This seems to be the year for me to enter iconic running races. After running the London Marathon earlier this year (which has to go down as one of life’s highlights!), I also entered the Great North Run. This is because I have been working in Newcastle and it would have been rude not to.
So at 6 AM on Sunday morning, I made my way up the Great North Road (Aka the A1). Parking up at South Shields Metro Station, not to far away from the finish was a last minute change of plan but it was a good choice because I got parked quickly and was able to get into Newcastle on the Metro in plenty of time.
When you look at the starting area along the usually busy dual carriageway and see runners as far as the eye can see, then you appreciate that the term Great, isn’t misplaced. In fact, after the start, the first few miles of the event is along both carriageways the central Motorway (yes, you heard me right), which might give you some idea of the scale of the whole event. The overwhelming sensation is that of noise, boy, the noise, music; cheering; shouting all the way along. As I ran across the iconic Tyne Bridge, the Read Arrows roared overhead which brought a smile to my face!
People warned me that it wasn’t a good route for a fast time because of the sheer congestion of runners. To be honest, I didn’t find that; because there was so much space for most of the route, you could find space to run fast if you wanted to. At the start, they made a very clever move of having a narrow funnel about 100M from the start, meaning that as you set-off the crowd had already thinned out (other mass running events, take note).
Could I say I ran fast? Well, during my gradual mission to return to full fitness I have in my head a number of step-goals. Achieving these things was something I used to take for granted but being in the position of having to work to get them back is a reminder to take nothing for granted. These goals include doing a 24 minute 5K and a sub 50 minute 10K and of course, under 2 hours for a Half Marathon. I had entertained the idea of running under 2 hours in Newcastle and I tried (carefully) to set a pace to achieve this. Not knowing what the route was like near the finish, I was pleased to keep up between 1 and 2 minutes ahead of schedule for the first 8 miles. Then, things got a bid harder but I was encouraged that when I reached the 10 mile marker (with just 3.1 miles to go), I worked out that even if I slowed to 10 minute miles I would still do it. Even though the last three miles were the slowest, my final time was 1:57:41, a pace of 8:50 per mile so I was chuffed to achieve the goal.
There was a great atmosphere in the finishing area which was a great grass expanse by the sea. There was plenty of room for all the finishing runners and to top it all, a fantastic display by the Red Arrows.
It was at this final stage that I was glad of my decision to park at the South Shields Metro, there was HUGE queue for the Metro itself so I felt good just getting in the car and driving off. OK, the traffic getting out of town wasn’t a picnic but I was glad to be free of public transport on that occason!
“‘You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north.” Duteronomy 2:3 NIV UK