The Great North Run Company has changed the route of its Great North Run and will use staggered start times to ensure the race can go ahead as planned while allowing for social distancing both at the event and on the region’s transport network.

Instead of finishing in the coastal town of South Shields as usual, the race on 12 September will now start and finish in Newcastle with runners crossing the Tyne Bridge twice.

Runners will be allocated specific time slots instead of a traditional mass start and final participants will set off several hours after the first.

The route, which has been changed for the first time in 40 years, will go through the city centre on the return leg, before finishing on the Great North Road. The finisher’s village will be built on Newcastle’s Town Moor.

The 40th edition of the Great North Run should have taken place last year but instead was set up as an app-based digital event due to Covid-19. Organisers said this year’s event is already at capacity as most people who secured a place for 2020 chose roll over their tickets.

Organisers said they will launch a GNR40 campaign for this year’s event in the coming months and the race will return to South Shields in 2022.