BRENDAN Foster has launched the 40th anniversary of the Great North Run – with plans to make it even more memorable than ever.

The iconic 13.1 mile run from Newcastle to South Shields takes place this year on Sunday, September 13.

And, after he set up the first race in June 1981, Mr Foster has grand plans for the world’s biggest half marathon, which has been won on the last six occasions by Sir Mo Farah.

“We couldn’t expect it to be this big,’’ he said at Newcastle’s Hancock Museum. “We had 11,000 in the first year and that was almost ten times bigger than any other race here at the time.

“People still want to do it – more want to do it this year than ever before. In sport you can stand on the outside looking in, with this you are in. Go to St James’ Park, the Stadium of Light, Durham’s Riverside and look on. With this, come on, get in – there’s a piece of this for everybody.’’

The 2020 event stretches to three days, with the Great North 5k race on Friday, September 11. That allows the Saturday for the Junior and Mini Great North runs for children.

Great Run Company brand and marketing director Catherine Foster added: "We are making it a truly weekend event. We've moved the 5k to Friday night, to make it bigger. It's a curtain raiser for the weekend celebration and there's going to be a real party atmosphere and we plan a business challenge. So the 5k going to grow, hopefully to around 3,000 people taking part.

"We've played around with the timetable for Saturday, to fit more children into the junior events, so that's going to grow to be even bigger as well, with over 9,000 children taking part. We're going to really celebrate the kids taking part on Saturday.

“Even after all these years, the event is still growing. We are already 25 per cent up on last year’s ballot entries and we hope to beat the record set in 2018 of just over 43,500 finishers.

“We ran a study last year and it shows the weekend has a big financial boost and an uplift in perception of the area too. Some £80m is raised through charity places too. We should be really proud.’’

Renowned screenwriter and author Terry Deary, of the Horrible Histories series, is producing a 70-minute documentary film which will look back at the run over the years, recording a slice of North-East history in the process.

He will also take part in this year’s event, the 21st time the County Durham resident has ran it. “I’ve lost over a stone already in training and I’m building up my mileage,’’ he said. “I missed out last year as I was working on commentary duties and I missed running it immensely.

“The film will build a picture of the North-East as a place, not just the place or the 40 years. It’s about looking at what we have achieved.’’

At Tuesday’s launch, Made By Sport chief executive Sophie Mason added: “Sport is so much more about medals and times, there’s the ability to help people with critical life skills too, to learn how to succeed, how to fail, teamwork, leadership.

“We try and lead the conversation to more than just physical fitness and we are delighted to be a part of such an incredible event.’’

A Great North Run mascot will be revealed over the event weekend, with a competition soon to be launched to design the character.

The Great North Run public entry ballot is open now until Sunday, February 9.