The athletics world’s eyes were Tyneside-bound last weekend as Sir Mo Farah won his fourth consecutive Great North Run and some of track and field’s brightest stars competed in the Great North CityGames.
57,000 people took part in the half marathon, running from just outside Newcastle University’s Sports Centre on Claremont Road to South Shields.
With a time just six seconds over the hour mark Farah crossed the finish line just ahead of Jake Robertson, who had been leading the race up until its finishing stretches. Farah became the first man to win four consecutive Great North Runs, kicking off his post-track career pretty nicely.
Mary Keitany from Kenya won the elite women’s race for the third time, while Simon Lawson and Manuela Schar were victorious in the elite men’s and women’s wheelchair races.
Following the path trodden by the elite athletes were ‘the masses’, including a sprinkling of celebrities, some half-marathon regulars and many who were taking part for the first time.
Many Newcastle University students took part in the race, with even Vice-Chancellor Chris Day joining the start line to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a cancer research charity of which Professor Day is a trustee.
Indeed, many of the runners were running for a particular cause. The University’s team, led by Dr David Golding, ran for action on global poverty and climate change, while the Psychology Society organised a team to support MQ, a mental health research charity.
Sunil Rodger, a PhD student at Newcastle, ran his first Great North Run to raise money for Duchenne UK, a charity which supports research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“The thing that stood out for me was the incredible atmosphere before the start and all along the route,” Sunil said after the race. “There were so many families lining the road, cheering us on, handing out sweets, water, and even beer!
“I really appreciate everyone that sponsored me for Duchenne UK – we’ve raised over £700 for a great cause.”
As a warm up to the famous race, the Great North CityGames saw many of the world’s best athletes compete on the Quayside in events ranging from 100m sprints to pole-vault, long jump and hurdles. The events took place on both sides of the Tyne on Saturday afternoon, with thousands of spectators turning up for the chance to watch top-quality athletics for free.
Top-quality top knots were also in action, with Jonnie Peacock storming to victory in the T44 100m to the delight of the crowd.
More British success came in the women’s 500m, thanks to Perri Shakes-Drayton, while Melissa Courtney won the mile and Desiree Henry took the 100m title.
In the men’s 500m Botswanan Nijel Amos beat six British men to take the title, with some serious bantz provided by the friendly rivalry between Guy Learmonth, who came in second, and sixth-placed Martyn Rooney. Like several other competitors, both men stuck around after their race to mingle with the crowd.
The informal setting of the games helped to blur the boundary between athlete and spectator, and this was helped by the presence of runners from the Great North 5k and the Mini and Junior Great North Runs, which all also took place on Saturday. This, after all, is the aim behind the CityGames: to bring athletics closer to ordinary people and encourage the public to get active.
Intermittent rain did little to spoil the party, and 150m victories for Dina Asher-Smith and Ameer Webb wrapped up the CityGames before all the athletes paraded up and down the track to wave their farewells to the crowd. Mo Farah even made an appearance ahead of his race the following day.