POPULAR Tyneside duo Ant and Dec joined a host of celebrities to sound the starting horn on the 30th Bupa Great North Run yesterday.
More than 54,000 people braved the gloomy weather as they made their way around the 13.1-mile course from Newcastle to South Shields.Related content
And the wet conditions could not dampen the spirits of the elite athletes and families jogging in memory of loved ones.
As he set the runners on their way from the start line of the Central Motorway, Dec said: “We were asked by the Great North Run founder Brendan Foster to start the race ages ago because it was now in its 30th year.
“So we put the date in our diary and came along today. We both get a pistol each to start the race and it’s the first time that they have ever trusted Ant with a gun.
“It’s so exciting to be here and the atmosphere is great. We have never ran the race before but I’m sure that if we did I would beat Ant.”
Other well-known faces at this year’s event included X-Factor winner Joe McElderry, TV presenter and new life peer Baroness Benjamin and model Nell McAndrew.
And as he made his way home to his native South Shields, Joe said he had found time to take part in the run between recording his first album.
The 19-year-old, who was raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “I have just been trying to get in as many miles as I possibly can. It’s all for a good cause and a bit of fun. I’ve been training on lunch breaks and in between recording.”
That paid off as Joe sailed round in an impressive one hour, 39 minutes.Related content
At the starting line Floella Benjamin, who was running for Barnardos, was hoping to beat last year’s time of two hours and 30 minutes – which she did by a few seconds.
She said: “I know what to expect this year and it’s really difficult. The hills are certainly alive in Newcastle. I have completed 10 consecutive marathons but nothing is harder than this.”
Celebrity chefs Gordon and Tana Ramsay also stepped out once more and were joined by sports hosts Jim Rosenthal and Ray Stubbs, Radio 1 presenters Scott Mills, Greg James and Nick Grimshaw, and children’s presenters Angelica Bell and Helen Skelton, of Carlisle, Cumbria.
The Red Arrows entertained runners and spectators with a dazzling overhead display as runners passed over the Tyne Bridge, returning as they reached South Shields. The race saw Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie claim victory in the elite men’s category during his first Great North Run while fellow Ethiopian Berhane Adere broke away early to win the elite women’s event. Britain’s Paralympic medallists David Weir and Shelly Woods won the men’s and women’s wheelchair races.
Communications director of the Bupa Great North Run, David Hart, said: “It was a momentous day with a record number of people taking part. The Great North Run is clearly here to stay.
“There was a bit of rain but that seemed to cool down the runners when they most needed it.”