For the first time in 40 years the Great North Run will not end in South Shields, after organisers announced significant changes to the route.
The race, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 12, will now both start and finish in Newcastle, with runners crossing the Tyne Bridge twice. The route will pass through the city centre on the return leg, finishing on the Great North Road, with a finishers village to be built on the city’s Town Moor.
The Great Run Company, who organise the race, said the changes were due to Covid-19 concerns. In a statement on its website, the company said: ‘We know that tens of thousands of our runners are currently training and fundraising for the Great North Run, and we are making the change to the route and planning for a Covid secure event now to assure the event can go ahead.’
Runners will be given allocated time slots instead of the expected mass start, with the final runners setting off hours after the first. The company said this change had been made to enable social distancing during the race and also on the region’s transport network before and after the race.
Organisers said they have now committed to the changes, which were made in consultation with local councils, public health bodies and transport authorities.
Race Director Nigel Gough said: ‘Planning the Great North Run takes many months, and we need to commit to a plan. Even as most restrictions are lifted, it makes sense to plan carefully to minimise the risk of transmission and ensure that this event can go ahead. After careful consultation with a wide range of national and local stakeholders, it is clear these adaptations provide that.’
Runners have been reacting to the news on social media, with some happy that the event can go ahead. Sue Barnes said: ‘Well done @Great_Run for adapting this year's event so it can still take place and keep us as safe as possible in these uncertain times’.
Others were less happy with the news. Ollie Walker tweeted: ‘I don’t get this. Surely if full stadiums are allowed then why does this need to be socially distanced? And how does bunching everyone up in Newcastle mean people will be more socially distanced?’
But despite this year’s run not finishing in South Shields – which is an important part of the event for some runners – Great Run Company Chief Executive Paul Foster said the race would retain its unique appeal: ‘The Great North Run has always been a celebration of everything that’s great about the North East. This year, more than ever, it’s important we have the opportunity to come together and celebrate our collective efforts after such a challenging time.’
He added: ‘We know many people will be using the event to pay tribute to loved ones, provide much needed support for worthy causes and on an individual level, remember what it’s like to be part of something bigger than themselves. We want to make sure we’ve done everything we can to make that possible.
‘Whether this is your first Great North Run or you’ve taken on every one, this will certainly be a year to remember.’
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