Four die in 'Great' North Run
While a highlight video of the tens of thousands of fun-runners, or masses, in their wild and wacky uniforms, was being televised to the backdrop of inspirational music, showing everything that is right about this rapidly reforming community in what was one of the most impoverished regions in the United Kingdom, four families, from the south coast to the far reaches of the north east, were mourning their losses.
The former mining town of Consett in Country Durham, set on the steep embankment of a hill, is the closest thing to a tight-knit community that one can get in this day of modern living. Most of the people who live in the town know each other; almost certainly their relatives worked together down the coal pits, or on the shipyards nearby. Housing a golf club and a small shopping precinct, Consett is a community where pensioners come to wind down their lives and young families come to raise their children away from the hubub of city life, but close enough to be close to all amenities. Today, those children who attended the local comprehensive school where one of the four men who died while running the Great North Run, celebrating it's twenty-fifth birthday yesterday, taught, were wondering just how a healthy 52-year-old Physics teacher, competing in his twenty-fourth Great North Run, could collapse and die.
For one sixteen year old who had left the confines of his old comprehensive, it was all too much. He broke down and cried in front of myself, and his friends, when he called his old school, having heard a half-rumour that someone had died as a result of the run.
According to those who ran the world-famous race, there was not a single water stop for the first five miles of the race. On a day when the temperatures rose to 20c, and while running a 13.1 mile race, this was a disastrous oversight.
One of the dead men, in his late 20s, was left lying on the road in South Shields for three-quarters of an hour before any help arrived for him.
Although the organisers of the race maintain that there were two rapid response motorbikes running the route, accompanied by 23 ambulances equipped with defibulators, that will be little consolation to the families of those who died.
In a year during which the north east has officially welcomed the Sage music centre, the Tall Ships Race and the 25th anniversary of the Great North Run, this news comes as a bitter reminder that for all the region's efforts, we are still criminally underprepared for a major occurence in the region.