Brian marks 80thbirthday with a“great” challenge

Date: Friday 15th September 2017
Brian Atkinson
Brian Atkinson

WHEN Brian Atkinson, of Penrith, turned 80 in June he wanted to mark the occasion with a challenge, and on Sunday he achieved his ambition by successfully completing the Great North Run.

Brian (above), who lives in Graham Street, completed the 13.1-mile course between Newcastle and South Shields in a time of 3hr 17min — but said he could have managed 3hr 15min if he had not stopped to talk to former Olympian Denise Lewis for the BBC just before the six-mile mark.

He was accompanied by his son, Steve, who is a director of Atkinson Building Contractors in Penrith. “Denise was a lovely, lovely lady. She shouted for Steve and I to cross the road to talk to her,” said Brian.

He said the idea came to him after he had an ankle replacement operation two years ago and when he saw his surgeon for a one-year check-up appointment it was suggested that he should do the half-marathon.

“I told him a little fib when I said I’d done a couple of mountains — I’d done quite a few more — and he said ‘you want to do that Great North Run’.”

Brian finally decided to enter at the beginning of the year. “When it got to the new year I said ‘I’m going to do that’. I thought ‘I can do this’ — I walked it, I knew I could walk it,” he said.

He said the people who lined the route were wonderful and added: “They were calling to us from the outset. When you leave Newcastle, you have got your name on your front and people were shouting ‘go on Brian’. Kids were giving out ice lollies and jelly babies. It is so well organised.”

Brian said he found it easier going uphill rather than downhill and if he covered each mile in a time of 15 minutes he was happy.

He added that one of his grandchildren has already suggested that next year they should run with three generations of the family.

The last time Brian ran competitively was in 1959 when he was in his 20s and based in Berlin while serving with the Border Regiment in 1959.

He said he competed in the Olympic Stadium, which was used during the 1936 games, and took part in the 400m and 800m events. His regiment managed to win 13 out of 15 of the team events.

By taking part in the Great North Run, Brian and Steve were raising cash for Patterdale mountain rescue team and earlier this week they had managed to raise more than £1,000.

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