THE Great North Run is a serious business.
This year’s event is one of the most anticipated ever.
Double gold medallist Mo Farah is taking to the road alongside 56,000 other competitors.
It will be the first time he has taken on marathon legends Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele.
That trio of superstars guarantees that every inch of the route from Newcastle to South Shields will be packed by spectators and well-wishers.
Aside from the elite runners, there are thousands of amateurs and fun runners counting down the days to Sunday.
Take for example Jarrow-born and bred Jim McCullough.
Tax officer Jim – don’t hold that against him – only took to running a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s a casual competitor. Anything but.
The 55-year-old has a very specific goal – and nothing will stop him achieving it.
Jogging Jim is doing everything in his power to finish the half marathon under the two-hour mark, after narrowly finishing over that time in his two previous attempts in 2010 and 2012.
With ‘old father time’ not on his side it’s an ambition fast turning into an obsession.
In addition to training three times a week, including intense hill sessions, and serious dieting – he’s lost almost a stone since May – Jim has purchased top-of-the-range running shoes.
And on the big day he’ll be wearing a holster to carry a high-carb drink and will be taking energy gels for when the going gets tough.
But his dedication doesn’t end there.
On the basis that every effort counts, he’s had a sharper than usual haircut and is even considering a last-minute leg shave.
In his past two appearances, Jim has stopped close to Haggerston Terrace in Jarrow for a brief chat with family.
This year, he’s asked the clan to stay away. For once family allegiance comes a distant second to achieving his goal.
There’s a lot resting on his success, with failure meaning he will never compete in the famous half-marathon ever again.
Jim and thousands of others are labelled “fun runners” but, for some, nothing could be further from the truth.
In their own way they are just as focused and dedicated as the elite athletes.
And it’s their endeavours which make the Great North Run what it is.
Good luck, Jim.