First held in 1981, the Bupa Great North run is the world’s second largest half marathon and the biggest running race in the UK. Originally devised by former athlete and well-known sports commentator Brendan Foster, the course has remained largely unchanged since the first race just over 30 years ago. As a point-to-point race, the runners begin in Newcastle, making their way south on the 13.1-mile course across the River Tyne and through Gateshead before turning east and heading to the finish in South Shields. With 55,000 runners pre-registered to participate this year, a huge temporary village is required to greet the runners at the finish, as well as hosting spectators, VIP hospitality and the many charities who benefit from the money raised by the runners.
In charge of this area is Charlie Mussett, the run’s Finish Director. Charlie, who also takes responsibility for writing the event safety plan, co-ordinates a build process that concludes with only a couple of hours to spare.
“We’re onsite just over two weeks prior to the run taking place”, explains Charlie. “The finish area has to deal with the lions share of people associated with the event, be them runners, spectators, support staff or otherwise. We have to put mechanisms in place to efficiently deal with 55,000 people, which at peak times involves 450 people a minute crossing the finish line.”
Due to the road closures that can only take place on the morning of the event, some of the infrastructure for the finish area can’t be set in place until the last minute, in some cases after the runners have actually set off. With 10-15% of pre-registered runners not actually taking part on the day, calculating how many people to cater for within the finish area can be tricky.
“We have to look very carefully at the trends of previous years and combine that with our experience from having done the event for so long. All of the runners wear electronic timing chips so we know exactly how many are running as soon as they’ve all crossed the start line, but in order to prepare the site in advance it’s still an educated estimate!”
As well as having to create four different finish zones to control the flow of finishers in to the zone, nearly 100 charities benefitting from the race all set up their own areas to serve the runners that have supported them. The events main sponsors also create their own activation zones, with the inevitable VIP hospitality tents also present in this key location.
“The sponsors will generally bring their own hardware, whether it’s a branded truck on temporary structure, but we will still provide the power. We’ll work with our electrical contractor Tower Productions to gather all the necessary requirements and they ensure the correct supplies are ran to the correct areas. As far as VIP hospitality goes, we’ll be catering for around 1,200 on the day.”
The largest element of the television outside broadcast is done from the finish site, with film Nova producing the coverage in conjunction with SIS Live who provide all of the actual OB facilities.
“Life can get very tricky as we approach race time due to the layout of the course”, explained Charlie. “We’ve got the River Tyne to the north of the site and the sea to the east. This means that when we implement the necessary road closures to allow the finish to take place the site is essentially cut off from three sides. This means we have to constantly re-evaluate our traffic management plan, working with both the police and the local authorities to ensure the event is kept as safe as possible without preventing unnecessary inconvenience to either the local residents or the runners and spectators leaving the area.”
Category: Event / Festival Interviews & Reviews