Tyne & Wear

Great North Run: Thousands gather to celebrate millionth finisher

Great North Run millionth finisher ceremony
Image caption Onlookers were treated to a stunning light show and fireworks display

Thousands of people gathered at an event on the Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides to mark the countdown to the Great North Run's millionth finisher.

The event, including light shows and fireworks, also featured music from local artists Mark Knopfler and Sting.

The millionth runner will cross the finish line of the 13.1-mile run from Newcastle to South Shields on Sunday.

Brendan Foster, who founded the run in 1981, said he was "immensely proud" it had reached its millionth participant.

Northumbria Police warned a number of roads would be closed during the event and said the Tyne Bridge would be closed for a time.

Image caption Crowds crammed on to the quayside at Newcastle to watch the ceremony

Mr Foster said: "This year we will become the first running event in the world to achieve its millionth finish.

"It is an achievement I am immensely proud of and could not have imagined when we started our Great North Run journey back in 1981.

Image copyright PA
Image caption And and Dec opened the ceremony

"Sunday will be a celebration, not just of running, but also for many millions of pounds that have been raised by runners over the years for good causes."

And and Dec opened the event, for which 10,000 free tickets were made available, just after 20:30 BST to the music of Mark Knopfler's Local Hero.

Image caption Jimmy Nail and Sting are among the performers

The show also featured more than 700 volunteer performers and Tyneside-born actors Tim Healy and Jill Halfpenny, who narrated a heritage story written by award-winning author David Almond.

Former Police frontman Sting, who was born in Wallsend, said he was "honoured" to be asked to perform the title song from his latest album The Last Ship, along with fellow Geordie Jimmy Nail.

Image caption A sculpture of a pithead wheel was floated down the River Tyne as part of the event

Sting, real name Gordon Sumner, said: "I was so thrilled to be asked to take part.

"We're doing a musical about Tyneside, so to be asked to celebrate our community and our history together with local musicians is a great honour."

Organisers Nova said more than £250m had been raised for charity since the first race in 1981.

The annual half-marathon sees 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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