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.


  1. You're absolutely right about training, Julie. I'm into my sixth week in preparation for the Brid Half. It really has made a difference, I'm even getting PBs at the parkrun! And of course every time I do a training session I get a sticker on my chart....

  2. Well done, Julie. Could not agree more....if you haven't "trained a distance" how can you "race the distance" and that includes marathon. Have a good recovery and build back up for Brid!