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Sandra's Story

This is my story of how the Great North Run changed my life. Not just getting me fit and changing my mind set, but actually contributing to my current employment choice and enabling me to inspire others. I’ve come a long way, and not just the 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields! 

I moved to Newcastle as a student in 2000. From 2001 onwards I turned up to watch the thousands of people every September spend a special Sunday morning running 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields. Until 2010 that’s all I did about the Great North Run - sponsor friends, turn up, watch, cheer and admire the spirit of people of all shapes and sizes, and backgrounds taking on this challenge each with their own reasons. Admiring those adding to the challenge by wearing fancy dress, carrying heavy loads (including Tony who carries the fridge!), pushing wheel chairs, shaking buckets en-route even running backwards in a horse costume! 

Every year I came away feeling inspired, yet thinking I could never do that; Then in a moment of ‘madness’ in 2011 I entered the ballot for the race. I wouldn’t get through would I?, thousands of people don’t get through each year. Besides I couldn’t run for a bus, I was the last over the finish line in PE, and over the years I had eaten more than one too many pies.

In February 2011 I noticed the entry fee had gone out of my bank account, checked my emails, and sure enough I had a place….. I had a place! My thoughts turned from absolute elation to complete panic…. ‘I’ve got a place, can I do it?, how am I going to do it? I can’t even run!’ . By lunch time that day I’d been fitted for my first pair of running shoes, downloaded an ‘app’ to my phone based on couch to 5k (very apt given the couch being a much bigger part of my life then 5k, let alone 13 miles!) and planned my first run for the weekend.

I trained, jogging, running, walking, aching, getting outside through the spring and the summer, sun and rain. My friends, partner and colleagues encouraged me, whilst my mother worried for me! In-between times my job contract came to an end. For the first time since I was 14 years old I had no job, I’d always maintained part time employment since school and gone straight into full time work post uni. I could have fallen apart, but I didn’t have time!  I had also learned something new about myself and inner strength. I needed to get out running, I couldn’t let everyone down now. I continued running 3 times a week. My confidence grew. If I could conquer running, something I found so hard, I could definitely find a new job!

I had the confidence to secure some short term freelance work, and a couple of months later secured a job working for a Sport for development focussed charity Sported! Seven months later I found myself at the starting line ready to take on the biggest physical challenge of my life. Now weighing in a stone lighter, looking and feeling healthier, in my own fancy dress costume! I crossed the line 2hrs and 36 minutes later, elated, surprised and proud!

 3 years on, and I’ve continued running, and am about to embark on my 3rd Great North Run (running in 2011, 2013, and 2014 – I was unsuccessful in gaining a place in 2012). In between times I’ve completed other races and even a triathlon!

I’ve also raised over £1,000 for good causes through event sponsorship. Since 2011 I have been working for Sported, supporting groups using sport to change the lives of young people. The Great North Run taught me the power of sport, and now my job enables me to take that forward by supporting those helping young people through sport in our North East communities.

 The Great North Run truly changed my life, work and my perspective, and through this I’ve inspired others to take on the GNR challenge as well as the everyday challenges of life. Maybe I will be the millionth over the line…maybe not, but I am proud to have been part of the line up!

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Sonia's Story

I can remember watching the Great North Run on TV in Ireland - I just seemed to have a connection with it but never dreamt that one day I would race down the roads from Newcastle to South Shields ahead of 1000s behind me each creating their little piece of running history that will give us the millionth runner across the finish line this year. 

In 2002 when I won in a very fast 67minutes I can remember feeling like I was hopping off the road, I hit my stop watch every mile and saw 5:06, 5:06, 5:06...... I was just so in tune with the pace and it all just felt so easy. It is such a different experience for particularly the elite women as they start off ahead of the main field, you feel so small in the middle of the road with people just starting to appear on the roadside and the bands on each roundabout being startled by the appearance of the first runners but not the huge tide of runners yet.

