I wrote this on Monday but didn’t get around to uploading it. Here goes …
This time yesterday I was running the Great North Run and loving it. It was an early start 5.30am because I couldn’t sleep. I found myself searching on Twitter for other runners who were wide awake and there were loads of them! It seemed the entire North East was awake with excited runners.
Needless to say, despite the early start, we still ended up leaving the house late. 18 minutes after the scheduled departure time! This did nothing for my nerves which were teetering on the edge of full blown mental breakdown. After a quick bowl of porridge and honey and some Powerade, we set off.
The weather was awful – the kind of day where you sit under your duvet thinking ‘I am not getting out of bed all day’, not the kind of day when you should be attempting a half marathon. With the rain and gale force winds rocking the car we drove north up the A19. I turned to some music for inspiration. It was at this point I started crying to Eye of the Tiger and what became the first of my many hysterical outbursts started.
The lead up to the start line is a bit of a blur. I remember eating a banana, shivering, crying, cheering a man with a fridge on his back and many toilet trips. I was in the Green starting pen, which was about 1km behind the start line. It was cold but I had a delightful green bin bag from Macmillan to keep me warm, oh and the body heat radiating from 56,000 other people penned into a small space.
I finally crossed over the start line at 11.05am, 25 mins after Mo and his mates. And just as I crossed over, the Red Arrows flew overhead. Emotionally I was already a wreck. This nearly finished me off and I still had to run 13 miles!
The run was incredible. The weather was just awful, winds battering us and driving rain hitting us side on, but I actually remember laughing. Not hysterically, just with pure happiness. I was soaking wet and hit by the wind but I had already fallen in love with the Great North Run.
A vivid memory is running through a series of underpasses in Newcastle, about two miles after we set off. The deafening sound of ‘Oggy, oggy, oggy’ is still ringing in my ears. And what is usually a really annoying chant actually made me smile. I even found myself screaming ‘Oi, oi, oi’ in response. It’s only now that I have begun to hate myself a little bit for joining in, although I’m fairly sure I’d do it again.
The really special thing about the GNR is the support. The entire route was lined with people cheering us on and high fiving the runners. And they bring so many treats, everything from lollipops, sweets, oranges, water and even Newcastle Brown Ale.
As I was running for Macmillan, I made sure I ran next to all of their support stations. They all shouted my name and cheered as I went by. And I said thank you to all of them. They were amazing.
I ticked the miles off in my head and as each one passed I kept thinking it’ll start to hurt now, but it didn’t. I felt really strong and comfortable the whole route. I attacked every incline, trying to pick up the pace whenever others started pulling up.
Sadly, I knew I was slightly over my 6.20 km pace I had wanted to do, but I just took it easy. In hindsight I could have pushed it a little harder but that’s easier said than done with thousands of runners around you. It’s hard to get through people when the course is so congested. At some points I wanted to scream at people not to walk in the middle but I held back. The day wasn’t just about running, it was about being there and being a part of it – a kind of joint euphoria.
Having driven the route the day before, I knew that my first glimpse of the sea meant I was close to the finish. And as I ran up the last incline and saw the North Sea I didn’t care about my time, I just couldn’t wait to run under the finish banner. I picked up my pace, and my Garmin shows I ran my best split times in those last two kms. I ran that last stretch with a manic smile on my face and renewed energy in my legs. I’d trained for a year to run the GNR, and here I was, not only running it, but feeling strong, not feeling any pain and actually revving up for a sprint finish! Haha. Sadly the sprint finish didn’t happen as there were so many people bottlenecked in that final mile, and someone dressed as Bagpuss tumbled in front of me so there was a bit of chaos to run through. Crossing the finish line, 7 mins off my PB, my hands up in the air and a massive grin is something I will relive in my mind for the rest of my life. I came. I ran. And I smashed it. Great North Run, I am head over heels in love with you. I WILL BE BACK!