SportsByte’s Mark Hodgson reviews the inaugural Marathon of the North – the first ever marathon in Sunderland.
Crossing the Wearmouth Bridge at 8:20am on Sunday, a strange noise could be heard in the distance.
This combined with the completely barren roads could have made you think something unusual was happening.
And you’d be right.
As you moved over the bridge the noise became ever more audible and you started to decipher what it was. And the words of the music and DJs slowly started to make sense.
Approaching the Stadium of Light – despite their still being no noise from traffic – you could feel an atmosphere, an expectant buzz.
As the extent of the crowds surrounding the stadium began to become apparent, you could see how much support there was for the first ever Marathon of the North in Sunderland.
And as the DJs, who were deafening by the time you made it to the start line, got everyone to congregate for the start of the race there was a fitting tribute to Claire Squires, who tragically died during the London Marathon last month, with 30 seconds applause from the crowds.
The race was started by Olympic bronze medallist Charlie Speddie who believes the folks who turned out got to see people going through one of the toughest tests possible.
“The marathon is the real challenge for people who are trying to see if they can do it. People do 10k, and that is a performance in itself, but a Marathon is a whole different level.
“The council insisted that the whole route was within the boundaries of the city and fitting 26 miles in is quite difficult. So to fit it in they had to loop it around all over the place.
“But all that looping around makes it a bit more interesting so you’re not running in the same direction for mile after mile. There’s a bit of coast and there’s a bit of park,” he said.
Sunday morning’s weather was fantastic for supporters and runners alike. This great day for running impressed Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell, who started the Sunderland 10k.
She said: “The weather’s been brilliant and there’s a real buzz around here.
“Speaking to everyone they’re saying there’s some lovely running areas, especially on that sea front there.
“We’ll wait to see what people say about the marathon but I think it’s a course that will be nice to them and I think it’s really good that spectators can enjoy it in many different places.”
There was a good result for Sunderland’s Aly Dixon in the 10k, who managed to avoid the melee on the start line caused by the lead car breaking down to win the women’s category.
And she was glad to be able to just enjoy running without pressure, having missed out on Olympic qualification at the London Marathon.
“It’s good to see so many people out running around Sunderland. The crowds were really good and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves.
“It’s great to put the city back on the running map. We’ve got a great heritage of marathon running from the runners in Sunderland so to have our own marathon is really good.
“It’s a big change just being out their running just enjoying it and soaking up the atmosphere instead of having to worry about your mile splits and all that kind of stuff,” she said.
More than 2,000 runners turned out for the various races on the day. Hopefully, the organisers will be inspired to organise the race again next year.
So grab your running shoes!
This article can be seen published on the Sportsbyte website here.