Nicholas Craig column

Despite my lifelong belief that real men don't run, I am full of admiration for the 50,000 Great North Runners.

Despite my lifelong belief that real men don't run, I am full of admiration for the 50,000 Great North Runners.

The extraordinary sight of so many people pounding across the Tyne Bridge is deeply affecting. It may even tempt me into entering the half marathon in 2007. Please note the `may'.

We do it all so well. The Great North Run blends sportsmanship, tenacity and emotion in an event that echoes the strengths of the region. It stirs 50,000 into action and hundreds more to join in as sideline supporters.

The vast majority of us become avid armchair athletes as we watch every minute of the spectacle on TV.

The success of the event is now interwoven with the morning's national television airing. The BBC ignored the first few runs, and the event's unique atmosphere was known only to local people. They, and the indefatigable organisers, nurtured it until it attracted the attention of the nation.

Now it is a three hour advert for the region. The fantastic views of the course bathed in sunshine from the Town Moor to the coast were all the more refreshing this year in the knowledge that viewers down south were watching it while rain splattered on their verdant pastures.

The Great North Run has impact and long-term importance because of its exceptional size. This year's tragic death of a young runner is a sad, ironic consequence of its remarkable growth.

The people who crossed the finishing line included rabbits, Minnie Mouse, skeletons, assorted celebrities, serious runners and many people with bus passes. They were all running with a purpose, most with other people and charities at heart.

It is a big event with an even bigger emotional pull because it illustrates the effort and commitment of each participant to compete and complete a pretty gruelling run. For one morning 50,000 individuals from all parts of the country and further afield become a single community, bringing out the best in each other and the region as a result.

The sight of the Red Arrows swooping over the Tyne Bridge, or the mass of bobbing bodies smiling and waving despite blisters growing and calves aching will be replayed many times in our minds and on television. It was a magnificent sight and a spectacular day. Almost enough to make an avowed non-runner take part. I'll see if the sweatband still fits before signing up for 2007.

Nicholas Craig is a partner at Watson Burton law firm

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