Great North Run 2021: Everything you need to know about the event's 40th edition

06-09-2021 - Great North Run - PA
Credit: PA

The cities of Newcastle and Gateshead - along with tens of thousands of runners - are preparing for the 40th edition of the Great North Run.

The event, which takes place on Sunday 12 September, returns after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

But some significant changes have been made to usual proceedings in light of the continued presence of Covid-19.

Here is everything you need to know about the day.

The route

For the first time in 40 years, the run will not finish in South Shields.

This year's route will see 57,000 participants start and end the race in Newcastle, crossing the Tyne Bridge twice.

The start line, as always, will be located on the central motorway in Newcastle. It then passes into Gateshead and continues along the A184.

Runners will turn around just beyond the Leam Lane/A184 roundabout.

The route snakes through the city centre on the return leg, before finishing on the Great North Road. A finishers’ village will be constructed on the Town Moor. The distance remains 13.1 miles.

Great North Run 2021 Map Credit: Great North Run

Organisers say the changes have been made in "direct response" to the pandemic.

Starting in waves

The traditional mass start will also not be a feature of this year's event.

Instead, runners will be allocated specific time slots, with the final participants setting off several hours after the first.

Runners have been placed into colour-labelled "wave groups" to help regulate the number of runners through the start and around the course.

  • 09:20: Elite women start

  • 09:45: Elite men and orange wave start

  • 11:05: White wave start

  • 12:25: Green wave start

But the very first wave is to be comprised of 14 "'heroes of the pandemic".

Organisations including care homes, schools and supermarkets have been asked to nominate key workers who deserve recognition for their efforts.

Founder Sir Brendan Foster said: “As we celebrate 40 incredible years of fundraising, individual endurance and collective triumph we also wanted to take the opportunity to recognise the part we all played in tackling the COVID-19 virus over the last 18 months. 

"The Great North Run has always been about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Over the last 15 months we’ve seen examples of individuals doing just that time and time again. 

At each mile-mark, a large illustrated billboard will celebrate the stories of those chosen to open the race.


Some changes have also been made to transport provisions and advice for this year's event.

LNER will run an additional six trains to Newcastle, with extra services operating at the following times:

•06:53 from Doncaster, calling at York (07:18) and Northallerton (07:39), arriving at Newcastle at 08:16

• 07:05 from Edinburgh, calling at Dunbar (07:28), Berwick-upon-Tweed (07:55), Alnmouth (08:18), Morpeth (08:35), arriving at Newcastle at 08:52

• 07:10 from Leeds, calling at York (07:41), arriving at Newcastle at 08:45

• 07:20 from Darlington, calling at Durham (07:38), arriving at Newcastle at 07:53

• 07:46 from Durham arrives at Newcastle at 08:03

• 07:54 from Darlington, calling at Durham (08:13), arriving at Newcastle at 08:32

Due to high demand, pre-booked parking spaces at the Eldon Square Multi-Storey, Civic Centre Underground and Stadium Car Parks are sold out.

Racers and spectators are being encouraged to take public transport where possible.

Spectators and entertainment

Specific details regarding spectator restrictions are yet to be released.

According to the Great North Run website, "there is likely to be restrictions around spectators at the even". It asks people to check "pre-race emails and [its] websites for details closer to the time".

But organisers have announced a number of entertainment provisions.

They include:

  • 10 "bands on the run"

  • 12 charity buses

  • 17 charity cheer points

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, or Red Arrows, will perform their now-traditional display.

Looking back on over 40 years of the Great North Run

  • Video report by Helen Carnell

The event was devised by former Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist and broadcaster Brendan Foster.

Its inaugural event was held on 28 June 1981, when 12,000 runners participated.

By 2003, the number of participants had risen to 47,000. This rose to 54,000 in 2011.

The traditional run was cancelled for the first time in 2020 due to the pandemic. But over 16,000 people took part in a virtual alternative organised by Great Run.

Some of this year's participants have taken part in every event since the very first in 1981.