Strangely I also got to see the run from the total opposite end of the race. In 2010 I was the very last runner to cross the start line, the aim was to pass as many people as possible which is not as easy as you would think. I waited nearly an hour for all runners to cross the start line, then headed off at high speed as I was so keen to get going, only to be stopped at the underpass by a wall of runners, I hopped up on kerbs, along the grass down the middle of the motorway, zig zagging all over the road . All I saw was the finish line but there was a maze of runners to get through, not so easy from the back.

It was like running through a moving pantomime, the noise and colours . Every creature you could imagine was represented along the road, all the furry friends, even the Angel of the north running along now that was an obstacle as I didn't need to get clattered by a swaying wing. This time the crowds were on the side of road nearly as many cheering as running and the space I was looking forward to on the motorway never appeared, just a moving sea of people all the way.

The best part was running across the Tyne Bridge with so many people it definitely moved more than when I've been there with a handful of the best women runners. This is the image we see on TV, the picture in the paper on Monday and I got to be there moving along in the sea of people that make up the Great North Run. 

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Julia's Story

My dad Steve Nugent was a proud councillor on Gateshead Council and was awarded the honour of becoming an alderman by the then leader Sir Les Elton.  Dad worked tirelessly with Sir Les and subsequently Mick Henry to promote the excellence and potential of Gateshead.

He was there at the outset when Brendan Foster put NE athletics on the map by hosting International Athletics at Gateshead Stadium. I have many happy memories of attending The Gateshead Games with my mam and dad and the excitement of attending the after party at a function suite on Gateshead High Street.  I acquired lots of autographs.  Throughout the years and even when my dad was an old man people like Brendan Foster were always kind and respectful to him. My dad really appreciated this and this in turn gave me pleasure as an adult. 

I have run with my kids in the shorter distance fun runs dressed as The Angel of the North and my brother Paddy has run several times. We always cheer him on as a family at Heworth and sometimes at South Shields as well.  One year Paddy raised a lot of money for the chemo unit at the QE hospital Gateshead where I had excellent care when diagnosed with breast cancer. My consultant Kevin Clark was a genius and made me laugh a lot in spite of adversity.

Our family has always loved athletics and we are very proud to be from Gateshead. We are indebted to Brendan Foster for giving us and so many others such fantastic opportunities. I am performing in the opening ceremony. The rehearsals have been excellent and I have met some brilliant people. Nathan and Bradley are inspirational. They have made a 52 year old body do things I thought were beyond me although it has to be said it has all been done with a laugh.

I feel privileged to be involved and have felt quite humbled and emotional when listening to the storytelling and the exceptional music and script. Thank you to all involved for having the vision to put this extravaganza together. My dad and brother Steve have both died but I am certain that their spirit lives on, never more so than during these next few weeks.

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Alan's Story

Way back in 1983 I was a 16 year old schoolboy inspired by the efforts of runners in the Great North Run and decided that was something I’d love to try. Next year, training in tennis shoes (which killed me!) I got myself fit enough and was successful in my entry into the 1984 Thorn EMI Great North Run. To spice it up I offered to raise funds for a voluntary inshore lifeboat from Boulmer, where we had our caravan, to ensure I kept going.

I got round on my first attempt  in 1 hr 52 minutes and got such a buzz helping to raise money for others at the same time. Fitness wise , I "peaked” in 1986 with a 1 hr 28 min 28 seconds run and finished in the first 2,000 places. Add another 75 minutes to that time these days and it will be more accurate!

That said, this year will be my 28th Bupa Great North Run - I have only missed 3 runs since 1984 (twice through injury, once through work commitments). Over time I have raised funds for Special Care Baby units, women’s breast care units, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Macmillan Nurses, British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation, Diabetes UK, Asthma UK, Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, to name but a few.

This year I am pooling my fundraising between The Motor Neurone Disease Association and The Great North Air Ambulance. Including 4 London Marathons and, including Gift Aid, I have this year just passed the £30,000 mark raised since 1984 for all the various charities.

