Great North Run 2021 full route revealed as chief says he is 'truly sorry' about impact on South Shields

Great North Run 2019 finishers.Great North Run 2019 finishers.
Great North Run 2019 finishers.
A Great North Run boss has said he is ‘truly sorry’ about the impact on South Shields after the decision to change the route of the half marathon for 2021.
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Paul Foster, chief executive of the Great Run Company, has now written to runners explaining more about why the change was made, and expressing his apologies to South Tyneside.

For the first time in its 40-year history, the Great North Run will not finish in South Shields. Photo: Great North Run.For the first time in its 40-year history, the Great North Run will not finish in South Shields. Photo: Great North Run.
For the first time in its 40-year history, the Great North Run will not finish in South Shields. Photo: Great North Run.

The route

His email to registered runners details the 2021, which will see runners turning round near the Whitemare Pool roundabout before heading back towards Newcastle.

There will also be a short out-and-back loop in Gateshead along Gateshead Highway, and runners will return over the Tyne Bridge before making their way through Market Street, John Dobson Street, St Mary’s Place, and finishing at the Town Moor.

The run will start on the Central Motorway in Newcastle and cross the Tyne Bridge as normal, following the usual route until the turnaround at Whitemare Pool.

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The Great Run Company CEO Paul Foster.The Great Run Company CEO Paul Foster.
The Great Run Company CEO Paul Foster.

“I’m truly sorry that there will be an impact in South Tyneside, and we look forward to returning to our traditional route in 2022,” said Mr Foster.

“I’m sorry that some of you are upset about the changes we’ve made to this year’s Great North Run.

“We’ve thought long and hard about this decision and I want to explain a little bit more about why we’ve done this.”

Mr Foster said it was important the run went ahead, and stressed the positive impact the event has on the region, as well as the £25million raised by runners for more than 600 charities.

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He said the plans were created in consultation with all the local authorities, relevant NHS Trusts and the Public Health Directors in Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyneside.

Some have suggested the 2021 run should have been cancelled altogether rather than making the chance, but Mr Foster said this would have made it difficult for the run to return in 2022.

He said waved started would see people seeded based on their predicted times, as usual, and the new route. But added: “The biggest issue with the normal route is at the finish. Everyone understands the difficulty of leaving South Shields on Great North Run day, it is at the end of the transport network.

“Even when we reduce the flow of runners by staggering the start, the transport system cannot avoid over-crowding. That’s no one’s fault – there is literally not enough capacity.

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“Moving the finish to Newcastle means runners disperse from the finish much more easily – from the middle of the transport network, rather than the end. The staggered start means runners are arriving and leaving over several hours, not all at the same time.”

He added: “I’m really sorry that some of you feel that this is unacceptable. We’re doing this in the long-term interests of the race and safeguarding the benefits it brings to the region.”

He went on: “At the end of the day, we’ve made these changes because this Great North Run is a much, much better option than no Great North Run.

"It’s better for the region, it’s better for charities nationally and locally, it is the responsible option, and in the long term it will secure the future of the Great North Run.

Finally, for those of you who think that this isn’t the Great North Run, I want to say this: The Great North Run isn’t about a route, or a logo, or Brendan Foster.

"It isn’t about what time you start, or where you finish. The Great North Run is about the people.

"This won’t be the same as normal, we know that. But it will be special, and it will be special because of the people who take part.

"And after everything we’ve all been through in the last 18 months, I think it’ll be better to take part than not.”