Euphoric day for Tyneside as 57,000 take part in Great North Run return - with a new route and a new winner

By Katie Dickinson

It was a euphoric day for thousands of runners and spectators as the Great North Run returned to Tyneside.

The iconic event celebrated its delayed 40th anniversary in 2021 after being cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers estimated that around 57,000 people took part in the world’s biggest half-marathon, with celebrations befitting the milestone.

Read more: Go here for Great North Run route updates and news

The crowd that crossed the Tyne Bridge on Sunday morning was as colourful as ever, with the usual mix of outfits ranging from serious running gear to some downright uncomfortable and impractical looking fancy dress costumes.

But for the first time in its history, the race returned with a new route to help with social distancing - starting and finishing in Newcastle city centre.

Runners did not head to South Shields, but instead started and finished in Newcastle, crossing the Tyne Bridge twice and facing an uphill ending to their 13.1 mile race.

This year's men's winner was Olympian Marc Scott from Northallerton in Yorkshire, who achieved victory with an impressive time of 1:01:22.

The 27-year-old had represented Great Britain in the 5000m and the 10,000m at this summer's games, now capping off an impressive year with victory at the iconic Great North Run.

The Yorkshireman came in a full nine seconds ahead of Kenya's Edward Cheserek who finished in 1:01:31, while American Galen Rupp took third place with 1:01:51 after a sprint with Great Britain's Jake Smith.

The Elite Women’s race was won by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri.

It's the first time since 2013 that the race hasn't been won by Mo Farah, with the six-time champion absent from this year's race.

However, there were a number of famous faces taking part, including Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Great British Bake Off star Michael Chakraverty.

While Scott and Obiri may have been the champions in sporting terms, hundreds of charities and good causes were, as ever, the other winners of the day.

Great North Run 2021 in Newcastle Upon Tyne (Newcastle Chronicle)

Many runners chose spectacular costumes to grab attention while raising money, and awareness, of their chosen cause.

Among the colourful costumes were inflatable pigs, rhinos and gorillas, with characters from Shrek to Marge Simpson.

Li-Am Carter ran the GNR in memory of her daughter Mali for the Team Evie charity which supports seriously ill children and their families in the North-East and Cumbria.

She said: "They are a really small charity which works across the area. When our daughter Mali was in hospital, we thought a lot of the resources we were getting were from the RVI initially - but then we realised lots was from the charity, which was started by parents who has lost their daughter.

"They do such amazing work. Especially when children are in intensive care."

Mali died in 2018 after contracting a virus shortly after birth. She was 18 months old.

Tom Doneghan, Jack Lucas and Alex Eleazar ran in panda suits in aid of charity Fanconi Hope.

Less than 200 children in the UK suffer from Fanconi Anaemia - a rare condition that can lead to leukaemia. One of those children is Tom's daughter Phoebe, from South Shields.

Tom said: "it's a charity for people with this incredibly rare condition. Around 140 people in Britain have it - and it's something children often don't live through childhood with. We are doing this to raise money to help them do research into new things like proton beam therapy.

"We decided to run in panda suits simply because it was quite fun! But also I've begun to get quite far during Covid so it helped hide that."

The day started with the Red Arrows completing their traditional fly past over the Tyne Bridge for the first time since 2018.

The sight of the iconic RAF display team soaring over the heads of thousands of runners is one of the defining images of the Great North Run - but has not been seen for several years due to the pandemic last year, and a hectic schedule in 2019 which saw the dates clash with an overseas tour of America and Canada.

Among those at the finish line throughout the day was North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, who said: "We have had the most terrible 18 months with Covid. For all the people limping and aching now, this is an event about healing - of our physical health, our mental health.

“The strength of everyone here and all the support along the route cheering us on, that's the strength of the Geordie nation."

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