I’m built for comfort not speed these days but still get the same sort of buzz now running 12 minute miles now  as I did in 1986 when I averaged 6 minute 47 second miles for the course... At least I get to stay out there longer to enjoy the atmosphere these days !!!  

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Ashley's Story

4 years ago I started a job as a charity manager for regional blood cancer charity Bright Red. My role was primarily admin based, but after meeting a few patients, I was quickly all too aware of how important it was to raise funds as well.

I'd never completed the Bupa Great North Run before but it's one of those events which is on every Geordie's Bucket List. I registered for both the Great North Run and the Mini Run, and I showed my son pictures on the website - he was unbelievably excited.
We decided to do it in fancy dress and completed the first mini run as Woody & Jessie from Toy Story. It was one of the best days of my life. I had a feeling that I wouldn't enjoy the Great North Run as much, but I was wrong.

The event is just beyond special. Thousands of people running together with a fantastic sense of unity. Most runners fundraise & the event raises millions for good causes. Strangers line the streets to cheer you on, or hand out refreshments which they've bought themselves. Bands keep you entertained throughout.
My favourite part is when the Red Arrows fly over your head as you approach the finish line. It's a feeling like no other. After our first weekend we were hooked. I've signed up for the mini run & Great North Run for the past 4 years and with each year, I look forward to it more and more. 
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Lisa's Story

I signed up to do the Bupa Great North Run in 2010, when my beloved dad died suddenly aged 64 from heart failure. I wanted to raise money in his name for the British Heart Foundation, however I hadn't run since my schooldays (I was 28 years old) and was a little overweight.
I hated every minute of training for the first 6 weeks t but, with each little goal I set myself, I began to enjoy it. I also lost 3 stone in the process. I wanted to run sub 2 hours, and it was to be the first and last race I would ever take part in. I completed it in 1 hour 58 and was overjoyed! By this point, I had the bug.

Fast forward 4 years: I have 5 marathons under my belt and 2 more this year (I was the first lady in one of these and have a pb of 3 hours 21 mins), I have completed countless half marathons and 10k races, I am the Elite Ladies’ captain with the Gateshead Harriers, I have a coaching qualification and have just started coaching the ladies at my running club, I have won trophies for cross country racing and, best of all, I have raised thousands and thousands of pounds for charity.
I am aiming to run my 4thGreat North Run in sub 90 mins, fingers crossed! My life has changed dramatically since my first GNR, I can’t believe just how much! 
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Elsa's Story

This year I will be running my fourth consecutive Great North Run at the age of 56. I took up running at the age of 52 after being inspired to get fit upon seeing disabled athletes at my local gym at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. I try to raise as much money as possible for the charity Wheelpower who are based at the stadium.

Wheelpower is a national charity who provide opportunities, facilities  and equipment to enable disabled people to play sport and lead healthy active lives. Wheelchair sport improves health and physical well being; increased self esteem and confidence and improved social opportunities, all of which result in a better quality of life and independence.

The wheelchair races are very much part of the Great North Run and it was Wheelpower who inspired and helped our wheelchair athletes, e.g.David Weir, Shelley Woods and Jade Jones .

2014 will see both my daughters travelling from London to be with me on the start line. Anna has ran twice before, but it is Amy's first half marathon and we are all running for Wheelpower.

I left my native Tyneside at the age of 21 and love coming back for the Great North Run, can't beat a bit of Geordie humour and banter along the way! No place like it! Bring on the 7th September!

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Gill's Poem

This is my little space, to tell you my story of the great north race..............

I love to run and keep myself fit, even though it hurts quite a bit..........

I keep on going coz it makes me smile, and happy and bright for quite a while..........

And when the sun is out and the sky is blue, i can't think of much more i'd rather do.........

And so i thought this year i would, enter this race as i thought i could.........

Run a half marathon at a push, and completing it would just be LUSH (ha! ha!).........

And so far i am 10 miles in, and i'm sending this appeal to my kith and kin..........

