The Great North Run is one of the most anticipated dates in the sporting calendar, and each year in January, thousands of ballot entrants are received from eager participants, desperate to lace up their running shoes and take on the challenge.

With the Great North Run ballot closing in February, the start of the year is as good a time as any to enter the Great North Run and aim for a chance to cross that famous finishing line in September. With related events spread across the whole weekend, visitors, locals and famous faces will come together to raise money for a wide selection of charitable causes, by running an impressive 13.1 miles through NewcastleGateshead.

If you’re undecided as to whether to submit a Great North Run entry this year, below we’ve put together ten reasons that’ll encourage you to take on one of the country’s largest – and most famous -  half marathons!

  1. It’s a great chance to do your bit for charity

Raising money for charity is a huge part of the Great North Run

Few feelings can rival giving back to those in need. Whatever your reason for taking part in the Great North Run, it is a fantastic opportunity to contribute to a worthy cause. In fact, last year 57,000 eager participants challenged the January Blues by preparing their Great North Run entry to raise money for a charity of their choice. While early entrants can choose to raise money for causes close to their hearts, you can also complete an application to do a sponsored run through a charity such as The Multiple Sclerosis Society, Cancer Research, Mind and many more, by entering through the ‘Run For Charity’ page on the Great Run website.

  1. Get into shape and improve your fitness

The Great North Run is a great way to get in shape. Through regular training, with the added incentive of a goal to work towards, this is ideal to help you plan and strategize your workouts so you can nail the big event! You’ll soon feel the benefits of a healthier, more active lifestyle as you track your progress; and these habits are sure to stick long after you cross the finishing line! For anyone hoping to turn over a new leaf this year, the Great North Run is your ticket to a healthier lifestyle. With so many events leading up to the big day such as the Great North 10k, you’ll be sure to squeeze in lots of practice.

  1. You’ll be taking part in one of the North East’s most well-known historic events

While there are number of ‘Great Runs’ organised across the country, the Great North Run is the first and original. It is one of NewcastleGateshead’s longest-running sporting events, and sees thousands of participants each year cross the historic Tyne Bridge before heading out to the beautiful South Shields coastline. Since 1981, the event has welcomed over one million people, and this year you could become one of them. With former participants including Ross Noble, Davina McCall and Paralympic Gold medallist Tim Prendergast, you can even pit yourself against the likes of Mo Farrah, who has won the run at least five times.

  1. Running the Great North Run is a Geordie rite of passage

Almost everyone in the North East has run, or has sponsored someone who has taken part in the Great North Run. This rite of passage is a must-have for any Northerner’s bucket list, as well as a great challenge for keen runners from near and far. If running a half marathon is one goal you’re yet to check off your list, the Great North Run is a great place to start! Competing in the Great North Run may be one of the biggest physical challenges you set yourself, and the lively atmosphere of this particular event is a great way to test yourself for more ambitious challenges in the future. Be sure to prepare your Great North Run entry before the deadline and add your name to the long list of people who’ve achieved this fantastic goal.

  1. Running is good for your physical health

There are tonnes of benefits to entering the Great North Run, including the effects all the training and diet changes have on your body. From strengthening your heart, bones, ligaments and tendons, to developing your fat-burning capacity, long distance running comes with a whole range of health benefits that will see you discover a new lease of life. Running is said to form more myoglobin in your skeletal muscle fibres, helping more oxygen to get to your muscles and improves your running ability. This means that even if you’re a novice runner, the more you train, the more you will gain in terms of speed, stamina and overall fitness. As you start tackling those personal bests, your confidence will soar along with your physical health in preparation for the big day.

  1. You can explore the North East

Whether you’re new to the Toon, or a well versed Geordie; the eclectic city of NewcastleGateshead boasts plenty of hotspots which you can discover. The full Great North Run route stretches from Jesmond in Newcastle's city centre all the way to South Shields stunning coastline, so when you take part, you’ll benefit from an all-encompassing tour of the city’s most popular areas. Not to mention crossing the iconic Tyne Bridge with the masses of fellow runners; a moment that’s sure to stay with you for years to come!

  1. Running improves your mental health

Challenging as the idea may be, entering the Great North Run is a sure-fire way to put a smile on your face. In 2016, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden discovered that exercise, such as jogging, purges the blood of kynurenine which builds up when we’re stressed and has been linked to depression. Not only this, but exercise is also believed to encourage the body to release serotonin which improves mood. In fact, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine, regular exercise can ‘lift depression just as well as prescription antidepressants.’ These findings come as no surprise considering the Great North Run’s intoxicating sense of community and huge sense of achievement which are both amplified by the impact the event has on charitable causes.

  1. Running a half marathon is a great achievement

Great North Run participants with their winner's medals at Grey's Monument Newcastle

The Great North Run is a lot of fun, with the event’s infectious energy encompassing the entire city. Events such as the annual Pasta Party, Mini and Junior Great North Runs and Great North City Games ensure the buzz lasts all weekend. However, all of the antics don’t diminish the challenge of completing a half marathon, and the huge sense of achievement waiting for you at the finish line. Whether you run the whole way to beat the clock or walk the route at your own pace, taking part in a half-marathon is an achievement that few manage and should not be underestimated. You can then proudly join the ranks of successful participants and say ‘I did it!’

  1. You can meet and inspire others

While health benefits, a tour of the city and the chance to raise money for a good cause are all attractive reasons to sign up for the Great North Run, the feeling of running alongside your fellow racers and inspiring your loved ones can’t be beaten!

Few UK marathons can rival the infamous sense of community during the Great North Run. From Jim Purcell, one of the oldest runners, to local celebrity Tony ‘The Fridge’ Morrison making much-loved appearances; the Great North Run showcases the North’s unmatched character and comradery.

Even if you’re not running in the Great North Run, there are still a number of ways that you can get involved. Many locals and visitors flock to the side-lines to cheer on their loved ones from start to finish as part of cheering squads. There are a number of designated ‘cheering spots’ along the route for families and individual charities, where runners can receive hundreds of ‘high-fives’ and maybe even receive a beer and a pie from one of the many giveaway spots on the route!

Many participants in the Great North Run talk about the magical atmosphere, as the RAF Red Arrows perform their famous routine across the Tyne, runners and spectators start chanting as they approach the Tyne Bridge, and you may even spot the famous Great North Run Elvis impersonator! The relief as you near the 13.1 mile mark and see the South Shields coastline over the crest of the hill is unparalleled, cheered on by the packed crowds of spectators, offering words of encouragement and much-needed snacks!

  1. You’ll be supporting the North East

Each year, the Great North Run draws waves of visitors to the area who, in their masses, enjoy the rich culture and eclectic range of accommodation that NewcastleGateshead has to offer.

Not only does the Great North Run see a huge increase in visitors to the North East, it perfectly frames the sense of community and goodwill which makes NewcastleGateshead so unique and special! Why not spend the rest of your visit getting to know this fantastic region, and discover the rich history, culture and nightlife that NewcastleGateshead has to offer.

Have we convinced you? Let us know if you’re taking part this year by tweeting us at @altweet_pet. For everything else you need to know about this unmissable event, take a look at our FAQs page in the Great North Run Hub.

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