Wednesday, 19 September 2012

(Not so) Great North Run!

Our return from oop North today was a gradual descent from Whitley Bay via Newcastle and the Angel of the North.  Our extended break made it seem an absolute age since we had taken part in the most anticipated race of the year.  I'm always on a count down from one year to the next as I 'love', in every sense of the word, this race.  From the very first time we did it in 2006 we have managed to better our experience each year, even in 2010 when I wasn't able to run due to injury, I stood on the sidelines, drinking in the atmosphere and whilst there is no comparison to taking part, I enjoyed my first time waiting at the end to try and spot anyone we knew coming through the finish.

This year though, my experiences changed somewhat.  We decided to save ourselves some money and not get our usual transfer to the start line which would then also include being picked up from near the finish in South Shields and taken back to our caravan park.  Martin had spotted the Bupa Great North Run weekend Dayrover tickets in the Bupa magazine which accompanies your number/timing chip/race info etc.  For just £5.50 per day, £10 for two days or £15 for 3 days, your Dayrover allows unlimited travel on the bus, Metro or ferry.  Bingo! At £30 for the three of us a ticket we were going to save £60, not to be sniffed at! This would cover our travelling round on the Saturday to go and watch the City Games and also our travel to the start of the race and our return to the caravan park. Saturday went to plan as we had an enjoyable day hopping on and off buses, the highlight being able to watch Mo Farah win the 2 mile race and even though England & N I lost out to the USA in the City Games we still had a brilliant day all round.

After a sleepless night almost certainly aided by thoughts of how/if we were going to get to the start line on time, fear of the unknown personified.  We rose early and were out of the caravan by 7:30 to catch our bus to Newcastle.  As it turned out it was an absolute doddle and we reached the start area by 8:15. However, the toilet queues were that long that we were locked out of our starting pens by the time we returned to the start area.  We literally had to scale fencing to get into our pens. Finally we crossed the line and the race began.  We hadn't had the atmospheric start we usually did but the excitement was still building.  It began to rain.  It continued to rain. It rained throughout.  It wasn't unbearable and we had to thank our lucky stars it wasn't beating sun, give me rain over sun any day!

I didn't notice what time we did our first 5k in but by 10k we were at just over 54 minutes, acceptable I thought.  Onwards, at just before the 7 mile mark I heard a lot of screaming and shouting from the sidelines, looking across I saw a group of Hyde Park Harriers, Liz Jones and former Eccleshill Road Runners Clare Mason and Diane Aykroyd, what a boost, it's lovely to see familiar faces and if I'm honest it was lovely to see so many people in general, how fantastic of each and every one of them to stand out all day in the pouring rain. Brilliant! I take my hat off to them all.

A mile or so later and Martin began to struggle, his breathing was really heavy and he was a funny shade of green.  I tried to keep dropping back to him, this I think caused people to regularly bump into my arms, stepping on my feet, and generally antagonising me.  Martin walked a while and then would summon up the energy to begin running again, regularly telling me to go on without him, I tried not to lose patience and encourage him on but it was difficult, there was no way I was going to leave him, he looked like he might keel over at any moment.  Thoughts of how little training he had done came flooding back and I began to resent him.  Getting him to the top of the hill at just over 11 miles I knew we would make it to the finish line but it had been a real struggle.  Along the sea front I had my eyes peeled on the crowd looking for family, each time I turned round Martin was further away from me, I would go back to him and focus on the crowd again, after what seemed like an age we crossed the line - me holding him up, I was so glad we had finished but for all the wrong reasons.

It turned out we had marginally beaten our time from last year, only by a few seconds, and I really don't know how. Thankfully the other boys had really good runs, Marc and Taylor on their debut half marathons finished in 1:51 and 1:33 respectively.  Craig and Gavin also did brilliantly both finishing in 1:51 - very difficult to comprehend since Marc & Taylor set off in the faster (orange) zone, Craig set off with us in the white zone and Gavin much further back in the Green zone, the wonder of timing chips! The journey back to Whitley Bay left a lot to be desired as we faced quite a long walk to the Ferry Port and then an enormous queue of people to get on board, the only saving grace was that they were every 15 minutes and took 150 people each trip so although we had quite a long wait I assume it was quicker than getting on the train which also had enormous queues.  A long walk and two more buses later we arrived back at Whitley Bay, extremely tired!

