THE Great North Run enjoyed its most successful year so far yesterday as record numbers of competitors managed to escape from Tyneside.
More than 50,000 made their way from the Tyne Bridge to the A1 as quickly as possible, with organisers claiming as many as 40 had reached Durham before nightfall.
Race founder Brendan Foster said: "There are few more awe-inspring sights in the world of international distance running than seeing thousands of dedicated people who would obviously rather die than spend another 10 seconds in Newcastle city centre."
The event, now in its 28th year, originated as a half marathon when two dozen students ran 13 miles in a desperate bid to evade a pack of drug-addled, unemployed youths after accidentally wandering into the city's Benwell housing estate.
It has since grown in popularity with many athletes claiming Newcastle's unremitting ghastliness gives them the ideal motivation to set record times.
Kenyan Martin Lel, who got furthest from the city in a time of four hours and 28 minutes, said: "When the starting pistol went off, about two dozen spectators pulled out their own guns and returned fire.
"After that it was the usual terrifying blur of hellish teeth and blotchy, mis-spelled tattoos."
The runners were cheered on by up to 30,000 local people, many of whom said they would have joined in if they thought it would not have disqualified them from incapacity benefit.
But despite the Great North Run being the biggest event of its kind in the world, physical exercise still remains the 127th most popular activity in Tyneside, coming in just behind 'laminating an otter'.