What a wonderful event the Great North Run is - it truly sums up all that is good about the region. I was in South Shields cheering on some friends as they completed the 13 miles last Sunday and the atmosphere was fantastic.

The ultra competitiveness of the serious athlete mixed with the good nature and humour of the North-East attracts like-minded people from all over the globe for this annual celebration of human endeavour.

Full marks then to Zersenay Tadesse for his record-breaking run, but also to the Loch Ness monster, Scooby Doo and the Red Arrows.

Everyone behind the scenes deserves praise, but the greatest accolade must go to the man who set the whole thing up and continues to make it such a success - Brendan Foster. I greatly admired Brendan as an athlete and, though I have never met him, he strikes me as a thoroughly decent man.

I'm sure he will have been saddened at the four deaths in this year's race and will ensure that if things can be improved for next year they will be.

Brendan clearly has a deep love of this region, shown through his determination to give something back.

He organised the first Great North Run 25 years ago and has seen it become a national fixture while other marathons and half marathons have fallen by the wayside.

I suspect that success has led to many lucrative offers over the years to drop his commitment to the Great North Run and become race director somewhere else in the world. Instead, Brendan has remained true to his roots, though after some of the criticism he has come in for recently, I wouldn't blame him if he upped sticks and accepted a golden hello from elsewhere.

A documentary by the local BBC and a column by a sneering journalist effectively accused Brendan of ripping off charities, insinuating he was charging exhorbitant amounts to enter the Great North Run.

Let's be clear about this. The Great North Run makes millions of pounds every year for charity; it also brings millions of pounds into the Tyneside economy and does more to promote the region than any tourism campaign could.

In addition, it inspires people to get off their backside and take exercise, even those who simply watched at least enjoyed a stroll in the sunshine.

Brendan's company - Nova International - is not a charity. It is a business and has to earn the money to pay the massive cost of staging the race plus the wages of the people it employs.

The fee for an individual of £34 seems reasonable considering the amount of organisation that goes into the event and the medal, T-shirt and other goodies you get at the end.

For charities who want to book a large number of guaranteed places well in advance there is an additional fee of £50 per person. Charities these days are run as businesses and it's entirely up to the individual charity to decide whether this is cost effective fund raising for them or not.

There is nothing to stop individuals entering for £34 and then running for a charity without having to pay the additional £50 - they just take their chance in the ballot like everyone else.

I hope Brendan ignores the whingers and continues to organise the Great North Run as he sees fit for another 25 years. Meanwhile, before knocking this success story, his critics should consider what positive contribution they have made to North-East life.

Published: 23/09/2005