To sponsor me a little bit, to raise some funds and enjoy the wit.........

Of this little ditty, this little rhyme and support Action For Children at the same time...........

Once again my thanks go to you, for your help and support in all you do........

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Kerry's Story

I ran my first GNR last year. Five years ago my husband Keith was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He went through gruelling treatment including a stem cell transplant in 2010. The care he received and enthusiasm from the national Myeloma charity and the local Bright Red charity was absolutely amazing.

I wanted to give back something so in December 2011 at the age of 50 I gave up smoking and started walking to get fit with my friend Anne and raised money through bake off’s and raffles at work.  

My crazy friend Anne announced in March 2012 that we would be running the GNR in 2013 so we joined a running club and I ran my first GNR last year. It was not easy and probably not pretty but I finished on a very emotional high as we had just found out the week before the run that Keith had relapsed so it was very special.

This year I aim to improve my time and raise as much money as I can for Bright Red. This is such a special event that brings so many special people together for the best reasons and of course always supported by the best people in the world along the roadside….. The Geordies….


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Simon's Story

My first GNR was in 2001 just after my 40th birthday. I did it with some friends, just to see if I could, and to raise some money for charity. Soon after I received an invite to become a GNR member. I thought I would run twice more so I had a medal for each of my kids, but I’ve just kept going and this year will be my 14th consecutive run with no plans to stop just yet.

My friend Charles has also completed all the runs with me and over the years we have persuaded a number of friends and colleagues to join us.

Our aim is to keep within 1hr 45 and 1hr 55 for as long as possible and depending on the amount of training we have done. So far so good, but it gets harder as we get older.

It isn’t just about the run, it’s the fact that it is a great weekend. Everything is so well organised, and everyone is so friendly. By the time we head back on the long journey south on Monday morning, we both feel a little bit sad that it’s all over for another year.


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Darren's Story

I ran my first GNR in 2010 and this year will be my 5th in a row. I have a GNR PB of 1:35 and Marathon PB of 3:32, I've run in Barcelona, Dublin, Rome,the Olympic Stadium in East London and all over the UK.  

I'm converting to triathlon as my main sport and love the people and warmth from the North East at the best supported run ever anywhere in the world.

In 2013 I ran in memory of my Grandfather, Tom Bain for the Butterwick Hopsice, Teesside who cared for him in his last few weeks. I live in Essex and but spent many years growing up on Teesside where my family still live. . Part of the GNR experience is sharing this with family and friends and I always like to spend time with my Grandmother after each GNR who is proud of my achievements.

Sadly she passed away earlier this year. On Saturday I will visit her and Tom and lay some flowers - I know there will be a lump in my throat on this years start line. This year it's for you Nan.

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Mel's Story

My mum Debby ran the Great North Run in 1999. Every year she reminisces when she sees the run.

My friend Cathy lost her battle to cancer on 29th June 2014. That evening one of my other friends, Lyn posted on Facebook that she was running the Great North Run this year. I posted that I wished I was running with her. A couple of minutes later I had signed up to run for children with Cancer UK!

Since then I have been out running 5/6 days a week. I had not run more than 5k before I started to train, so this is not only my first time running the GNR but also my first ever half marathon. I have come down on holiday to Burradon Cottages so I can be involved in the fun of the Opening Ceremony, the pasta party and of course the big day.

I have been very lucky to have supportive friends and family. My sponsorships is coming along nicely and I'm looking forward to helping children with Cancer UK. Wishing everyone a fun and enjoyable experience!

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Tom's Story

I have taken part in the Bupa Great North Run twice, in 2009 and most memorably in 2004. I spent the first 6 years of my life in Newcastle before we moved to Lincoln. My Dad had become ill with Multiple Sclerosis at a young age so the family moved to somewhere more practical.
Dad died in 2002, which hit me hard. My Mum said that he always wanted to do the Great North Run, even in a wheelchair.

