RW's Great North Run Mile-by-mile Guide
Plan your race with our mile-by-mile guide to the world's biggest half-marathon
Posted: 17 September 2007
When the inaugural Great North Run took place in 1981, more than 12,000 runners charged through the streets of Newcastle. Thirty two years later a lot has changed. The field has reached an eye popping 55,000 runners, the date has moved from summer to autumn and it’s the biggest half-marathon in the world.
And they're off... 50,000 runners take to the streets
One aspect that hasn’t changed though is local runner Alistair Dickson’s commitment to competing in the race. He’s raced every single GNR, clocking up a whopping 406.1 miles of Tyne and Wear tarmac. So who better to lead you through the course mile-by-mile, from the famous Tyne Bridge to the deafening crowds at South Shields.
Starting from the central motorway in Newcastle city-centre the race runs slightly downhill for the first mile before reaching the most famous view of the race, the Tyne Bridge. It’s an iconic UK landmark and I still get goosebumps crossing it. You won’t even notice the slight incline as you crest the bridge and if you time your effort right you’ll be greeted with an aerial display from the Red Arrows.
As the race bids farewell to Newcastle you’re immediately greeted by the sound of the first of many music stands that pepper the course and, with the race in full flow along both sides of the dual carriageway, congestion within the field shouldn’t be too much of a problem by now. One tip I’d recommend would be to keep a careful eye out for the first set of water stations and toilets that are both situated just before the three-mile marker. They’re always very busy but I try to pick up a drink from the end of the station where it’s usually less crowded.
Instantly recognisable: runners cross the Tyne Bridge
As you reach the quarter point of the race you’ll see Gateshead Stadium on your left with two more music stands during the next mile. By now you should be cruising at your race pace.
You’ll now be heading up towards the highest point of the race at Black Bull Junction but don’t worry, the climb is more of a gentle drag than a steep incline. There’s another drink station at this point and if the weather’s hot it’s a good idea to get fluids on board around now. These water stations are less busy than the first one.
Highest point of the race, but sadly there are no sea views for another few miles. For the next three miles it’s relatively downhill towards White Mare roundabout. Don’t use that as an excuse to speed up too much though. Stick to your race pace and try and take in the support from the massive crowds. There are big housing estates around this part of the course and the locals are always vocal with their encouragement around here.
As you turn left towards South Tyneside you’re now on the flattest part of the race, with just the smallest of downhills thrown in. You’re roughly half-way round now.
You’ve now come to the end of the downhill section but as you reach the interchange near the eight-mile mark you’ll be able to see the large crowds on the Tyne Tunnel.
Even the elite will be digging deep along the infamous John Reid Road
There’s a slight incline as you enter South Tyneside but you’ll barely notice with all the roadside distraction and the biggest cheering point of the race bar the finish. After just a few hundred metres you’ll come to the first of two shower stations. On a hot day they can provide some much needed cool-down form the heat.
Miles nine to eleven, along the John Reid road are usually described as the hardest of the race, but there’s another chance for a cold shower as well as an isotonic drinks station.
You’re getting closer to the coast now as you pass the Nook shopping complex. It’s another crowd hotspot but keep an eye out for the stand on the side of the road offering free pints of beer. It’s been there for a few years now but I’ve yet to be tempted. If you’re planning on run/walking now’s a good place to walk. This is always the hardest part of the course.
Over the top of the hill and you’re nearly there. By the end of this mile you’ll be right at the coast and you’ll be able to smell the sea breeze. There’s just one final climb up to Marsden Inn before a sharp drop down to Coastal Road Bank.
Every year the legs feel the same by this point. It hasn’t mattered if I’m on schedule for a sub 1:30 or just getting around in 2:10, they hurt just the same. But as you take that final left hand turn along the coast you know the end is literally almost in sight. No drinks stations or music, but none of that matters: the crowds at the huge cheering points are three or four deep and they’re enough to see you home.
Enjoy the crowd support along the home straight
It’s just one hundred metres but if you have anything left in the tank now is the time to use it. Don’t worry if you don’t, just remember to smile as you cross the line: you’ve just finished the world’s biggest half-marathon.
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