Great North Run 2012: Wilson Kipsang wins annual half marathon

Ed Thomas reports on the 2012 Great North Run

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Almost 40,000 people took part in the Great North Run - the annual half marathon from Newcastle to South Shields.

Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah was one of five London 2012 stars who acted as starters for the race.

Wilson Kipsang produced a superb sprint finish to win the event with a time of 59 minutes and six seconds.

Ethiopia's Olympic 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba won the women's race on her half marathon debut.

Canadian Josh Cassidy, a world marathon record holder, won the wheelchair race in a time of 43 minutes 18 seconds.

The event was first staged in 1981 and has become one of the world's biggest runs.

Among those taking part was a man who ran with a fridge on his back for the 30th day in a row.

Tony "The Fridge" Phoenix-Morrison has run the 13.1-mile circuit with a 40kg fridge strapped to his back on each of the past 29 days as part of a challenge to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation cancer charity.

Olympic Champion Mo Farah Olympic Champion Mo Farah waved to fans before starting the race with his fellow Olympians

The 48-year-old, from Hebburn, has taken part in the Great North Run 16 times, including his first time bearing the fridge last year.

Cheered every step of the way, he was met by his childhood hero Brendan Foster as he completed the challenge.

He said he was humbled by the public's response to his charity endeavour and his online donation page stood at more than £9,000.

Mr Phoenix-Morrison said: "I'm feeling honoured to be able to carry out this challenge. It represents the daily struggle people with cancer have, and the struggle to fight cancer."

And he has said he will run the same course on Monday without the kitchen appliance, "just for fun" and as a tribute to Foster, who created the Great North Run.

Analysis

To start with, it is like a huge public health advert for bananas.

It seems like everyone has this traditional last-minute energy boost clutched close, like a security blanket.

Then, if aliens had landed, they really would have wondered at what happens next.

Just under 40,000 people doing what can only be described as mass, open air, aerobics. A warm-up like no other. An astonishing sight matched only by the magnitude of the race itself.

And then they wait, jiggling to keep warm, staring off into the distance, remembering why they are running.

Finally, music blaring, walking slowly just to get across the start line - they are off.

Double Olympic champion Farah - who also started the race last year when he had just been crowned world 5,000m champion - was due to run the race for the first time this year.

But the athlete, who has newly-born twin daughters, pulled out earlier this month saying: "The last few weeks have taken their toll and it would be disrespectful to take on the distance without the necessary hard training."

Runners at the start line The runners begin their 13.1 mile journey to South Shields

He did however win a two-mile race at the Great North CityGames on Gateshead quayside on Saturday.

The Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m gold medallist acted as honorary starter alongside fellow London 2012 champions long jumper Greg Rutherford, boxer Nicola Adams, Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds and rower Kat Copeland, who comes from the North East.

There was also a fly-past by the Red Arrows display team at the start of the race.

The Great North Run was devised by 1976 Olympic 10,000m medallist and BBC athletics commentator Brendan Foster.

The first race in 1981 attracted 12,000 participants but over the next three decades it has become the UK's largest mass participation race, with only the London Marathon attracting a crowd close to matching it.

Participants run from the Central Motorway in Newcastle, across the Tyne Bridge, down the Felling Bypass and on to the John Reid Road to the coast at South Shields.

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