BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

28 October 2014

BBC Homepage
»BBC Local
Things to do
People & Places
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near Cumbria

Isle of Man
North Yorkshire
South Scotland

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

Great North Run

Tyne Bridge
The Tyne Bridge

Great North Run - The History.

A number of records have been set and broken over the years we look at the history of the race.

Fact file

The first run was on 28 June 1981 with 12,000 runners. Now 47,000 runners take part - with many more thousands unable to get an entry.

In 2002, 25 different countries were represented.

Doctors estimate that more than 11.5 million breaths will be taken by the runners in the course of the race.

The average age of the runners is 35 years and 7 months.

48,000 metres of heat retaining silver foil will be wrapped around the runners at the end of the race.

If all the Great North Runners stood head to toe, their combined height would be ten times the height of Mount Everest.

About 18 miles of cloth is used to make the BUPA Great North Run souvenir T-shirts.

In 2001 Great North runners raised approximately £8 million for charity.

A team of six from the British Virgin Islands will have travelled a combined total of 96,000 miles before they even cross the start line.

Kevin Keegan once ran the Great North Run wearing the red and white stripes of Sunderland and the black and white stripes of Newcastle United.

Soccer star Paul Gascoigne once pushed a wheelchair athlete all the way round the Great North Run circuit.

The history of the Great North Run


Less than 5000 runners were expected to take part in the inaugural race - held on Sunday June 28 - therefore organisers were astounded when over 12,500 applied and over 10,000 of them completed the first Great North Run.

Winner of the half marathon from Newcastle to South Shields was local international Mike McLeod. Three years before going on to win the Olympic 10000m silver medal the Elswick Harrier crossed the line in 63 minutes 23 seconds.

The local police estimated over 200,000 spectators lined the route as he beat Norway's Oyvind Dahl by the huge margin of one minute 11 seconds.

Former South Shields Harrier Karen Goldhawk of the Royal Air Force made it a great day for North East athletics winning her race in 77 minutes 36 seconds.


After the brilliant success of the previous year more than 50,000 fun runners applied for the 20,000 available places. Producing another great run Mike McLeod ran 62 minutes 44 seconds the fastest time ever achieved for a half marathon in Great Britain. First woman across the line was London Olympiad's Margaret Lockley who clocked 77 minutes 43 seconds.


A year before winning the Olympic marathon title Carlos Lopez became the first overseas winner of the Great North Run. The Portugese ran a time of 62 minutes 46 seconds winning from schoolteacher Ray Smedley. The British international who had relocated from the Midlands ran 64 minutes 34 seconds. Crawley's Julie Barleycorn took the women's title in a time of 76 minutes 38 seconds.


Oyvind Dahl improving on his position of three years earlier crossed the finishing line in a time of 64 minutes 34 seconds. Fellow Norwegian, world marathon record holder Grete Waitz ran a superb UK All-Comers record of 70 minutes 27 seconds - slicing over six minutes off the course record and good enough for 18th position overall in the mixed race.


The finishing area
The long run home to the chequered flag.

Salford's Steve Kenyon equalled Mike McLeod's course record set in 1982. The Elswick Harrier himself after competing in an international meeting at Gateshead the previous day was second in 63 minutes 31 seconds. The women's record was smashed for a second successive year. Rosa Mota from Portugal with an unbelievable performance covered the streets of Tyneside her time of 69 minutes 54 seconds being the first time the 70 minutes barrier had ever been shattered in this country.


The stature of the event was recognized when it became the final of the Pearl Assurance half marathon series and also hosted the AAA National Championships. On course there was even greater cause for celebration. US-based Kenyan Mike Musyoki the Olympic 10000m bronze medallist won in a world record time of 60 minutes 43 seconds. That struck 12 seconds off the time achieved the previous September by US runner Mark Curp in Philadelphia. Behind him Steve Jones set a British record of 60 minutes 59 seconds. There was also a new Commonwealth and UK All-Comers mark for Australia's Lisa Martin who covered the 13.1 miles in 69 minutes 49 seconds. Cwmbran's Chris Hallam set a new wheelchair course record of 61 minutes 15 seconds.


