40 people completing their own virtual GNR81 challenge to mark the historic milestone.  

He said: “It’s an incredible feeling to look back on what we’ve achieved over the last four decades. 

“40 years ago today, surrounded by 12,000 runners and 200,000 spectators on the seafront in South Shields we realised we were witnessing a scene which no one in the country had seen before. 

The Great North Run was supposed to celebrate its 40th staging in 2020 but was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is hoped that this will take place this September.

Chief Executive Paul Foster said, “It’s been an incredibly challenging 15 months for the entire country. Although necessary, it was also incredibly disappointing for us and all of our customers to cancel last year’s big celebrations. 

“Although things might look a little different, we can’t wait to welcome runners back to the start line. There are so many people who are looking forward to getting back to physical events and so many charities that will benefit from a return to public fundraising.  

Organisers have planned 'A Great North Thank You' for the event, which will see images of individuals from a range of professions who have worked through the pandemic displayed at every mile along the route. 

Sir Brendan said:

September will also see the release of a Heritage Lottery funded feature film, 'Great North', about the event in the context of the changing social, cultural and industrial landscape of the region.  

Watch our report on the big birthday celebrations here: