In which I run further than I ever have before, and almost run faster than a train
The day before the run I had an early night. By which I mean I went to bed early, couldn’t sleep, and lay awake thinking about the run the next day. Finally, I must’ve dropped off, because I woke up the next morning and to wake up, you have to fall asleep. Or be in a coma.
My alarm was set for 04:30am (UGH!) but I woke up by myself at 04:25. I thought it was about 02:00am and so was gutted to see the time on the clock. I’d packed my bag the night before and checked it three times so that I wouldn’t have to check it again in the morning, to save time. I got dressed into my running gear and checked my bag. Sarah was up and ready, and so were Susan (Sarah’s mum) Ironman Tony (Sarah’s dad) and after a fair bit of persuading, Hannah (Sarah’s sister.) Norman (Sarah’s grandad) arrived around 04:50 and we were all ready for the mini bus taxi to turn up at 05:10 to take us to Leeds train station.
We looked out of the door into the dark of the morning, and there was a taxi, just not the taxi we’d asked for. We booked a mini bus so that there would be room for all six of us, so they sent a normal sized car. Ironman Tony went and had a word with the driver who informed us that the minibus guy had called in sick and we would need two cars. Also, it would be twice the price as using two cars instead of one. Not the best of starts, but luckily a neighbour was up and setting off to work (in Leeds) so took Susan and Tony in his car. The taxi driver we had tried to make conversation, but it was obvious he didn’t care about what we were saying.
Driver: Where are you going today?
Me: Newcastle, train from Leeds.
Sarah: We were supposed to all be going in the same taxi to the station.
Sarah: We booked it last night.
Got to Leeds station quick enough and got to McDonalds for coffee and a porridge. We met up with Karen, Rob, Riley, Jeff and Marion (Sarahs Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, and Grandparents, in that exact order.) The closer we got to Newcastle, the more the train filled up with people in running gear. Most looking nervous, and most with energy drinks and bananas and stuff. A couple in front of us had a baby with them and were trying to force feed it banana, but I don’t think it enjoyed it.
Arrived in Newcastle and then caught the Metro to Haymarket which was the nearest station to the start of the run. Plenty of people walked out of the station instead of going to the Metro, so must have walked a fair way. The fools. Two stops later we arrived, walked about 20minutes to where the action was, and I went to the toilet. In the queue there was a bloke saying that he was dressing as Jedward for the run (for non-english people, they’re twins who release songs without letting the fact that they can’t sing getting in their way.) Someone asked where the other one was, and he said: ‘the other who?’ ‘The other one who’s dressing as Jedward with you.’ Awkward silence. ‘There’s just me dressing as Jedward.’ Just him. Dressing as Jedward. Who are twins. Ideally, two people would be needed to make the costume work, seeing as though there are two people in a set of twins, but this bloke was obviously a renegade, perhaps a ne’er do well! Probably just didn’t have any friends who thought Jedward worthy as dressing up as.
Me and Sarah went and found the kiosk to sort out my timing chip fiasco (see Birchwood 10k blog) and I was ready to go. Rang Martyn to see where he was, and got him to come and meet us. We then made our way up to meet Joe (Sarah’s cousin) and his mate Gaz. Joe and Gaz were starting further ahead of us, so we wished each other luck and me and Martyn made our way to our starting point, the rest of the family made their way to the start line. The Red Arrows were doing an impressive display for a lot of the time of the run and they flew over us quite a few times.
The group start began at 10:40, we crossed the start line at 11:25. 45minutes wait to get going, by which time our warm up had cooled down and it began to rain, heavily. It dampened the ground, but not our spirits. (Didn’t even plan that sentance, just happened!) As we started we passed our supporters and heard Sarah shouting ‘MO! MO! OVER THERE! MO!’ I thought it a strange way of saying ‘Good Luck’ until we looked across the road and saw (2 time Olympic Gold Medalist, Deserving Of These Capitals) Mo Farrah, shaking runners hands! Me and Martyn ran across in front of everyone to get a hand shake each. Then, we were off.
