Great North Run 2014
This was a race that I have wanted to run long before I was a runner. I remember watching this as a child, always tuning in for the television coverage and vowing to take part. This must be one of 100 races to do before you die……
I got a place via the charity Headway and I am grateful to them for enabling me to take past in this epic event.
The first challenges were booking hotels and transport, most of the hotels are booked at least a year in advance and the first hotel I booked went into administration! The train tickets were £400 return and I didn’t fancy the really long drive, so I took a chance and booked National Express coach tickets and got a return ticket for £20.
I arrived late on Friday night and managed to find the hotel easily and Saturday morning dawned cool and dry. I had decided to participate in Newcastle parkrun so gently jogged to Exhibition Park to find the start line. It was nice to see a friendly face in Richard Bazeley and we had a gentle run avoiding the cows that roam in the park.
Saturday afternoon was spent wandering along the Quayside and taking in the City Games & Great North Run 5km, Junior Great North Run and Mini Great North Run before heading to St James Park for a Stadium Tour of the 52,000 capacity ground.
Sunday dawned with bright blue skies on Tyneside, it looked like it was going to be a scorcher! I managed some breakfast (a piece of cheesecake) and dressed in a tutu and fairy wings joined the 57,000 people at Exhibition Park. After throwing my bag on the baggage bus I wander down on to the (closed!) A167(M) and sat down. I found this slightly unnerving, that I was sat on a motorway, but also that I would be running on one. Both firsts for me!
The atmosphere was great and the runners were pouring into the starting pens, which had huge screens set up showing the live broadcast from BBC1. BUPA took a huge photograph of all the 57,000 and is trying to get all the runners to tag themselves. Introductions were done for the elite athletes and Mo Farah got a huge cheer. Lord Coe started the race and off the elite runners went to the sounds of the theme from Local Hero, which is the song that is played at every home game at Newcastle United.
I shuffled slowly forward for 10 mins whilst the thousands of runners in front of me sailed through the start. The announcer was calling out each persons name as they crossed the start line and the charity they were running for which was a nice touch. I have only run small races and it was a huge buzz to be running with so many people. I got across the start line after 15 mins and could see the enormity of the number of people running down the road. To give you some idea of the start, imagine running the London Marathon with twice as many people down both sides of a closed M25.
The one thing that completely caught me off guard was the sheer volume of spectators; they were crammed down both sides of the road and on every bridge, clapping and cheering. The road splits in the first mile and some runners go over an under pass and some go under, I could here the shouts of ‘Oggy Oggy Oggy Oi Oi Oi’ coming from below the road. Suddenly I heard the roar of the Red Arrows and saw them cross the Tyne Bridge and a huge cheer went up from the spectators.
I had already decided this was not about a PB this was about running a race in a city that I love and have always loved. My Dad was born at South Shields and lived in Wallsend and I have many childhood memories of the places along the route and especially the beach at South Shields.
I decided to run along the right hand side to get the best from the people who had turned out to support. Mum’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s, Granddad’s, Aunt’s and Uncle’s lined the routes searching the runners for loved ones and calling out the names of the people who had the names on the vest. After the MK marathon I knew what a boost it was to have your name called out so my name took pride of place on my vest. As I ran up towards the Tyne Bridge I could here people calling my name and shouting ‘go Fairy’ ‘come on, Tinkerbell’ and as I crossed the bridge the children held out there hands to receive high fives from the runners. I tried to give as many children as possible a high five and it delighted them and I revelled in making them smile and squeal.
As I came off the Tyne Bridge the course turns left and starts to climb, which is a feature all the way to the end! This is not a run that you would go hungry or thirsty on the hospitality of this race is famous and every 100 yards there were families dishing out Jelly Babies, Ice Pops, mints, snack size Snickers & Mars bars and at Mile 12 isotonic ale! Andrew Hallworth this is a run for you!
I went through the water station at mile 3 and the kids were picked up the discarded bottles, spraying the runners and having water fights with friends. This is a city where kids still very much play in the streets and that was evident, this event is one huge party for everyone involved. Bands lined the streets, steel drums, electric guitars and even Elvis on top of a bus stop, if you wanted it, here was the place to find it. This is a city that loves to party and it certainly showed how well it can be done.
Miles 4, 5, and 6 went past quickly as I was having so much fun despite the hot weather, I passed a gorilla, Postman Pat, Batman and Robin, but the heat was taking it’s toll on others, during mile 7 an ambulance cut through the runners coming down the course and the route went quiet, it was a sobering reminder that the conditions at GNR can be fatal. I cannot praise the organisers and medical teams enough for the hard work and the number of medics available.
Mile 8 I was handed an ice pop by a youngster on the road, and boy was I grateful for the cold, sweet ice lolly. I was careful to make sure I was drinking enough water and did manage some Lucozade, which kept me cool in the heat. I also took every opportunity to run through the showers on the course to keep cool. The crowds continued to pack the streets, cheering, taking photos and handing out treats. The miles started to go by quickly and this was a race that I didn’t want to end.
At mile 12 is where the runners get the first glimpse of the North Sea and the view was stunning, the water was, deep blue rather than steely grey and the clouds were high and fluffy in the unusually blue sky. It was an astonishing sight as you run to the top of a hill and come down the other side to the coast road in South Shields. You can see the finish from here, but it is still as mile away so you need to make sure there is enough left to get through that final mile. The crowds here were huge and the noise was incredible, the last 800m was the most fun 800m that I have run and I crossed the finisher’s line in 2:11:23. I wasn’t the millionth finisher but I was one in a million, just like the race and the spectators.
It was easy to find my bag and my cousin after the race and we headed to the medical tent as I was now hobbling! Two new blisters to add to the collection, named Pinky and Perky by one of the volunteers.
After a long hot shower and an all you can eat free at Nando’s (Thank you to the staff at Eldon Sq.) I boarded the over night coach to come home.
This race is phenomenal, if you ever get the chance, come at take part, it’s as close to feeling like an Olympic Gold medallist as you will get.
Thank you, Newcastle. You did yourselves proud as you always do. In your own words it was ‘Purely Belter’ See you in 2015……