There was an Australian double as Rob de Castella the World and Commonwealth champion won by 20 seconds ahead of Scotland's Allister Hutton in a time of 62 minutes 04seconds. The women's title went to Lisa Martin for a second successive year just missing her time on that occasion by two seconds. For the first time the Junior Great North Run preceded the senior race on the previous day. On the first ever Great North weekend Steve O'Gara from Wallsend was the winner.


With the entry limit increased to 27,000, victory went to 1984 Olympic marathon silver medallist John Treacy who ran exactly 61 minutes. Languishing 58 seconds behind the Irishman was Steve Jones. Grete Waitz returned to Tyneside for a second time and again set a UK All-Comers' mark of 68 minutes 49 seconds. There was a British half marathon record for Bristol schoolteacher Susan Tooby who ran 69 minutes 56 seconds.


In the most dramatic finish to that point in its history Mike McLeod missed out on a third success. Clocking the same time of 62 minutes 39 seconds victory was given to Morocco's El Mostafa Nechadi. There was a third win for Lisa Martin who beat Holland's Carla Beurskens by five seconds in a time of 71 minutes 03 seconds. Travelling from his family home in Benidorm John Rollins won the junior race.


There was a world record time for Steve Moneghetti of 60 minutes 34 seconds who in a thrilling race defeated Douglas Wakiihuri of Kenya by eight seconds. The Australian's winning time had been bettered by Matthews Temane and Zithulele Sinqe. But at that time South Africa was still paying the price for its apartheid policy and not being affiliated to the International Amateur Athletic Federation their performances were not recognised. Rose Mota in a time of 69 minutes 33 seconds finished well clear of Carla Beurskens (70 minutes 24 seconds) and Grete Waitz 70 minutes 51 seconds.


Runners approach the finish in 2003
Everyone has their own goals.

A virtually unknown former boxer Benson Masya won the race in 61 minutes 28 seconds - the third fastest time in the world that year. The Kenyan later to become the Great North Run's most successful contestant held off the challenge of Cannock's Paul Davies-Hale by nine seconds. Pre-race favourite Moses Tanui, winner of the World 10,000m gold medal the previous month, dropped out injured after 10 miles. There was an amazing performance from local star Jill Hunter. Making her GNR debut she was on world record schedule for the first 10 miles before dying and placing third in 72 minutes 24 seconds. Victory went to Norwegian doyen Ingrid Kristiansen in 70 minutes 57 seconds ahead of Torbay's Andrea Wallace whose time was 71 minutes 36 seconds.


Incorporating the first ever World Half Marathon Championships, Benson Masya won the race in a world record 60 minutes 24 seconds on a course certified as eligible by the International Amateur Athletic Federation. "I could have gone even faster," said Masya who along with Paul Tergat and Joseph Keino led Kenya to team victory ahead of Great Britain and Brazil.

The women's race provided a superb win for the host nation. Liz McColgan pulled away at the 10 miles marker winning in 68 minutes 53 seconds and just missed Grete Waitz's course record by four seconds. She also picked up a team silver medal behind champion's Japan while Romania finished third.


Having become the first man to better the one hour for the distance when winning the Stramilano half marathon the previous April in 59 minutes 47 seconds, at his third attempt Moses Tanui won the Great North Run title. In emphatic style the Kenyan won in a UK All-Comers' record time of 60 minutes 15 seconds ahead of top Britons Paul Evans and Richard Nerurkar who clocked season's bests of 61 minutes 45 seconds and 61 minutes 53 seconds. It was a double victory for the Kenyan nation. "Tiny" Tegla Loroupe broke away two miles from the finish to win in 72 minutes 55 seconds ahead of Russia's 1988 Olympic 10000m gold medallist Olga Bondarenko 73 minutes 13 seconds and South Africa's Zola Budd-Pieterse who recorded 73 minutes 30 seconds.


