THE north east’s biggest fundraising event of the year takes place this weekend as thousands of people hit the road for the Bupa Great North Run.
The 13-mile run from Newcastle to South Shields captures the hearts of the nation as athletes and fun-runners from all over the world head for Tyneside.
Hundreds of charities will benefit from the half-marathon, including several being supported by runners from North Tyneside.
Zara Minnis, of Holy Cross in Wallsend, is running for the Children’s Foundation to thank it for the support it has given her family.
Zara’s six-year-old daughter Emily was born with a cloacal anomaly leaving her bowel, bladder and womb malformed.
To date, Emily, a pupil at Wallsend’s Hadrian Park Primary School, has undergone more than 100 operations because of the complex condition, and her mum wanted to do something to show her gratitude for the help the family has been given.
Zara said: “I just feel that I have to say thank you to those at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle in some way.
“I always wanted to do the Great North Run, and I want to make Emily proud, the way that I am proud of her.”
Zara, running with her friend Vicky Ainsley, is hoping to complete the course in around two and a half hours.
She has already raised £400 to give to the charity.
Sean Green, a beaver scout leader with the 7th Tynemouth Scout Group is running as part of a challenge to compete every Bupa run held in England and Scotland over a 24-month period.
So far, he has entered three half-marathons and nine 10km runs up and down the country, raising just under £500 for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of a friend.
Sean said: “It all started as a promise to a close friend, Mark Harrison, who passed away on North Tyneside General Hospital’s palliative care unit last October at the age of just 29. Just before Mark died, he asked me if I would run the Great North Run in his memory. Any money I raised through sponsorship was to be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.
“I have taken it a step further and decided to do a few more Bupa runs, all in his memory.”
Whitley Bay’s Stephen Jones is taking on the run to raise awareness and funds for Breast Cancer Care.
The 22-year-old was inspired to go the distance after losing his mother Kath to the illness in 2005.
He said the run was the ideal opportunity to honour her memory, given the fact Kath was heavily involved with sport despite battling against breast cancer for almost five years.
The pair achieved black belts in the martial art of tang soo do together, with Kath later being chosen to become a torch relay runner ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics because of her achievements.
Research chemist Stephen said: “I believe it is not only important for anyone with breast cancer to understand the scientific reasoning behind their illness, but also the psychological and practical implications it may also have upon them.
“Breast Cancer Care are great in this respect, and hopefully I will be able to raise awareness of their work and indirectly offer support to those affected.
“Training has been going well, and I’m excited to line up alongside Mo Farah at the start line.
“Despite being physically active through sports my entire life, I’ve never done any long-distance running, so I will be attempting to savour every moment of my first half-marathon.”
The run is being broadcast live on BBC1 on Sunday from 9.30am.
Ashington-born Olympic gold medallist Kat Copeland is among those getting this year’s Bupa Great North Run under way.
The 21-year-old rower will be joined by fellow London 2012 gold medallists long jumper Greg Rutherford, boxer Nicola Adams and long-distance runner Mo Farah, as well as Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, to get the 55,000 participants on their way.
Kat, a gold medal winner in the lightweight double sculls, said: “It’s a massive privilege to be invited to be one of the honorary starters of the Great North Run and will be another highlight of an incredible few weeks for me.
“I think the atmosphere on the day will match that at Eton Dorney last month.”
The run’s previous starters include fellow Olympians Kelly Holmes and Jonathan Edwards, rock star Sting and former Newcastle United managers Bobby Robson and Jack Charlton.
Brendan Foster, chairman of run organiser Nova International, said: “London 2012 inspired the nation, and these five talented individuals encapsulated the spirit of the games.
“We’re thrilled they will be joining us in Newcastle for the Great North Run, and it’s a great chance for the north east to celebrate Team GB’s success.”