Men’s Running’s Lewis Banner tackles the Simplyhealth Great North Run for the first Tyne

I have done the Great South Run five times but have never ventured the 350 miles north to tackle the much talked about Simplyhealth Great North Run. My first impressions were that the locals were friendly and the atmosphere filling the city for the Great North City Games was electric.

One of my first sights of the city, was completing my Saturday morning shake out run and noticing the Tyne Bridge being plastered with Great North Run advertisements and it was becoming clear that this great half marathon is very close to the hearts of people from this fantastic city, Newcastle.

Waking up on race day and stepping out of the hotel, hundreds of runners wrapped in bin liners were steadily making their way to the start area. The city was silent, anticipating the sea of runners that were about to tackle the 13.1-mile course, finishing in South Shields.

In the start pen, the number of runners was overwhelming and when I was told there were almost 60,000 runners lining up, I was amazed. There were elite runners set for a showdown for the podium, runners chasing personal bests against the clock, runners raising millions for charities, runners achieving their goals and runners running out of complete enjoyment. Having spoken to several fellow runners on the start line, I could not believe the number of Great North runs that some had completed, 36 one charity runner had recorded.

The gun went and the crowds exploded. There were spectators on every inch of the course, supporting with banners and clappers, the bridges were bustling and the noise was incredible. The adrenaline I had was off the scale and immediately my pacing was excitable. Settling down after mile one, the iconic Tyne bridge was fast approaching and the atmosphere was awesome.

Photographers lined the edges of the bridge, snapping at every runner possible. Adding to the atmosphere, were Samba bands, who played to the rhythm of the runners – I was thoroughly enjoying my run at these early stages. Between miles two and six were a few taxing inclines and already I noticed a few runners beginning to drop off their initial pace, however the abundance of water stations and spectators kindly offering sweets and ice pops helped refuel the tank. Along the course, the whole way were toilets, support from medical teams and stages for charities advertising their causes. I particularly enjoyed the numerous refreshing spray stations, where you could cool off whilst running.

Having reached mile 10 unscathed by any injury niggles I had previously had, my lack of training started to become evident and I had to start digging a little deeper to reach the finish. What helped were the Elvis impersonators standing on the course performing, children encouraging you with high-fives and the spectators now five-deep adding to the concoction of a perfect race atmosphere at mile 12.

Turning the corner onto the seafront, was my favourite part of the race. The noise was now louder than ever and more or less carried runners through to the finish. Runners were creating their own battles and targets of who they would aim to finish ahead of and the competition was fierce. Metaphorically, the noise felt like a Mexican wave and carried you over the line and to the hugely anticipated medal and goody bag that awaited. I have to say the contents of the goody bag is one of the best I have received to date and on its own is enough for me to want to complete the Simplyhealth Great North Run again.

But it must be said, that the course, the organisation, the support and the feeling of finishing the Simplyhealth Great North Run is phenomenal and I would recommend it to anyone, be it their first half marathon or hundredth. It has to be the greatest half marathon I have experienced to date.

• Simplyhealth is title partner of the Great Run Series and is supporting runners every step of the way by helping people make the most of life through better everyday health. For training advice, please visit