Benson Masya's prediction after his World Championships victory he could run even faster on the Tyneside course came true. In a nailbiting finish it took several minutes before he was credited with victory when the judges awarded him victory ahead of Moses Tanui in a UK All-Comers record time of 60 minutes 02 - which still remains as the fastest ever half marathon in this country.

Separating the pair of Kenyan's proved an almost impossible task - but a video replay found in favour of Masya by the skin of his teeth. Unlike the almost dead-heat between Nechchadi and McLeod five years earlier this one was decided by the thickness of the athletes vests. Third place went to Paul Tergat in 60 minutes 42 seconds after opening miles of four minutes 09 seconds and four minutes 27 seconds. Third two year's earlier on the Tyneside course in the World Championships, Rosanna Munerotto won for Italy in a time of 71 minutes 29 seconds. After challenging strongly throughout the entire race there was another second place for Andrea Wallace only five seconds down on the winner. Third was Mauela Machado of Portugal who clocked 71 minutes 48 seconds.


Moses Tanui returned after the disappointment of the previous year to win the event in a time of 60 minutes 39 seconds with Benson Masya well behind in 61 minutes 59 seconds. A Kenyan clean sweep of the medals was claimed with James Kariuki third in 62 minutes 29 seconds. But all eyes during the race were on Liz McColgan. Back in serious action after two years of agony and operations with a knee injury the "Flower of Scotland" headed off the challenge of Fatuma Roba - the Ethiopian was crowned Olympic marathon gold medallist a year later - and Manuela Machado of Portugal. Britain's greatest-ever distance runner's time was 71 minutes 42 seconds - with a healthy 23 seconds cushion ahead of Roba with Machado clocking 73 minutes 22 seconds.


Runners getting logged in
Runners having their race order recorded

Upset at his performance the previous year Benson Masya returned to the North East of England to win his fourth title since making his debut in 1991 with a time of 61 minutes 43 seconds. Second place went to Paul Evans who clocked 61 minutes 55 seconds while Spain's Antonio Serrano clinched third slot in 61 minutes 58 seconds. Liz McColgan, after having fallen well off the pace behind Esther Kiplagat, won for a second year. Lifting herself - and also producing a sprint finish - she won by eight seconds in a time of 70 minutes 28 seconds.


Tail winds were the order of the day. Hendrikk Ramaala later to finish fourth in the World Half Marathon won in 60 minutes 25 seconds. Behind the South African was Wilson Cheruiyot in 60 minutes 41 seconds, only two seconds ahead of fellow Kenyan Sammy Korir. A Kenyan was also first across the line in the women's race, Luciana Subano finishing in 69 minutes 24 seconds. For the first time Marian Sutton got the better of Liz McColgan, her time of 69 minutes 41 seconds bettering the Scot's mark by 27 seconds. On the comeback trail after serious injuries was former Olympic 10000m champion Derartu Tulu. The Ethiopian placed fourth clocked 70 minutes 30 seconds.


Shrugging off a chilling North East wind Olympic marathon champion Josiah Thugwane became the second South African to win the Great North Run. The former mine worker steamed to victory in 62 minutes 32 seconds.

Midland's-based Kenyan John Mutai finished runner-up in 62 minutes 50 seconds. Third place went to Spain's Martin Fiz, the former World and European marathon champion came through strongly in the latter stages finishing in 63 minutes 30 seconds. On her half marathon debut - and after her superb European 5000m/10000m track double - Sonia O'Sullivan made her move for home with four miles remaining to win in 71 minutes 50 seconds. An awesome space was behind her and runner-up Manuela Machado from Portugal, who clocked 72 minutes 55 seconds.


Only a week after winning a third successive World Half Marathon title, Tegla Loroupe was beaten into second place by Kenyan training partner Joyce Chepchumba who finished 28 seconds clear in a time of 69 minutes 07 seconds. There was a solid debut over the distance from Paula Radcliffe who crossed the line in 69 minutes 37 seconds while defending champion Sonia O'Sullivan, three month's after the birth of her daughter Ciara, ran 70 minutes 05 seconds. John Mutai achieved a lifetime ambition when taking the men's title in 60 minutes 52 seconds. South Africa's Gert Thys was second in 61 minutes 20 seconds.


