So the Great North Run is over for another year. I ran it in 1 hour 40 minutes 37 seconds, if anyone is interested, a minute slower than last year, but still a respectable placing overall (enough runners to fill the Stadium of Light behind me, and a respectable home crowd at Victoria Park [Hartlepool United] in front).
But suppose the Great North Run was a relay rather than a mass start, and each runner started only when the previous runner finished? Suppose each 13.1 miles was run in series rather than in parallel? My back-of-the-envelope calculations are that the 55,000 or so runners ran about 720,000 miles (1152800 km) in total, which is enough to circumnavigate the earth almost 29 times. This would, however, take about 19 years to complete. We could also have run to the moon and back, with mileage to spare.
Of course, the Great North Run is the tip of the iceberg, as almost all of us will have covered a much greater distance in training. Let’s say we each did 100 miles of training as well as the run itself: this means that we covered just over 6 million miles. We could run our relay back and forth to the moon a few more times or we could look for the next target. Six million miles – the grand total of every Great North Runner’s race and training – will get us precisely one 25th of the total distance from earth to the sun (93 million miles, 150 million kilometres). It all makes my 13.1 miles yesterday seem rather puny.