I applied in 2004, the date of which coincided with the 2nd anniversary of his passing. A really great group of friends were also doing it. I will never forget them putting me in a huddle at the start when I started crying, and I went on to have an amazing day.
My Mum, brother and Gran were there to meet me at the end, tears were shed again but I was so proud to raise hundreds for the MS Society. I have run other half marathons since but nothing will ever compare to that day in the North East.
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Leyla's Story

As the CEO of the Newcastle Dog & Cat Shelter, we are always looking for ways to fundraise and the Great North Run helps us to raise thousands of pounds every year. 

It only seemed fair that if we were asking our supporters to pull on their trainers and run 13.1 miles for us that I should try it at least once.

In 2010 I put on my trainers for the first time and the only word I can use to describe the experience is WOW!

The whole day was amazing, the camaraderie, the atmosphere, the amazing support form people cheering as you go and the bands who help to keep spirits up when the burn sets in. The experience was so amazing that I will be taking part again this year for the 5th consecutive year. Alongside my husband and 40 other wonderful supporters who are running to raise vital funds to help the animals of the North East.

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Craig's Story

I will be running my 8th consecutive Great North Run in support of the Motor Neurone Disease Association

I have ran every year since my Mam was diagnosed in 2006, She was able to meet me after my first run in 2007, but unfortunately passed away by the time my 2nd run came around. I don’t particularly like running but the MND Association and any charity is a great cause to run for.

I generally run in a mad fancy dress costume, last year I ran as a Lego man and plan to run in the same costume again this year.

The day of the Great North Run is always an emotional day for me, but the crowd on the route are amazing. They always come out to support you what ever the weather is like and no matter how hard the run is the crowd helps you get round,

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Sarah's Story

This year's Bupa Great North Run will be the first time I've ever entered anything like this. I've never been brave enough but I felt really strongly that I wanted to do something to make my little girl proud of me.

She was born too early and with a low birth rate with her cord wrapped around her neck and against all odds she is is now the strongest, most funny and loving little 18 month old I know.

I'm running for the baby charity Tommy's and, after quite a few celebrities have tweeted my sponsor page, I've raised over £200 so far.

I'm running for all those parents that aren't as lucky as me and my little girl will be there waiting for me at the finish line. 

I'm looking forward to it! 

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Mark's Story

This is my tenth Bupa Great North Run in a row, and my eleventh in total. I have been running the last seven runs in memory of my friend's son who was murdered on his 16th birthday whilst celebrating his GCSE success with friends.

When Glen died his mam and friends set up the Glen Corner Trust aimed at helping victims and families of knife crime, unfortunately we have had to help quite a few family's over the years.

When Glen was murdered I made a promise to Lee, Glens father I would run the Bupa Great North Run in Glen's memory as long I was able to.

Last year I was injured but still managed to hobble it and have stuck to my promise. So to celebrate my tenth run and to keeps Glen's memory also going I have had these tattoos on my leg.

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Tony's Story

As I write these words I am already regretting breaking my 10 year stint of consecutive GNR’s, but it gives me a great opportunity to reflect on one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I have met many of you in my numerous years of media work in the North East – the GNR just meant more and more every year. But of all the highlights I will never forget John Inverdale calling Steve Cram’s description of the hill as ‘b***ocks’ on my radio show, and Brendan Foster himself sponsoring me on behalf of the SCBU in Lancaster after my little girl was born prematurely.

In 1997 I used to mock this race wondering ‘why on earth’…but I know I’ll be back in 2015 wondering ‘why on earth' I had a year off.

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Chris's Story

I never thought in 1981 when I was 19 that I’d still be running in my 50s. Couldn’t even imagine what being in my 50s was, it seemed so old and so far away. But here I am, now 52, and 34 Great North Runs later, still plodding out the miles. I’ve gone grey, teeth are falling out, and the joints feel very rusty, but put me on the start line on Sunday and I’ll do the business.

Just got to keep on truckin’, truckin’ on down the road... Best wishes to all Great North Runners, past, present and future!

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