First Great North Run winner tells of the moment he crossed the line in 1981

Mike McLeod, who won the first-ever Great North Run, said he had never experienced anything like that first race

Mike McLeod also won the second Great North Run in 1982
Mike McLeod also won the second Great North Run in 1982

The first ever runner to cross the Great North Run finish line in 1981 has spoken of the enormity of what has become the world’s biggest half-marathon.

Mike McLeod, who was born in Dilston, Northumberland, won the inaugural Great North Run that year and again in 1982, with runner-up medals from 1985 and 1989.

The 10,000m Olympic silver medallist told The Journal he had never experienced anything quite like it, when he took his position on the starting line 33 years ago.

The 62-year-old said: “I arrived early before the race and parked my car. People were already there in the car park having picnics which struck me as strange.

“When I got there I warmed up and stripped off ready to start the race, and when I looked behind me there were 12,000 people standing there ready to run the race.

“I’d ran in plenty of elite road races where maybe 300 or 400 people would take part, but I’d never seen anything like this before.

“The noise was overwhelming; there were so many people. As an athlete wanting to win the race I had to get into the zone and let my adrenalin take over.

“While I was running I remember having to run in the middle of the road because the noise from the spectators either side was deafening.

“I lead the race from start to finish and I have no doubt that the support from the crowd spurred me on the whole way. It was a feeling I’ll never forget.”

McLeod ran for Elswick Harriers from an early age winning many races on a regional, national and international scale.

One of his greatest achievements was being presented with an Olympic silver medal at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, the best performance by a British athlete at that time.

McLeod won the Morpeth to Newcastle road race on five occasions with 63 minutes and 25 seconds being his best time in 1980. He won the Saltwell Harriers 10k road race 17 years in a row.


David Whetstone
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