The Millennium Race was celebrated in marvellous fashion when Paula Radcliffe eclipsed Grete Waitz's long standing record of 68 minutes 49 seconds set in 1988. Indeed the new heroine of British athletics went even further setting a European record time of 67 minutes 07 seconds, beating Liz McColgan's previous 1992 mark clocked in Tokyo by four seconds. The Bedford star finished exactly three minutes clear of Tegla Loroupe and moved to sixth place on the World All-Time list. Running his seventh half marathon of the year, 18-year-old Faustin Baha from Tanzania was a runaway winner in 61 minutes 57 seconds.


World half marathon record holder Paul Tergat led a Kenyan clean sweep of the medals. On the 21st anniversary of Great Britain's biggest road race he won in a time of 60 minutes 30 seconds, ahead of UK-based countrymen, Julius Kimtai (61:36) and 1999 champion John Mutai (62:49).

A strong headwind, particularly in the final two miles, made Tergat's vow to run under 60 minutes an impossible task, Olympic marathon champion Gehazagne Abera and Spanish aces Martin Fiz and Abel Anton failed to cope with the unhelpful conditions. Great North Run regular Paul Evans - first Briton home in fifth place - set a UK veterans record of 63 minutes 15 seconds.

A rousing finish saw the fastest-ever women over the half marathon distance, Susan Chepkemei score a superb victory from fellow Kenyan Joyce Chepchumba winning by five seconds in a time of 68 minutes 40 seconds. In third place was the Olympic and World 10000 metres gold medallist Derartu Tulu. The Ethiopian suffering from a hamstring injury finished in 70 minutes 10 seconds.

The run is a great family day out
The run is a great family day out

A strong headwind, particularly in the final two miles, made Tergat's vow to run under 60 minutes an impossible task, Olympic marathon champion Gehazagne Abera and Spanish aces Martin Fiz and Abel Anton failed to cope with the unhelpful conditions. Great North Run regular Paul Evans - first Briton home in fifth place - set a UK veterans record of 63 minutes 15 seconds.

A rousing finish saw the fastest-ever women over the half marathon distance, Susan Chepkemei score a superb victory from fellow Kenyan Joyce Chepchumba winning by five seconds in a time of 68 minutes 40 seconds. In third place was the Olympic and World 10000 metres gold medallist Derartu Tulu. The Ethiopian suffering from a hamstring injury finished in 70 minutes 10 seconds.


This year's BUPA Great North Run saw not only 35,142 runners crossing the finishing line at South Shields, but also the creation of a new course record, with Paul Kosgei slashing 4 seconds from Benson Masya's 1994 record, to come in under the one hour mark at 59 minutes and 58 seconds.

Sonia O'Sullivan claimed the women's race as her own, crossing the finish line in 1 hour 7 minutes and 19 seconds, a full 36 seconds ahead of Susie Power and just 12 seconds outside Paula Radcliffe's course record of 1:07:07 set in 2000.


Wonder-woman Paula Radcliffe was again in unbeatable form when scorching to a World best half marathon performance in this years BUPA Great North Run.

Radcliffe facing the toughest field assembled over the distance since Susan Chepkemei flew around the streets of Lisbon two years ago, crossed the line in 65 minutes 44 seconds.

While Radcliffe smashed almost every record she could on her journey from the city start to coastal finish, Hendrick Ramaala narrowly missed on also going into the record books.

Winner in 1997, the South African clocked the second-fastest time ever on domestic soil, winning by four seconds from Kenya's Jackson Koech in 60:01.

Only last year's winner Paul Kosgei - fourth on this occasion - has ran faster in a British race when setting the only only sub-60-minutes clocking with a time of 59:58 last September.

last updated: 02/08/04
Have Your Say
Your name: 
Your comment: 
The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.
Go to the top of the page

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy