When she finished the Great North Run, Vicky Ponton had no idea her life was about to change forever.
After all the training and then 13.1miles of pounding the roads from Newcastle to South Shields, even as she crossed the finish line in 2001 she was none the wiser.
But in that moment, the now mum-of-three became a landmark in the history of the world’s largest half marathon – and was set on a path that has shaped her life for more than a decade since.
Vicky, from Gosforth in Newcastle, said: “After I did the run someone came towards me and said: ‘You’re the half millionth person to ever finish – are you OK to be interviewed by Sue Barker?’
“It was a complete and utter shock as it was my first time running the Great North Run and I didn’t even know the milestone was going to be in that race. But being the 500,000th finisher helped me on the way to the rest of my life.”
Vicky completed the course, which begins on Newcastle’s Central Motorway, crosses the Tyne Bridge, turns up the Felling Bypass to Wardley, then snakes along the A194 and John Reid Road towards the South Shields coast, in 1hr 50min.
And having been plucked from obscurity and thrust onto live national TV, she was then told she would receive a prize.
“The organisers said they’d would be in touch about what it would be, and I was expecting a pair of trainers or new tracksuit bottoms,” said Vicky.
“It was a couple of weeks before I heard anything and then I got a phone call apologising for taking so long but that I’d won a trip for two to a big sports complex, Club La Santa in Lanzarote.
“I was meant to go with a friend, but she had to pull out because a family member was unwell, so I asked a guy I’d been going out with for a short time called Richard Ponton to go – and now we’re married with three children.
“I only went out to run the Great North Run and I found a husband and family because of it.”
Since that momentous day in 2001, Vicky has returned to the race, shaving two minutes from her time, and says she wants to take part again – though she won’t be in with a chance of becoming the millionth finisher this September as with a six-year-old, four-year-old and two-year-old to contend with at home she says she’s not yet ready for a crack at beating her personal best.
But she urged others to give it a go and see whether they too can become a part of history.
“It’s a fun race and experience and is great for the region,” she said. “I think it’s something we can be very proud of.
“And I would think whoever the millionth finisher is will have no idea it’s going to be them as so many people are crossing that finish line it could be anyone – so it’ll feel like winning the lottery.”
The Great North Run this year takes place on September 7, and for the eighth year running The Journal is offering the final 100 places in the iconic race to our readers - but you now have less than two weeks left to be in with a chance of claiming one of them.
To apply for one of our last 100 places, email jnl.newsdesk@ncj media.co.uk with “Great North Run places” as the subject, providing your name, address, phone number, age, occupation and why you believe you deserve one of the last places. Entries will close at 11.59pm on Saturday June 14.
For those who are successful, a £50 registration fee will be payable. You must be 17 or over on the race day.