Countdown to the Great North Run

The winds are raging, the temperatures are dropping and the nights are drawing in. Sounds like the perfect excuse to batten down the hatches and chill in front of the fire and watch some TV, right? Well, for most people, yes. However, plenty of others have been spending their evenings in a slightly different way over the past few weeks - heading out and pounding the leaf-covered autumnal pavements in preparation for the Great North Run.

The Great North Run attracts thousands of runners

Held on September 18, the Great North Run is one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar. It'll see 54,000 people descend upon Gateshead - not known for its baking sun - on what could well be a drizzly Sunday morning to run more than 13 miles. But how have these athletes got themselves into the kind of tip-top condition necessary to slug it out for such a distance? Through good honest slog of course: And there's no slog quite like exercise.

Training for anything can be boring and time-consuming at the best of times. Thankfully many of the canny runners preparing for Gateshead have had an Apple-shaped trick up their sleeves to make running after a hard day in the office that little bit less painful: It's called an iPod. All right, it won't take the pain away, nor that nagging feeling that you'd rather be watching Coronation Street, but plugging in an iPod before pounding the streets at least takes your mind off the enveloping Tuesday night darkness.

The Great North Run half-marathon first got under way in 1981, with 12,500-plus applicants turning up despite organisers expecting fewer than 5,000. More than 10,000 finished the first run too, back in the days when the clunky personal stereo was in its infancy and to many Britons an apple was still something you ate. But how things change: Many of the runners lining up for this year's event will have an iPod clipped to their shorts, or nestled away in a case strapped to their arm. The iPod has been a hit with runners since its first release, with later models going even further to strengthen the bond.

The iPod nano black and the iPod shuffle were lighter and smaller - perfect for running. Not happy to leave it there, Apple added a belt clip onto the back. Another was released with a pedometer, which allows people to gauge whether they're beating the road or it's beating them.

The pedometer feature is perfect for marathon training, and will probably have been used by many of those signed up for the Great North Run. But many of them may've taken it one step further and plugged their iPod into Nike+ - a program for runners serious about data. To use Nike+ people need an iPod, some special Nike trainers and a natty little sensor that plugs into the heel of the sneakers. The sensor records and analyses every step, beaming it straight to your screen and giving you the inspiration to keep plugging away for that final two miles.

If all this talk of data and performance is leaving you flummoxed, remember that above all an iPod is a music player - and that's what most people are listening to while they're running, be it two miles in the park or 13 miles in Gateshead. We all listen to different music for different moods, right? Thank heavens for playlists, which allow you to create your own perfect jukebox mix tailored to your running requirements - meaning never again will Celine Dion filter through your headphones when you were expecting Eye Of The Tiger.

So next time your planned jog gets postponed because of the cold, think about how with the addition of a little bit of tech that run could seem much easier. Who knows? This time next year you could be among the thousands of elated - but knackered - joggers crossing the finish line at the Great North Run, running into the arms of their loved ones covered in sweat, beaming like a Cheshire cat and grooving to Eye Of The Tiger.

Heading to the Great North Run or just a park jogger? Comment below…