The AJ Bell Great North Junior and Mini Run was a celebration of sport in its purest form. The next generation of athletes took part in either a 4km or a 1.2km run around the quayside of Newcastle, a spectacular backdrop for a brilliant day of action.
The first events of the day were the junior 4km races. We caught up with Darren and his son Jenson who were taking part in the event for the very first time. The pair were running for Jenson’s school, The Cedar School. Jenson was actually meant to be running with his brother but after he was called up for a rugby match, Darren had to step in last-minute. Fortunately, Darren isn’t new to running having completed the full 13.1 miles of the Great North Run four times previously. We asked Darren what he thought of the Junior and Mini Run:
“The atmosphere is fantastic and I think it’s a testament to the people of the North East that this event happens year upon year. Obviously, the Great North Run being what it is, having these additional events on the side is just brilliant and a great opportunity for all the kids.”
Another pair who took on the lap of the quayside were Julie and her daughter Ari who were returning to the event having taken part before lockdown. We asked Julie what made them come back for a second time:
“We came back to be part of the spirit of the event and just for the fun of it really. It’s also a nice achievement to do the whole run. It is something that we can do together and have fun with.”
It was great to see the mother and daughter duo both smiling and happy after the race. We also asked Ari what she enjoys about running and the Junior Run:
“I like running because I like the challenge and the feeling of knowing I can do it. It was fun today and I really enjoyed seeing everyone happy and taking part.”
One youngster who is no stranger to running events is Millie, who has run for her local club, Hallamshire Harriers and Athletics Club Sheffield, since the age of eight. We asked Millie, who is keen to get more involved in her running and keep progressing, whether she enjoyed the race today:
“I thought it was really good, I was pleased that the course was shady in areas because it’s a hot day and I really enjoyed running over the bridge. I will definitely be back again.”
We also spoke to Millie’s dad, Trevor, who is a runner himself and took part in this year’s Great North Run. We asked Trevor what he thought of the prelude to Sunday’s event:
“The atmosphere here is incredible and I think the whole event has been fantastic. It’s just great to see my daughter involved and thousands of people out there enjoying themselves.”
After lunch, it was the turn of those under eight to experience the event. Despite some of these races taking place over eight hours after the first event of the day, the kids, and their parents, had support from start to finish. The crowd lined the streets and cow bells and cheers gave the runners a flavour of what Sir Mo Farah and other elite athletes experienced in Sunday’s race, the perfect introduction and steppingstone into the sport.
As is the case with so many sporting events, volunteers were critical to the success of the Junior and Mini run. They not only kept everything on schedule, but also created a wonderful atmosphere. From energetic warmups at the start line, to high fives all the way round the course, to big cheers at the finish line, the volunteers put thousands of smiles on the children’s faces. We caught up with volunteers Zella and Nicola from Blyth Lifeguard and Swimming Club to tell us a bit more about their role on the day:
“Our role is to support people on the run throughout the day. We’ve spent the day clapping, cheering and encouraging the kids and also making sure that all the spectators aren’t on the course.”
There is no doubt that each and every one of the children taking part should feel proud of the effort they have put in today, but equally the volunteers should feel just as big a sense of pride for putting on such a spectacular event. We asked Zella and Nicola if this was the case for them:
“Yes, we do feel proud to be part of the event. It’s just amazing to see all these children getting out and having fun. Especially now when they’re all so technology driven, to see them doing this is just tremendous.”
With so many youngsters enjoying today’s event, it’s no surprise that they continue to come back year after year. It is events such as these that provide the foundations for children to stay heathy and active and continue running long into the future. Who knows, perhaps one of the children who took part today will be our next Great North Run winner in 10 years.