The viewers were treated to some spectacular racing as Kenya’s Martin Mathathi and Lucy Kabuu scorched to victory in the men’s and women’s elite races, with Mathathi crossing the finish line in 58 minutes, 56 seconds, shaving nine seconds off the previous course record. Kabuu, who was running her first major race since giving birth to her daughter Angel last year, finished over two minutes ahead of her rivals in 1:07:06, the third fastest time for the course’s women’s race.
World 5000m Champion and crowd favourite Mo Farah, who earlier won the men’s two-mile race in Saturday’s Great North CityGames, swapped from racer to race starter, firing the starting pistol for the main race while the Red Arrows made a diamond-formation fly-past over the start line.
A television audience of over two million watched live coverage of yesterday’s Bupa Great North Run, the Newcastle to South Shields half-marathon, which was described as the ‘most inspiring ever’ by its founder, Olympic medallist Brendan Foster.
In the UK, viewers followed the four hours of live coverage on BBC One and a 40 minutes highlights programme on BBC Two. The race, which was tackled by over 38,000 runners, was also televised live across Europe on Eurosport.
Among the runners and spectators watching the formation team was Dr Emma Egging, widow of Flt Lt Jon Egging, the Red Arrows pilot who was tragically killed in an air display in August.
Dr Egging wore the number four in memory of her husband ‘Red 4’ and ran the 13.1-mile route for awareness of the Jon Egging Trust, a newly formed charity which aims to give disadvantaged young people the opportunity to experience flying. The Red Arrows made their own tribute by performing their traditional fly-past over the Tyne Bridge in ‘missing man’ formation.
Nearly 200 other official charities were represented in the 2011 race by supporters including celebrities such as Nell McAndrew who, dressed as ‘Bat Girl’ was the first famous face to cross the finish line, cheered on by an estimated record crowd of 150,000 lining the route.
The day before, another 25,000 spectators and participants gathered on Newcastle Gateshead Quayside to watch Farah and the cream of UK and USA athletes go head-to-head in the Great North CityGames.
As well as Farah’s victory in the men’s two-mile race which crossed the River Tyne, fellow Brit and world 1500m silver medallist Hannah England led a British one-two in the women’s one-mile, followed home by European indoor champion Helen Clitheroe.
However, overall victory went to the USA team, winning seven of the ten events, including the men’s 100m hurdles, which was won by newly-crowned world champion Jason Richardson.
Meanwhile, potential athletic stars of the future were also out in force on Saturday: over 5000 children, aged three to 16, competed in the popular Bupa Junior and Mini Great North Runs.
Brendan Foster, chairman of Nova International, organisers of the Bupa Great North Run, said: “We have enjoyed another fantastic Great North Run weekend. The athletes and fun runners and, of course, the Red Arrows have helped to make this the most inspiring Run ever.”
Next year’s Bupa Great North Run will take place on Sunday 16 September. For more details visit www.greatrun.org