Runners in UK's first fun run are reunited at Gateshead Stadium

AMATEUR athletes who helped the North East start the "fun run" craze have come together to remember the occasion.

Derek Lunn, Arthur Andrews and Mel Patterson
Derek Lunn, Arthur Andrews and Mel Patterson

AMATEUR athletes who helped the North East start the "fun run" craze have come together to remember the occasion.

The Journal wrote earlier this month about how Gateshead Council together with Great North Run founder Brendan Foster organised the country’s first ever fun run in the borough in autumn 1977.

The Olympic medallist started the two-mile race at Gateshead Stadium, which saw hundreds of people from around the North run along the banks of the Tyne before returning to get a signed certificate from Mr Foster.

A number of those who took part in the run have been re-united to discuss the event and will now be guests of honour at Sunday’s Great North 10K race, which also starts at the stadium.

Runner Derek Lunn, 75, from Washington, said: “I remember coming down with my son and daughter. I was concerned about leaving them on their own in the stadium because I didn’t realise we were going out of the stadium, but in the end my daughter said, ‘Go for it!’

“I was probably one of the last out of the stadium, but coming back and seeing Brendan with his big broad grin, clarifying your name then writing it on the certificate was phenomenal.

“And to have the certificate now and then to be invited back to the stadium is great.

“Brendan has done remarkably well for this area and I think this stadium is worthy of its title of International Stadium, it’s really phenomenal.”

Also taking part was Arthur Andrews, now 63, of Whitley Bay.

He said: “I remember there were crowds of people and, not being a runner, I’m thinking, ‘Why I am here doing this?’

“But I did it with a few friends and got caught up in the atmosphere and in the end enjoyed it.

“You do these things and you think nothing of it, then when Brendan Foster brought it up on the TV I thought, ‘I remember doing that, but did I do the first one?’ I had a quick rummage through my scrapbook and found out it was the 1977 fun run. So I thought I must get in touch.”

Mel Patterson, 66 and also from Whitley Bay, said: “It’s tremendous to be involved in the first ever fun run, but I think the credit must go to Brendan – he conceived it and then went on the develop the Great North Run, which is quite an achievement.”

This year’s Great North 10K has been moved forward to coincide with the European Athletics Championships at the stadium on Saturday and Sunday.

Places on offer

THE Journal is offering the final 100 places in the Great North Run to our readers.

The half-marathon has attracted a record number of applications this year, with as many as 122,000 people keen to take part, from whom 54,000 entrants were chosen.

But for the seventh year in a row, we have secured the last 100 spots and we are inviting people to apply for one.

The Great North Run takes place on September 15.

David Hart, communications director at run organisers Nova International, said: “The event is not just getting bigger, it’s getting better. It has a reputation locally, nationally and internationally. Our relationship with The Journal goes as far back as 1981 and it seems fitting that the coveted final places go to its readers.”

To apply for one of our last 100 places, email jnl.newsdesk@ncjmedia.co.uk  with “Great North Run places” as the subject and tell us, in no more than 200 words, why you want one of the last places.

For those who are successful a £50 registration fee will be payable. You must be 17 or over on the race day.

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