A teacher who this summer retired after 39 years at Dame Allan’s Schools in Newcastle has vowed to keep running as he trains for his 38th consecutive Great North Run (GNR) in September.
Liam Friel, from Whickham, in Gateshead, entered his first GNR half-marathon in 1984, the year after relocating from Essex to the North East, to take a post teaching Latin and French at Dame Allan’s Schools.
The GNR was in its fourth year at the time and Liam has run every single race since, missing only one in 2020 when it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, the 62-year-old retired as one of the longest serving teachers at Dame Allan’s, having taught over 35,000 hours of language classes to hundreds of children from across the region.
He said: “Within the first year of moving here I decided to try the Great North Run, and from run one I was hooked; I just kept doing it!
“Teaching at Dame Allan’s and running the local half-marathon, with its testing course and fantastic atmosphere, are two things I have dearly loved over the last four decades.
“It was hard to say goodbye to the schools that have given me so much pleasure to teach in, but I’m not ready to hang up my running shoes quite yet!
“In fact, I hope to keep running for as long as my body doesn’t object, and surpass my 39-year teaching record at Dame Allan’s with at least 40 years of the Great North Run… and hopefully many more.”
Much has changed both on the GNR track and at Dame Allan’s Schools since moving to the region as a 23-year-old teacher in the early ‘80s.
When he completed his first race in 1984, Liam ran alongside around 20,000 fellow GNR competitors. Today, it is second largest half-marathon in the world and September’s race is expected to be the biggest yet, with 60,000 runners tackling the Newcastle to South Shields course.
Likewise, he joined Dame Allan’s at a time when the Boys’ and Girls’ Schools operated separately, each with its own head teacher. Liam was an integral member of the teaching staff when it underwent historic change in 1988, with the amalgamation of the two schools and launch of its diamond model of education, under one principal.
He has seen huge development across the schools, with the opening of a Sixth Form centre by the Queen in 2005 and a new Junior School and Nursery, at Spital Tongues, in 2012.
Liam, who has been a member of the Blaydon Harriers since 1991 and also run three London Marathons, said one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is his love of Latin.
He said: “Though remote in time, the classical world has had a profound influence on the development of western civilisation, through both language and literature, and I will really miss teaching Latin to the lively, enquiring minds of Dame Allan’s pupils.”