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25 years of the Great North Run.

Byline: By Ray Marshall

On June 28, 1981, 12,264 runners took to the streets of Newcastle to take part in the very first Great North Run. Of those, 10,665 finished.

The late Chronicle reporter Peter Fairley described the scenes that day as magical.

"A magic which softened even the hardened arteries of the devoutly indolent like me," he admitted.

His report went on: "They tell me that a Mr McLeod won the event within a lamb's nose of some record or other. This did not impress. What did leave an indelible mark from my vantage point, 10 miles out at the last first aid post at Marsden, was the huge tide of good humour that rolled past.

"That, and a word seldom used correctly these days - sport.

"Now I am something of a cynic and fully paid-up coward when it comes to bodily strain. As a man prone to suffer relapse after too strenuous a game of dominoes, I say jog off to it all as a rule.

"But if sport means what it used to - and what it meant to 12,000 people yesterday ( then it was indeed a rare and wonderful thing.

"The magic began after Mike McLeod, Brendan Foster and the other big boys were past the tape, around the time Kevin Keegan ploughed past, head down, in his diplomatically worn Newcastle/Sunderland shirt. They were all heroes after that. Some were more conspicuously gallant than others.

"The first of the wheelchair speeders, muscles like flour bags stuffed up a hosepipe. "And later another disabled contestant. He was an elfin-like Asian lad occasionally being pushed by two runners themselves exhausted, blowing kisses to the crowd with radiant glee.

"There was a man who ran past waving a placard which merely read "His Dad".

"And three fellows with windmills in their hair. There was competitor No. 8014, who came past wearing a red and white traffic cone ( and an enormous grin.

"And about midday a chap wearing full-dress arrowed prison uniform, plus ball and chain, ambled past. And a man of my own build, constructed more for comfort than speed, thumped past in a T-shirt reading `Running in - please pass'.

"Oh and there were more, so many more. There was a Batman, cape streaming from behind and his Y-fronts outside his outfit.

"There was a man bouncing a big orange ball all the way.

"There was a chef from the Swallow Hotel in a white apron and hat and the big burly, bearded man who trotted past us at a good 4mph looking as fresh as a daisy.

"`Get a move on, you can do it,' someone in the crowd shouted. `Of course I can,' he grinned back. This is my second time around.'

"They came in a great roller-coaster, the wallowers, the staggerers and the lopers, filling first one half and then the whole of the road in front of us.

"These were the people who did not win and they did not win in style.

"Like a roller-skater, the first casualty of the day for Red Cross men Jack Jukes and Stan Stephenson from Sunderland.

"After 10 miles of skimming along the course he skated off on the wrong foot and ended up in hospital with a broken ankle.

"There was the unknown athlete who failed to beat the pain barrier and collapsed of total exhaustion.

"He simply flaked out and when they asked him his name he told them `fish and chips'" and something not for repeating in a family newspaper.

"There were 12,000 and more stories to be told about yesterday's run and every one of them worth telling.

"There was the young couple who ran it hand-in-hand all the way, and the chap who rode past us with an ostrich head in front of him.

"But for me the chap who put everything into words was the man who thundered past in solid, military size-10 boots, khaki trousers and a T-shirt which read: `Who cares who wins'."

A record number of people will line up for the 25th Great North Run.

With 50,000 participants, this year's event tomorrow promises to be the biggest and most memorable yet.

Celebrities including actress and model Nell McAndrew and Big Brother TV presenter Dermot O'Leary are taking part to raise a record sum for charity.

Britain's and Europe's biggest road race, and the world's biggest half-marathon, the run is set to break the pounds 10m barrier for money raised by organised charities ( and individual runners are likely to raise several million more.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 17, 2005
Words:759
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