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Great North Run - your stories

You are in: Tyne > Great North Run > Great North Run - your stories > A Great North Run veteran

My grandad, Joe Bell, during the Great North Run.

My grandad waves as he passes us

A Great North Run veteran

Kristie Kinghorn's grandad took part in the Great North Run 16 times and provided her lots of fun memories of the event.

Each year, for 16 years I would go down to the finish line, in South Shields, to watch my grandad Joe Bell take part in the Great North Run.

It was a really fun day and everyone in the crowd seemed to enjoy it just as much as I did.

Everyone would grab a good spot for the day and wait for their loved one, friend, or even a celebrity to run past, ready to cheer them on as loud as they could.

Family affair

For us, it was a family affair and we would all go down to different parts of South Shields to cheer on the crowds and wait for my grandad to appear amongst the thousands of runners.

My nana and cousins would be waiting anxiously at the Nook (a run of shops) ready to throw my grandad a much needed bottle of water as he ran past. This would usually be followed by a very loud cheer!

My grandad, Joe Bell, after the Great North Run

My Granda after the Great North Run

My grandad would always look forward to spotting us in the crowds: "When I seen my family it really spurred me on, it made me happy."

Me, my mam and dad would always be at the finish line equipped with oranges, water and woolies, to meet my grandad after the run and congratulate him.

At the end there would be no lift home though: "At the end I used to jog back home...believe it or not."

Pram pushing

He took part in the GNR between 1987 and 2003.

Every year he couldn't wait to take part in the race: "I always looked forward to it, I couldn't wait for it to start."

He would jog the whole way and would always finish in under two hours. He was always determined to get to that finish line in a time he could be proud of: "I don't like to be beat, I would get to the finish line even if I had to crawl there."

He would train three times a week, running along the coast road from South Shields to Sunderland, there and back.

Kristie Kinghorn in the Great North Run t-shirt from the year she was born

Kristie Kinghorn in the 1988 GNR T-shirt

When I was a baby, my grandad's babysitting duties took quite a different twist. I would help him with his training by helplessly sitting in my pram being pushed along the seafront.

My grandad has always been a very athletic person and he would never use public transport if he could avoid it. He worked as a safety officer for 36 years at Rohm Haas in Jarrow and every day he ran or cycled into work.

Each run, he raised money for Cancer Research UK, after a visit to the children's cancer ward. He was touched by their stories which really pushed him into wanting to help the charity. Over the years he raised more than £2,000 for the cause.

Between each Great North Run, he would also take part in fun runs where he raised more money for charity.

Medal collection

Now retired and at the age of 70, it is still a rare occasion to see him sitting down. Climbing mountains, cycling and playing bowls with his friends keeps him busy.

He has climbed Scafell, Cat Bells and Skiddaw in the Lake District, as well as taking part in the Coast to Coast cycle ride.

Back in 1988 (the year I came into the world) my grandad gave me the t-shirt he received from the Great North Run. I wore it for years as a nightie when I was little and I still have it, although it is a bit stained and washed out now.

2003 marked the last Great North Run for my grandad and he gave his final medal to my cousin. He still has all his medals and even a plaque he received in the 1992 Great North Run.

My grandad's Great North Run Medals

My grandad's Great North Run Medals

It isn't just my grandad who has taken part in the Great North Run. My mam and dad decided to have a go and took part in the run twice.

My mam really enjoyed it, but maybe wasn't as fit as my grandad.

She said: "The end is very tiring, the last mile seemed like the longest mile of my life, but it's nice to say you've crossed the finish line."

They never did it again after that, I don't think they had quite the same determination as my grandad, but they still enjoyed it.

My dad said: "The atmosphere is excellent, everyone in the crowd is really nice, it really spurs you on."

My grandad loved taking part in the race and wouldn't mind having another go in the future.

He said: "I really enjoyed it, it was always a challenge and I enjoy a challenge. It's a fantastic event, it really is, I miss it."

last updated: 19/09/2008 at 14:59
created: 19/09/2008

You are in: Tyne > Great North Run > Great North Run - your stories > A Great North Run veteran

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