A VETERAN of the Great North Run is hoping to be part of the event’s 40th anniversary celebrations in September.

Nigel Barnes has run the famous route, from Newcastle to South Shields, no fewer than 35 times over the past four decades.

He was among the 12,000 people who ran the first race, in 1981, and was ever present until 2010, when he collapsed just short of the finish line.

Medics confirmed Nigel was suffering from a heart condition, and he was fitted with a pacemaker. The Newcastle man, who now lives in Haydon Bridge, missed out the 2011 Great North Run, but he made a courageous return in 2012.

“I’ve missed four in total,” he said. “Two were for for health reasons, and on another two occasions I wasn’t successful in the entry ballot.”

Nigel was unsuccessful in the general ballot for the latest event, which opened in January, and is hoping to find a way of making it to the start line in September.

The 52-year-old, who works for the Co-op in Haltwhistle, said he would consider applying for a charity place.

“I would like to run for the Co-op charity,” he said. “But all of those places are full, so I’ll just have to see what happens over the next few weeks.”

Nigel was a force to be reckoned with as a young runner. He ran competitively as a child and into his teenage years, representing Elswick Harriers and Tynedale Harriers, and earning top 10 finishes in regional events.

“I’ve always loved running,” said Nigel, who has been employed by the Co-op for more than 20 years. “Having been involved with the Great North Run from the start, I have seen it evolve and it will always be a very special event for me.

“You can’t beat the atmosphere, and it would mean a lot if I could be there in September for the 40th Great North Run.”

Nigel has asked anyone who may have to drop out of the race, due to a change in circumstances, to consider him for their place.

“It’s not how I want to get in.” he said. “But some people enter with the best of intentions, and unfortunately they end up having to give up their number for one reason or another.”

Event organisers, the Great Run Company, said demand was huge and that all places had been allocated.

However, the company said Nigel’s name would be kept on a reserve list among other unsuccessful candidates, who also have a strong connection to the event.

Nigel can be contacted via the Courant sports desk.