I only hope now that I can change Martin's attitude to training for races if he is to continue and most certainly if he's reading this I plead with him to reassess his attitude to training as although he maintains how he felt wasn't due to lack of training - I had to point out that had he done adequate training he would have been reassured that that wasn't the cause of him feeling unwell and me being worried witless, as it is we don't have anything else to blame. We absolutely loved our few days break following the race and managed to visit St Mary's Lighthouse, Cullercoats, Tynemouth Castle & Priory and the famous Angel of the North before returning home.

The beach through Tynemouth Castle window

Marc surveys the Angel of the North

Hey ho, bring on the Bridlington Half marathon in October! If you're reading this and taking part, get training! I can still hear myself saying 'well if anything goes wrong at least I know I have done the training' when I was on my way to the start line of the London Marathon in 2010. Remember, respect the challenge.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The end is nigh.....Countdown.....

Return to Wednesday training she did! Dawn that is.  Wanting to try and complete the longest route of 11 miles I pledged to run with her.  My pleasure I'd said as I now wanted to take it really steady as the race of the year draws near.  Out and back on the canal seemed a good bet as I had said to Dawn if we got to a point where she felt she had had enough we could just turn back.  We were pleased to reach the turn around point, no turning back, so to speak, we had now committed to the full distance.  We happily set off back towards our start point, Apperley Bridge, chatting away about one thing and another.  Suddenly it became dark, we were under a cover of trees and looking beyond them I could see that the sky was still fairly light, I reassured Dawn who by now seemed a little worried.  We carried onwards, it got darker and darker all around us.  I tried to focus ahead, occasionally a light would appear and turn out to be a cyclist, no doubt caught out as we had been.  Every so often I would spot what I thought was a figure in front of us, hoping it was a friendly one, only to find my fears were unfounded, the dark does play tricks!

Finally, our dark journey was over as we arrived at Dobson Lock, Apperley Bridge, back to civilisation and street lights! Within the next couple of weeks we will be returning to our Winter training base, until then we will seriously need to stick to road running!

On Friday I wondered if the weird and wonderful weather is keeping club runners at home, or maybe they are turning into opportunist runners and getting themselves out of the door when it's dry outside!  Numbers on Friday certainly plummeted as only five of us turned up, or was the uphill start to Yeadon maybe? Puzzle I did as I must admit I hadn't relished the thought of running in the pouring rain but as always once you get going you don't notice when it actually stops! Back after our 5 miler we all agreed although it had been quite tough we all enjoyed it, having got the flowers out of the way first this time (albeit that they were for a less than happy occasion this time) all round it was great start to the weekend.

Flowers for a memorial
Speaking of which I was pleased to play a part in the Eccleshill hosting of the Saltaire YVAA relay in Robert's Park - much respect to Ian our Membership Secretary for diving in there and doing what most of us would run a million miles from, albeit his nerves are now in tatters! All seemed to go very well and the feedback he has received has been positive so who knows what''s next?

Gaggles of geese, one flew over Robert's Park as another grazed!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Floral Training

Occasionally life gets in the way of my running and I hate it when it does.  I know 'hate' is a strong word but I was going to say 'despise' and that's worse!  I had a last minute request from a friend to do some flowers for the church for her wedding.  I was reluctant, firstly from a confidence point of view, although I adore flowers and wish daily that I could have more in my life, I don't 'play' regularly enough to build my faith in my own abilities. Also, with a theme of black, silver and purple, I had my work cut out! Bradford parkrun was a race featured in the club's Summer championships.  I really wanted to go and run it knowing that lots of club members would be there so I left it open, saying to friends that I would see how it went as I had a lot on and I wasn't sure whether I would be able to fit it in.  Getting home from Friday club run, shower and tea, I started on the flowers. Retiring to bed after midnight and only the bare minimum of preparation done I knew there was no way I could spare the time to go run the 5k.
Flowers for the altar
I've now missed a few run sessions due to flowers, socialising at the wedding and monthly time trial timing at club but hopefully Wednesday club run will fix that and I'll soon feel back on course.  I know I could have gone for a run on my own but as I document regularly I don't run to run on my own, I'm a social runner and that's how I would like it to stay.  A highlight this week was Dawn returning to run with us at Eccleshill. A steady time trial and a pledge to go a little longer on Wednesday will hopefully see her returning to regular training since her fall over 10 months ago.