Great North Run 2022: Geordies step up as poignant event at its powerful best

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All eyes were on the North East on Sunday morning and Great North Run participants and supporters stepped up like never before

If there's one thing that the country needed on Sunday, September 11 - it was the Great North Run.

In the immediate days following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britons have felt at a loss. Whatever their opinion of the monarchy, these times are shifting sands that no one under the age of 70 has ever experienced.

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On Thursday evening, when Great Run chiefs announced that the running of the Great North Run 2022 hung in the balance, the 60,000 participants waited patiently. The overwhelming desire was that the run take place, but the public knew bigger matters were at hand. As many sporting events were cancelled, Great Run decided that the iconic Tyneside race should go ahead.

In a statement, the reasoning behind that decision was to celebrate "the extraordinary achievements of ordinary people" and make sure the £25 million fundraised went to those charities. It already made perfect sense - no person whether they be a monarch or your average Joe would deprive vital causes of that figure in a cost of living crisis - but as Geordies flocked to line the 13-mile course on Sunday it became clear what exactly makes the Great North Run so special - the people. More than the physical achievements and heartwarming causes, it was Tyneside locals that shone brighter than ever just when the eyes of the country landed on the North East.

An image of Queen Elizabeth II over the Great North Run 2022 start lineAn image of Queen Elizabeth II over the Great North Run 2022 start line
An image of Queen Elizabeth II over the Great North Run 2022 start line

At the start line for the Great North Run a large screen with a powerful image of Queen Elizabeth II met runners. An address from religious leaders, a minute's silence and a rendition of the National Anthem followed. Seeing 60,000 nervous runners standing hushed on the A167 caused some to shed a tear.

Once the gun fired and the runners began, even those who have run the event ten times before wouldn't have expected what lay ahead. For 13.1 miles from Newcastle, into Gateshead, across South Tyneside and onto the South Shields coast the roads are lined by passionate Geordies.

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Crowds aren't just at the landmarks of the Tyne Bridge, Gateshead International Stadium and South Shields seafront either. Every inch of every mile is lined with locals of all ages cheering on strangers they have never seen before with a strong sense of duty. Dazzled youngsters extended hands in the search for hi-fives, parents picked out runner names on numbers to bellow cheers whilst some of the more elderly held out carefully laid out plates of sweets.

This was, of course, the first time the Great North Run has followed its original course since before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019. So much has happened in that time and, at the lowest point in 2020, some might have worried such an event would never run again. In 2022, it is finally back to how it should be and on the face of every runner and every supporter, you can see this event means more than any before.

There is something special in this neck of the woods. The Great North Run shows it at its dazzling best and when Geordies needed to step up like never before, they did - but, we shouldn't be surprised. They always do.

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