Looking after the Great North Run finish line
It’s the welcome sign that makes every runner’s heart soar after 12 miles of pounding the pavements – the cooling blast of sea air and comforting sight of the open green cliffs and blue North Sea that signals the final stretch of the Great North Run.
While it might be better known as the finish line of the biggest half marathon in the world, the Leas is also an historic stretch of coast, home to a wide variety of wildlife and nature.
Stretching north from Souter Lighthouse, the towering 250 million-year-old limestone cliffs are lined with pebble beaches, bays and caves. At the top, you’ll find clifftop meadows that are home to an abundance of wildflowers popular with bees and butterflies. In early summer, common spotted, northern marsh, pyramidal and rare bee orchids add splashes of colour amongst the grass.
National Trust rangers care for The Leas by carrying out regular wildlife surveys. As well as plantlife, they record bird species including reed bunting, linnet, meadow pipit, skylark and grey partridge.
Marsden Bay is home to kittiwakes, fulmars, cormorants and herring gulls plus some shags, razorbills and lesser black-backed gulls. Counting thousands of pairs of seabirds nesting on cliffs and rock stacks each spring can be a challenge; getting out to sea on a boat for a clearer view of the coast is the best way to do it.
Make Souter your Great North Run supporter base
At two-and-a-half miles from the finish line, you can park in the car park at Souter Lighthouse and the Leas all day for £10. National Trust members can park up for free, simply bring along your membership card. Interested in joining? Ask staff about signing up for membership on the day. All proceeds go towards looking after this special place.
Your supporters can enjoy a pre-run team huddle at Souter Lighthouse’s café. Open 6.30am-6pm on event day, there’s plenty of time to grab a breakfast buttie, or pick up a sweet treat from the ice cream kiosk on the Leas. After all, cheering can be hungry work!
Make yourself at home
Fancy a longer dose of fresh sea air? Unwind after the run with a stay at Souter Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottages are a stone’s throw from the coast and once the runners and spectators go home, you’ll have the Leas to yourself for that post-run leg stretch.
Whether you’re working towards your next PB or just want to get outdoors with the family, we’ve got coastal walking trails, family-friendly nature activities and events such as Great Run Local to inspire you.