A 52-YEAR-OLD bricklayer is gearing himself up for competing in the Great North Run for the 14th time.

Richard Thompson will be among the scores of competitors running the 13.1 course, which will take runners from Newcastle’s city centre to the coast in South Shields.

The race will take place on Sunday and Thompson insists Mel Batty, an athletics legend who lived in Thundersley before passing away in 2011, played a key role in getting him to compete in the world-renowned event for the first time.

Thompson, who lives in Leigh, said: “I will be competing in the Great North Run for the 14th time this weekend and I’m looking forward to it.

“I see it as a challenge and Mel Batty, a local world record holder, got me hooked on competing in the Great North Run.

“I also have friends and family in Newcastle, so it’s always nice to go there and race.”

The Great North Run will get underway at 9.30am, with thousands of supporters lining the course and hundreds of volunteers helping runners.

And Thompson, who has been a keen runner for decades, has set himself a target heading into his latest contest.

Thompson added: “I’ve been competing since I was in my first year at Belfairs High School.

“I have been involved in borough cross country events and ran 10k while on the Kibbutz around the Sea of Galilee.

“I’ve also been involved in the Dublin Marathon and inaugural Port Tunnel race in Ireland, as well as 10k’s in Southend, Leigh and Billericay and Rudolph Runs.

“But I have set myself a target of one hour and 50 minutes for the Great North Run this weekend.”

Thompson - who is not a member of a running club - is hoping to raise in excess of £300 for Tommy’s Charity, which is close to his heart.

“They fund research into miscarriages, stillbirths and premature births,” confirmed Thompson.

“I have a friend in Australia who lost a baby and so I want to raise money for Tommy’s Charity.”

To donate, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/richard-thompson52.