Hours to go and the world is waiting

Nearly 50,000 runners will line-up for the 26th Great North Run between Newcastle and South Shields tomorrow.

The Red Arrows fly over the Tyne Bridge at the start of the 25th Great North Run

Nearly 50,000 runners will line-up for the 26th Great North Run between Newcastle and South Shields tomorrow.

As they stream across the Tyne Bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead at around 11am they will be well on their way to raising up to £10m for charity - and drinking 275,00 bottles of water between them.

The elite athletes will finish the race in 60 minutes, but hours later fun runners dressed as super-heroes and animals will still be trotting along the John Reid Road to the coast.

Every hotel room in the region has been booked up for the weekend and runners from every postcode area in Britain, as well as countries from around the world, will be represented in the starting line-up.

They will be cheered on by up to 200,000 spectators lining the half-marathon route and watched by an audience of millions on television.

The 25th anniversary celebrations at last year's event were overshadowed when four men died within three miles of the finish. An inquest later found they had died of "inadvertent over-exhaustion" and the hearing ruled race organisers Nova International should not be blamed for the deaths.

Extra safety measures have, however, been introduced for this year's race.

There will be medics on mountain bikes, an extra medical tent near the point where the four runners who died got into difficulty, and more signs telling runners how far they have to go.

There will also be shuttle buses at three points towards to end of the course, to take runners who are unable to continue, to the finish area.

The weekend of activities got under way yesterday with the launch of the Great North Sport and Fitness Show next to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

The Great North Mile and the Great North 3km runs for elite athletes are due to take place at 11am today.

There will also be a one-mile Mini Great North Run for the under-10s at 11.45am, as well as two Junior Great North Runs for children aged between 10 and 16 from 2.35pm onwards.

The elite men's race on Sunday will feature Olympic gold medallist Stefano Baldini of Italy, and double world champion Jaouad Gharib of Morocco.

Former winners Susan Chepkemei, of Kenya, and Benita Johnson, of Australia, will be among the favourites in the women's race.

It's going to be a long, hot slog

Temperatures for tomorrow's run could be as high as last year's, even though the 2006 event is being held two weeks later. The 2005 event, when four runners died, was in muggy conditions and temperatures as high as 18C.

Weather forecasters last night predicted temperatures could again reach 18C - well above average for early autumn - but early rain could provide some relief.

A Met Office spokeswoman said: "Sunday is going to be a very warm day for this time of year - certainly more than we'd normally expect for October.

"There's a chance of heavy showers between the bursts of sun throughout the morning so it is a very mixed picture, but I think the real problem for the runners will be the strong wind. It could make the going tough."

Great North Run organisers Nova International sent emails to participants yesterday warning them of the expected conditions and advising them to take account of these as they pace themselves.

Dad is going all-out to help his daughter

A Great North Run veteran will be taking part tomorrow to raise money for research to help his 28-year-old daughter, who is suffering from an incurable form of cervical cancer.

Walter Fraser, 58, from Low Fell, Gateshead, a Northumbria University business lecturer who has completed 21 runs to date, hopes his sponsorship money will help fund research into the condition.

His daughter Julia Walton, 28, a nursery nurse from Springwell Village, Gateshead, was found to have a tumour in her cervix, when she gave birth prematurely to her second child, Annabel, in early 2004.

After her treatment she thought she had recovered - but the tumour returned earlier this year and on September 5 doctors told her it was incurable.

Walter, who is married to Kath, 55, a sales consultant, said: "It was a massive shock when we found out it had returned. We did not know what to do. We were hopeful that after the initial treatment it would disappear.

"The doctors have not said it is terminal, but it is incurable. We don't know how widespread it will be in two months or two years.

"In the meantime I am trying to raise money for research to find a cure. Julia is also doing her best to stay healthy. We have done some research into the best diet to eat and she is getting lots of fresh air.

"You can't just rely on radiotherapy and chemotherapy to fight this disease. You have to change your whole lifestyle."

Julia is married to John, 31, an IT analyst. They also have a son Luke, four, a pupil at Corpus Christi Primary School in Gateshead.

