A RUNNER who competed in the first-ever Great North Run is doing it all again 40 years later.

Alan Theakston, 73, from High Coniscliffe, competed in the original Great North Run back in 1981, he had only got into running one year earlier and thought that he would give it ago.

Now, he is running it again, 40 years later to show that despite cancer he is still capable of running a half marathon.

Mr Theakston said: “I did the first Great North Run in 1981.

“I was 32 and I was not a sports person, but the jogging boom had just started.

“I was taking my dog for a walk and thought to myself how far could I run?

"So I gave it a try and then built up.

“I started getting really into running in 1980 but I still had no idea if I could do 13.5 miles.

"I signed up to the Great North Run anyway, it was a lot smaller back then.

"They didn't know how many people they would get signing up, they didn't know if it was going to take off.

"I did a bit of training for it, but probably not as much as runners do now.

“I felt a great sense of achievement when I completed the run, I have done a lot of marathons and half marathons since then.

“In 2018 I was diagnosed of bowel cancer and went to hospital for six months for radio and chemotherapy.

"However, that didn't work and then I had to have part of it removed.

“It can really take a toll on your body but one month after the operation I went for a gentle jog, and I have slowly built up since then.

“Running is very relaxing, I’ve never gone out for a run and regretted it, it helps you think about things and you also get out in nature."

The Northern Echo: Marking the 40th Great North Run Alan Theakston at the Nufield Hospital in Stockton. Picture Paul Norris

Although its 40 years on, Mr Theakston is determined to prove to himself that he can do the run again.

He is determined not to let cancer hold you back.

Mr Theakston added: “This will be me seeing if I can still run and reliving the spirit and the glory days of 1981.

“My time in 1981 was one hour 45 minutes, I would be very if I got two hours 45 minutes this time.

“What’s changed since I first did the run is the running equipment and the lifestyle.

"We now have a much healthier lifestyle and places like Nuffield Hospital help promote that lifestyle.

"Professional runners can finish the race in record times and it is taken a lot more serious now.

“The hospital here is great, they do amazing work, and have done for the last 40 years.

“After all the pressures of the past 18 months, the staff are always polite and are always available to help.”

The Northern Echo: Left to right at the Nuffield Hospital in Stockton, Chris Bennett, Sarah Thomas, Kay Connor. Picture Paul Norris

Nuffield Health hospital in Stockton was opened the same year as the first Great North Run and has helped people with sporting injuries ever since.

Nuffield Health Tees Hospital is gifting Mr Theakston pre and post-run physio sessions with its lead Physiotherapist.

The hospital is also the only private-run hospital north of Leeds with an outstanding CQC rating.

It is one of the UK's largest charities and relies on donations, including ones from sponsorships on the Great North Run.