Started nice and slow, not wanting to overdo it at the get go. The rain eased off a bit and we got into a steady rhythm. The backs of my ankles felt strained as we ran, probably due to the warm up being a waste of time, but I ignored it and carried on. We ran across Tyne Bridge, where most photos of the Great North Run are taken and got in to the spirit of the day. I saw quite a few people running for the guide dogs too and everytime either they did, or I did, one of us said good luck to the other. The crowds line the route the entire way, everyone cheering and clapping and high fiving all the time, it was brilliant. We mostly ran the flat and downhills, but took it steady on the inclines. Plenty of water stations along the way, and unless it was stupid hot you don’t have enough time to finish your water before there’s the chance to get another bottle. Members of the public are there handing out ice cubes, oranges and at one point a Rocket Ice Lolly.
At the 10k marker I looked at our time (we stayed together the whole way, I’m expecting a film offer any day now) and we’d done it in around 1hr 10mins. When we got to the marker, I thought to myself that it’s the furthest I’ve ever run, and I had to run more than that distance again before finishing. Didn’t bother me in the slightest though, because I was (suprisingly) still having fun! The pain in my ankles had subsided and the crowds were still amazingly vocal. Unfortunately, there was an Elvis tribute act at the side of the road who was also vocal, and the word ‘crap’ doesn’t do him justice.
We were nowhere near running the entire distance, but we put in a good showing when we ran. Probably stopped for a short walk every ten minutes or so, towards the end was probably every 5-6minutes, but we over took a lot of people. I couldn’t believe how many were in fancy dress and running this distance! There was a bloke dressed as Jesus (carrying a Cross, which looked heavy) plenty of superheroes, a group of lads who had made a bobsleigh and were blacked up, dressed as the guys from Cool Runnings (not sure how P.C. it is, blacking your face, though no one seemed to care.) Quite a few chickens, donkeys and dogs, and plenty more. Also, at least two Jack Sparrows.
The race flew by for me, didn’t seem that long before we passed the 15k sign, then the 11mile sign, and before too long the ‘One Mile To Go’ sign. (My favourite sign of the day.) Just before we got to that sign, we approached a hill (from the good side) and the sea came into view over past South Shields. We made it past the 400m sign, crowds lined the whole way cheering and clapping, and guys in army gear lined up saluting as we passed, then the 200m sign, and then it was done with. 13.1miles smashed. Finished in a time of 02:38:27. 8 1/2 minutes longer than I hoped, but still (technically) a PB.
Collected our finishers packs and went to meet the family. Sarah and Tony were just after the finish, and then we (eventually) met everyone else. They didn’t have much of a day and saw none of the run apart from the start, they only got to South Shields on the Metro train about 15minutes before we got there by running! Once we’d all met up, me, Sarah and Riley went to get some free food and Powerade and to see the Guide Dogs.
It was a good 20minute walk from the finish back to the Metro (just what you need after a half marathon) and then we waited a good ONE AND A HALF HOURS in the queue to get on the Metro. Sarah told me that on the way to the finish, they were packed on the Metro like sardines because of the amount of supporters. Didn’t sound like they had a good day at all. Eventually we got to Newcastle station with an hour before the train home left, and so had to, with a lot of persuading, had a couple of lovely beers in the station bar. Also, bought beer for the train ride home. Plenty of it too.
Highlights of the way home:
We were facing the toilets and saw someone open the door when Rob was inside.
The ‘out of order light’ was on the toilet when I went to it, so said to the conductor ‘Have you got another toilet further down?’ ‘Have you got a ticket?’ ‘Have you got a toilet that works?’ ‘…Yes?’ ‘My ticket’s on the table up there.’
Even though they didn’t get to see any of the finish of the run, I was so happy that everyone had made the effort to come up to Newcastle for what turned out to be (for them) a day of train rides. I was chuffed. So then, what now? I started this blog to talk about the build up to, and then the running of, the Great North Run. Where do I go from here? Turns out I sign up to a 10k run in October, a 10k run in March and the Leeds Half Marathon in May, and hope my blisters go down by then.
What a div.