Perkins Great Eastern Run

The Perkins Great Eastern Run (12 October) is one of the fastest growing half-marathons in the country – but it wasn’t always that way...

The Great Eastern Run (as it was then known) all began back in 1982, when Britain was feeling inspired by the new London Marathon. ‘It was started by a group of charities who thought it would be a good idea to raise money,’ says race commentator and PGER expert Dick Hughes. ‘They got in touch with the Peterborough Athletic Club, which I had been captain of, to ask if there was someone who could co-ordinate things with them, and I drew the short straw!’

In those early days, British Sugar was the sponsor, but the company moved out of Peterborough to Bury St Edmunds and without sponsorship, the event folded. In 2006, however, the Great Eastern Run returned to the racing calendar thanks to the support of Peterborough City Council and local sponsor Perkins (Perkins initially sponsored on a year-by-year basis, but in 2010 pledged funding for a further five years). The Perkins Great Eastern Run was born.

It was an immediate success – and with solid support behind it the event has continued to grow and evolve. In 2013, the half marathon attracted its highest ever number of competitors, with entries up by over 20 per cent on the previous year, and the Anna’s Hope Fun Run enjoying a massive 85 per cent boost in sign ups. More than 5,200 people raced in the half-marathon, supported by thousands of spectators along the course, with 1,700 signing up for the fun run to raise money for a variety of good causes.

The route 2012 saw the introduction of a new route, starting and finishing on the city’s Embankment and passing right through the city centre – the same route that is being followed in 2014. ‘It starts in the city,’ explains Dick, ‘runs up through the new dual carriageway, then turns back and comes down into Cathedral Square, it then takes in quite a lot of the old town of Peterborough on the west side, going up into Walton and Werrington, then turns back through Dogsthorpe and finishes on the Embankment.’

This, Dick Hughes believes, provides the three factors that make the race unique (or rather, the races – there are three: the half marathon, Anna’s Hope Fun Run and the wheelchair race). ‘I travel to other events that I’m involved with – Reading, Brighton, Nottingham, Bath, Bristol and so forth – and all have very strong half-marathons. But what we have got that others haven’t include the city centre start and finish. Very few other events do that. Secondly, we always get huge support from people, not only at the start and finish, but out along the course. So, community-wise, it’s really good. The third thing is that it’s a very fast course. It’s very flat. If you go down the field to the 100th runner, the 500th runner, the 1000th runner, they are faster than most of the other big events that are attracting 10,000-15,000 competitors. So it’s a course that presents a great opportunity for someone to set their fastest time.’

All these factors combine to make the PGER the success it is. As Race Director Annette Joyce puts it: ‘It’s up there as one of the top races to do in the UK because it’s an interesting run, runs through a city, its a fast course, and with a fantastic atmosphere. We’ve been doing it for eight years now, and every year the numbers are going up. And it’s a tribute to the route really, because in other towns and cities the numbers are going down.’

The runners
So, who does come to run? Well, just about everybody. Entries come from all over the UK and overseas and have included runners from Italy, France, Sweden, America, Hong Kong and Kenya. The event also attracts hundreds of non-competitive runners into the Anna’s Hope Fun Run, which covers a distance of 5k, and young runners are being encouraged to get involved by taking part in the Junior Challenge.

‘We do put up pretty good prizes,’ says Dick, ‘and it has attracted overseas runners – in particular
the Kenyans. They just seem to produce really good runners year in, year out.’ Kenyan runners took the first three places last year, with Nicholas Kirui coming in first. ‘Past winners have included top Kenyan runners Edwin Kipyego, Edwin Kiptoo, William Chebon, Luka Rotich – and when you look at the world rankings, they’re up in the top 20. To an ordinary person, those names might not mean much, but if we were talking about football it would be like mentioning Wayne Rooney.’

Coming in fourth in 2013, however, was Lincolnshire runner Aaron Scott, and there was a British winner, Neil Addison in 2009. Can we win it again? ‘I think we can!’ says Dick. ‘We just have to believe we can do it.’ So, what are you waiting for, Peterborough? Get your running shoes on and get out there.

New for 2014
New to 2014 is the introduction of race pacers who will help runners to achieve their best possible time on race day. Seven pacers will lead different target times ranging from one and a half hours
finish time to two hours and forty five minutes. This year, Peterborough City Council have also announced a new opportunity for local bands and solo artists to perform on the running route and on The Embankment where the race starts and finishes – so now you can sing while you’re winning!

Where and when?
The assembly point for the half-marathon, wheelchair race and Anna’s Hope Fun Run on 12 October is at the Embankment where all races start and finish. Fun Run competitors will move to the start line at approximately 9.45am for a 10am start. The wheelchair race will start at 10.25am
and the half marathon at 10.30am. Please check the website for more detailed information, including times of prize presentations. There will be plenty of stalls, refreshments and a continental market for spectators to enjoy at the Embankment, with the city centre shopping area a five minute stroll away.

For more information about the Perkins Great Eastern Run 2014, including how to enter, volunteering or raising money for charity, plus all the latest race news and training tips, visit

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