Sunday 15th September was the Great North Run, the world’s second biggest half marathon. 56,000 people (including Mo Farah!) descend on Newcastle to run through to South Shields. This year was my seventh Great North. I ran it for the first time in 2006 and I’ve only missed one since.
The atmosphere is fantastic and even though this year was a bit of a disaster timing wise, it’s still an amazing day.
Public transport is the best way for me to approach the GNR – we drove the first year and the traffic was HORRENDOUS. The 7.10 train from York gets to Newcastle in plenty of time, and is full of people in running gear. It’s a 10 minute walk from the train station to the start and don’t worry about getting lost, there are always plenty of people to follow.
The GNR has to be well organised, it’s too big not to be. There are lots of loos around the start, expect to queue but not for too long. Runners put their bags onto numbered buses, and then you go meet your bus at the finish line. The bag label on your bag and your race number are cross-checked when you collect your gear, so the security is good too.
As with most big races, you’re put in a pen according to your estimated speed. I was in my pen an hour before the start, but there are big screens with lots of stuff to watch and you can chat to fellow runners so I didn’t get bored. We watched the elite and wheelchair races go on the big screen, and the Red Arrows did a fly over – brings a tear to my eye every time!
Once the front runners go you’ll be walked forward slowly – it took about half an hour for me to get to the start line but there’s no pushing or shoving.
It’s tradition for the person starting the race to try and high five every runner – I’m very proud to say I touched Christine Ohuruogu!
Top tip: it’s cold stood around, so grab a charity shop fleece to wear while you wait. These are collected by another charity from the start line where they are all dumped.
GNR isn’t a hilly route, but it’s not flat either. There are lots of inclines which can creep up on you if you’ve not done any hills in your training (like me!). There are bands every mile and the locals and supporters are flipping amazing, what other run do you get people handing out biscuits and ice pops on?
Watch out for bus stop Elvis at about 11 miles – he’s a GNR legend.
The last mile of the route is along the sea front at South Shields – it’s tempting to sprint as soon as you see it but it can feel like a very long mile…
Once you reach the finish, you collect your goodie bag and t-shirt and head off to your baggage bus. There’s a changing area, and buses or the metro back to Newcastle if you need them.
GNR has a great goodie bag – lots of snacks and some energy drink samples, and rather randomly a mini tube of toothpaste. I do wish they’d include a technical tee rather than a cotton one though, as I don’t really train in cotton
Well this is my tale of woe. I was running fine until about 7 miles, when I became aware of some…rumblings…from my stomach. I tried to ignore them, but a loo on the route at 8.5 miles saved my life! I won’t go into detail but I was in there for some time, feeling so cross with myself. After that whenever I tried to speed up, I got stomach cramps so the rest of the run was very patchy.
I crossed the line in 2 hours 27 minutes, a far cry from the 2.10 I was hoping for. It was still a great day out but I was gutted about my time. I’d had a pizza with lots of chillis 2 days before and that’s all I can think it was – an important lesson for the marathon anyway. I wouldn’t mind so much if I’d self-sabotaged on a training run, but it’s gutting to do it on a day you only get once a year.
The weather on the route this year was supposed to be horrendous (the first ‘big storm’ of the autumn) but it wasn’t actually too bad – a bit rainy and windy but no worse than a normal September run. I do wonder if the forecast had got my nerves going a bit too.
So, this week I’ve been focusing on re-building my confidence and getting my diet back on track. It’s 4 and a half weeks to the marathon now and I don’t want any more disasters.