Get Inspired: Great North Run and six inspirational stories

Runners cross the Tyne Bridge during the Great North Run
Runners cross the Tyne Bridge during the Great North Run

It's the world's leading half-marathon and this year the Great North Run celebrates its 36th event. Over the years it has grown from 12,000 runners in 1981 to the 57,000 entrants set to take to the streets of Newcastle this Sunday.

The course stretches 13.1 miles and finishes at South Shields, taking in iconic sights such as the Tyne Bridge on its way. Meet some of the faces behind the sweat bands as Get Inspired takes a closer look at the experience of six of the 57,000-strong field.

'It makes me realise how extremely lucky I am'

Ailis Corey

Marathon motivation: Having battled and beaten blood cancer twice Ailis is set to take on her first half marathon. The 34-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma when she was 26 and, despite 12 rounds of chemotherapy and being declared in remission, the disease returned in 2012.

Ailis needed the help of her sister Brenda to give her a stem-cell transplant to improve her immune system. She then spent six weeks in Belfast City Hospital following the transplant before being given the all-clear in May 2014.

Ailis says: "It came as a huge shock to me to find out I had cancer as I had always been very healthy and rarely sick. The chemotherapy felt like I was going 12 rounds with a heavyweight boxer, I took a blow then once I got back on my feet again I was dealt another but I managed to get through it.

"There were times when I was going through my treatment and particularly after my transplant, that I could barely stand, let alone walk. Now, as I prepare to run a half marathon, it makes me very proud of how far I have come and it makes me realise how extremely lucky I am."

Running for: Anthony Nolan

Target sponsorship: £1,050

Target time: Three hours

'When I crossed the finish line, I felt I could take on the world and win'

Lizzie Jones

Marathon motivation: After losing her husband Danny during a rugby game Lizzie Jones has led a campaign to introduce mandatory heart screening for all players in the two levels below Super League.

During a match at London Skolars in May 2015 Danny suffered a fatal cardiac arrest and tragically died. He had a previously undiagnosed heart defect and Lizzie was left with five-month-old twins Bobby and Phoebe.

She will now be taking on her first half marathon at the Great North Run and she will be pushing another rugby player Matt King in his wheelchair.

Lizzie says: "It's a privilege to be taking on this challenge with Matt and it's going to be a very special and emotional day in the North East."

Matt King

Marathon motivation: In a twist of fate, Lizzie's husband Danny lined up against a 17-year-old Matt King, who was playing in his first ever match for London Broncos, in 2004 on the day his life changed forever. He was left paralysed from the neck down after an injury on the pitch, unable to breathe without a ventilator and entirely dependent on others for his most basic needs for life.

In 2006, Matt made history by becoming the first person with his level of spinal injury to complete a half marathon. Now he will complete his third Great North Run on Sunday.

Matt says: "After my accident, I wanted to try and lead as normal a life as possible. I thought that the days of being able to be part of a team and involved in sport were over. The training and organisation for the Great North Run was incredibly hard, because of my care needs and the fact it had never been done before.

"When I crossed the finish line with the team, I felt like I could take on the world and win. So many of my own thoughts about the direction my life would take were changed and I knew I could achieve so much more."

Running for: Rugby League Cares and Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund

Target sponsorship: £25,000

Lizzie & Matt's Target time: Two hours

'Life is great now'

Mandy Norris

Marathon motivation: When her dream holiday to Marrakesh was spoilt because of her weight 18-stone Mandy knew she needed to do something. She decided to take up running with the help of her husband Tony and through exercise the weight started to fall off.

After the turning point in her life, Mandy fell in love with running and now sports a slim size 10 figure. She has ditched the takeaways for homemade stews and the chocolate for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Mandy will be running the Great North Run for a fourth time on Sunday but she'll also be running the 5k race with her daughter on Saturday.

Mandy says: "I've had four spine operations and always used that as a reason as to why I was fat but it was just an excuse. The reality was I was lazy and couldn't be bothered! I vowed I would return to Marrakesh one day, slimmer. I did return two years later, still losing weight as a size 14 and much happier.

"I am running the Great North 5K with my daughter Kara and friend Nicola, both are non-runners and don't have the confidence to run it alone so I said I would come along with them. Life is great now - just wish I discovered running years ago!"

Target time: Two hours

'Life is never too black, or too hard to do something'

Andrea Whiting

Marathon motivation: Being an overweight child Andrea had always struggled with her weight but it was the shock of losing her father in late 2015 that made her realise she needed to turn her life around. At the time she weighed over 30 stone and struggled with her mobility and general health.

Andrea knew she wanted long-term results and decided to focus on her health. She started with a bootcamp and progressed to the gym and then finally in January 2016 completed her first park run. Now, within a year, she has managed to lose 14 stone and is about to take on her first half marathon.

Andrea says: "I realised that unless I did something, my mum would be burying me soon and obviously that was something I didn't want to happen. I weighed over 30 stone and reality had hit home - do something or die. I didn't want to do something that was focused on weight or diets as I wanted something long term. So I focused on health instead.

"I am honoured to be raising money for HOOP. They are a constant support and when I've doubted myself there is always someone to push me forward positively. I am fitter than I have ever been in the whole of my life. I am living again and I am healthy.

"Life is never too black, or too hard to do something about it. It may take time and dedication but it is so worth it. I chose life."

Running for: Hoop

Target sponsorship: £200

Target time: Three hours

'Every day he amazes and inspires us'

Robbie Jones

Marathon motivation: Nine-year-old Robbie Jones was given a 5% chance of survival when he contracted a deadly strain of meningitis as a baby. His heart stopped five times and his family were told to expect the worst.

Robbie had to have both of his legs removed and spent eight weeks in Royal Victoria Infirmary but he made an amazing recovery and was given the chance to walk again with prosthetic legs.

He loves sports and when his heard about how his grandma had taken part in the Great North Run to raise money for him and Meningitis Research he wanted to do the same. Robbie will take part in the Junior and Mini Great North Run in his wheelchair, alongside his big sister Alice.

Robbie's gran Sandra Graham says: "When Robbie became unwell, it was a huge shock to us and we were completely devastated. Removing his limbs was the only option, but every day he amazes and inspires us.

"Robbie really loves sports so it will be great to see him take part in the event with lots of other children. He got fitted with special prosthetic legs that help him take part in sports at school and these are due to be renewed soon.

"Hopefully one day he will be able to take part in a run on prosthetics, but for now it's just as important to be able to join in with his sister by his side."

Running for: Meningitis Research Foundation

  • Robbie and Alice will join 6,000 children at the Junior and Mini Great North Run on Saturday, 10 September, which has now reached capacity.
  • COVERAGE: Gabby Logan will present live coverage of the 2016 Great North Run on BBC One from 09:30 BST on Sunday. And you can catch highlights after the event here.

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