I'm running to say thank you for saving my mum's life

A daughter will make her Great North Run debut this weekend in celebration of her mother's recovery from bowel cancer.

Kate Waters, 26, an accounts administrator from North Tyneside, will take part in the half-marathon with her father Ridley, 62, a retired civil servant, who will be hoping to complete his 25th run in a row. Her mother and Ridley's wife Sue, 58, was diagnosed with bowel cancer last September and underwent surgery in November, followed by chemotherapy, which finished in August.

Kate, who lives with her parents in Middle Green, West Monkseaton, said: "It was devastating when mum was diagnosed with cancer. My whole family changed forever. She went into hospital for a routine test and didn't come out for a week.

"You never think it will happen to you but it can. We know now that there is life after cancer and we will be eternally grateful to the wonderful medical staff who looked after mum and the research that has enabled her to receive treatment.

"I always wanted to do the Great North Run and never got round to it, but this year I have decided to do something to make a difference.

"Dad was great when my mum was ill. He looked after the whole family and played `mum' all the time she was in hospital. It will be very special doing the Great North Run with him."

Kate will be raising money for Cancer Research UK, a charity, which helped her mother battle against her cancer. Bowel cancer is the second largest cause of cancer deaths in the UK and about one in 20 people will suffer it during their lives.

In the North-East, close to 1,000 men and 800 women are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year.

To support Kate, visit her website at www.justgiving.com/katewatersrunning.

Will you spot the famous faces at the starting line?

Stars from the world of sport and showbiz are lining up for the Great North Run tomorrow to raise money for their chosen charities.

Actor Jimmy Nail will head up the North-East contingent, which will also feature former Newcastle United footballers John Beresford and Warren Barton, and Ben Price, star of Footballers' Wives, who grew up in Gosforth, Newcastle.

Former EastEnders actress Charlie Brooks, who played Janine Butcher, will join her former colleagues Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale), Kara Tointon (Dawn Swann), Jane Slaughter (Tracey the barmaid), Jake Wood (Max Branning) and Robert Kazinsky (Sean Slater) on the run. And from their rival soap Coronation Street, Tupele Dorgu, who plays Kelly Crabtree, will be hoping to star over the half-marathon course.

TV presenters Bill Turnbull and Carol Vorderman are due to take part and sports reporters John Motson, Ray Stubbs and John Inverdale will also be getting out of the studio and into their trainers for tomorrow's run. From the world of politics Minister for Sport Richard Caborn and Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications chief, will be running.

A trio of athletes, who should have no problem completing the distance, are Liz McColgan, former winner of the women's Great North Run, Chris Chataway, former 5,000 metre record holder, and James Cracknell, Olympic Gold medal- winning rower.

There will, however, be no appearance from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who has been forced to pull out of this year's Great North Run because of television commitments.

Info for all runners and their supporters

England manager Steve McClaren fires the starting gun at 10.40am tomorrow to send the elite men and most of the 50,000 other participants to South Shields.

The wheelchair race (10.10am) and the elite women's race (10.15am) are due to start slightly earlier.

The nearest Metro to the start in Spital Tongues, Newcastle, is Haymarket.

There is no event parking at the start, and motorists are asked to use designated parking areas in the city.

The Tyne Bridge will be closed from about 8.45am.

Participants should get to the start in plenty of time to put their bags on the baggage buses, which leave for South Shields at 10.10am.

Two more baggage buses leave for South Shields after the start.

Runners should note which bus their baggage is on, so they can pick it up at the other end.

After putting their bags on a bus, participants should assemble in one of a series of start zones according to the colour of their race number.

Water is available at the start, after three miles, 5.75 miles, eight miles, 11.5 miles and at the finish. Lucozade Sport energy drinks are available after 4.5 and 10 miles.

After 9.5, 10.75 and 11.75 miles, there will be pick-up points for shuttle buses to take runners, who have dropped out, to the finish area.

The baggage buses will be parked near the finish, and you will be able to collect your bag after picking up your race souvenirs.

Runners will be able to return to Newcastle City Centre by Metro from the South Shields station.

If they are driving from the finish there will be an exit route during the race via the B1344. As it progresses other routes will be opened.

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