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South Shields inspector to celebrate two special milestones as he prepares for first-ever Great North Run appearance
07 Sep | 10:20

Inspector Phil Baker, who has 21 years' service with the force, is one of a number of Northumbria Police officers & staff taking part in Sunday's race

A neighbourhood inspector will celebrate two special milestones this weekend as he prepares to pull on his running shoes.

Inspector Phil Baker is set to take part in his first-ever Great North Run and will join 57,000 other competitors at the start line of the world’s biggest half marathon race this Sunday.

The 13.1-mile challenge coincides with the one-year anniversary since he headed up the neighbourhood team in West Shields and Riverside, which includes South Shields town centre.

For Insp Baker, who will run in aid of The Salvation Army, it is fitting that the final stretch of the mammoth endurance event falls on the very patch he works tirelessly to protect and serve day-to-day.

“It should be a really special weekend,” said Insp Baker, who has 21 years’ service with Northumbria Police.

“The prospect of competing in my first Great North Run feels slightly surreal at the moment. I’ve always wanted to do it, it’s been on my bucket list for a while, but it’s something I’ve always said I’ll do ‘next year’ and it’s never happened… until now!

“I was born and raised in the North East, so know how brilliant the event is for the region. The whole area gets behind it and spectators turn out in their thousands to cheer on the competitors and create a feel-good atmosphere.

“I’m a bit nervous, like many who are preparing to tackle the course for the first time, but incredibly excited – and the fact I’ll be finishing in South Shields one year after I moved here from my previous role in Southwick makes it even more special.

“This is a fantastic area and I’m incredibly proud to be the neighbourhood inspector for South Shields. There is a real sense of community in the town and over the years the Great North Run is something that has regularly showcased that.

“I’m looking forward to seeing plenty of familiar faces along the route – and want to wish everybody who is taking part in the race, each for their own personal causes, the very best of luck.

“See you at the finish line!”

While Insp Baker hopes to earn his first Great North Run finisher’s medal, for Sergeant Ian Ritchie this weekend will mark his 15th outing at the annual showpiece event.

Sgt Ritchie, who works at Newcastle’s Forth Banks Station, is no stranger to the region’s roads and race tracks ever since taking up running seven years ago

The 38-year-old runs alongside officers up and down the country for Police Sport UK and has become an accomplished 5k competitor, spending his spare time racing at regional competitions.

But long distance is something he also enjoys, and after finishing 64th in the 2017 Great North Run, the Sunderland Harrier – fresh from an operation – is hoping to add another race medal to his ever-growing collection.

“It’s the buzz of the Great North Run which keeps bringing me back each year,” Sgt Ritchie said.

“The crowds that line the streets along the route, the inspirational runners each with their own reason or motivation for taking part – it’s just a phenomenal event, and one I’m always proud to be part of.

“I’d like to wish all my friends and colleagues who are running the race the very best of luck, and thank the officers who will be on duty throughout the day to keep everyone safe.”

Northumbria Police are proud to once again be supporting the Great North Run, and a visible policing presence will be along the race route to ensure the safety of organisers, competitors, spectators and residents.

Officers are also there to offer reassurance to members of the public and answer any questions competitors or spectators may have. They are friendly and approachable and will be happy to stop and speak to people.

If you see a police officer on duty over the weekend then come and say hello and take a picture with them, they are friendly and happy to help.

Anyone who sees a crime taking place, has concerns about someone acting suspiciously, or thinks anything seems out of the ordinary can either pass their information to an officer on patrol or ring police on 101. In an emergency, call 999.

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