Great North Run: Mo Farah narrowly beaten as thousands run

Mo Farah in the Great North Run Mo Farah, left, narrowly missed out on winning the race

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Almost 56,000 people have taken to the streets of Tyneside for the 33rd Great North Run.

World and Olympic champion Mo Farah narrowly missed out on becoming the first UK runner in 25 years to win the elite men's race in a thrilling finish.

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele held off Farah to finish first in South Shields after the 13.1-mile half-marathon.

World 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu and England cricketer Graeme Swann started the event.

Among the celebrities taking part were former Spice Girl Mel C, BBC presenter Sophie Raworth and Radio 2's Jo Whiley.

Mel C said: "It hasn't been the best of days weatherwise, but so many people have still turned out to support everyone and line the streets."

Sophie Raworth added: "I can't believe the number of people who have come out on a day like today just to show support for us all. It's been fantastic."

'Great race'

And DJ Wiley said: "Everyone here has been just fantastic. I'll definitely be back."

Thousands gathered at the start line and along the route to cheer wheelchair racers and the elite women runners, who were the first to go.

In the men's race, Bekele held off a late charge from Farah, who has won multiple world and Olympic titles at the shorter distances of 5,000m and 10,000m, to bring it to a thrilling end.

The Ethiopian, running his first competitive half-marathon, made the break with a mile to go on the course from Newcastle to South Shields and looked to be heading for a comfortable win.

The BBC's Phil Bodmer says strong winds may actually help the runners

But Farah began to chase down the leader over the last 400m and was on the heels of Bekele as the finishing line approached, but was unable to find the extra speed needed to pass his opponent.

That left Bekele to cross the line first in an unofficial time of 60:08, with Farah just one second behind.

Distance great Haile Gebrselassie was third.

After the race Farah said: "It was a great race. It was a great finish.

"I thought when Kenenisa went with a mile to go I thought the pace was just ridiculous!

"I thought I'd come back and close the gap slowly. I managed to close a little bit of it. But you know, you can't take away what he has. He has a great speed and it came down to the last 200m."

Kenyan athlete Priscah Jeptoo won the women's elite race just four seconds short of the record time.

British Paralympic stars won both the wheelchair races, with David Weir the first man across the line in South Shields and Shelly Woods winning the women's event.

Great North Run start World 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu and England cricketer Graeme Swann started the main event

With hundreds of charities represented by runners, an estimated £24m is expected to be raised.

During the race an estimated 82,000 litres of water was drunk by parched runners.

From just 12,000 competitors at the first run in 1981, the event has now grown to more than 55,000 accepted entrants from more than 100,000 applicants.

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