The girls were staying at Grandma, Grandad and Auntie Karen’s and so it was only ourselves to sort out when we awoke bleary eyed at 5am on Sunday morning. I forced myself to eat a bowl of cereal before heading through to Carlisle to meet the bus that would take us across to the North East and to Britain’s biggest half Marathon: The Great North Run!
By the time we arrived at the bus, it was already very busy and so we couldn’t even sit together. The first time in ages that we’ve been somewhere as a couple and we couldn’t even sit next to each other! Apart from that, the journey went well and I was dropped at the start at 8am. Tristan stayed on the coach to be deposited at the finish and then spend the next few hours in South Shields waiting for me!
I followed the masses of people who were (I correctly assumed!) heading towards the starting area. I’m glad they knew where they were headed because I didn’t have a clue!
Nearing the starting area, we were welcomed with music and, although it was still over 2 hours before the start, the atmosphere was electric.
The next couple of hours seemed to fly by as the number of people arriving grew and the motivational music kept pumping us up. After several visits to the toilet (where, surprisingly, there was toilet roll on every occasion!) I entered my starting zone (White Zone E) at just after 10am. It was fairly relaxed and quiet until 10:15 when it seemed to suddenly swell in number.
There was a mass warm up exercise which included over 40,000 people doing the ‘Mobot‘ ! Fantastic!
At last, the time reached 10:40 and the elite men and masses started. It took almost 12 minutes to cross the start line but I got to Hi Five the Paralympic gold medallist swimmer, Ellie Simmonds, and Olympic gold medallist long jumper, Greg Rutherford!
The first few miles didn’t seem to be too congested and I was able to run freely. Maybe a bit too freely as my pace was a bit quicker than it should have been! One day I *will* learn not to get carried along by the faster runners! I passed a few people with orange numbers on who were walking after only a mile! Why are some people over optimistic with their finishing times!
The rain started and remained throughout the day making perfect running conditions. The crowd support was amazing and really kept you going. For most of the course running at your own pace was OK. There were several occasions were it did get a bit congested and I weaved a bit but, for the most part, it was good.
I keep saying this but the atmosphere was amazing. There was music playing, people lining the road shouting encouragement, handing out Jelly Babies, orange segments, ice pops and beer! I will be eternally grateful to the little girl who handed me an ice pop at mile 11 when I was really struggling. Thank You, it was the best ice pop that I have ever tasted!
I felt good until the dreaded 10th mile. It always happens here! I feel like I’m going well and then the hips tighten, the calves scream and all I want to do is stop. The long drag up Mile 11 was a real battle to keep moving. I slowed to a walk when I was given the ice pop and ran/walked while eating it.
Once at the top, the sea was there and we entered the final mile. This was a tough section of the run. You could sense the finish, hear the finish but the voice in my head telling me to stop was drowning it out! If the crowds weren’t there, lining both sides of the road, I would have just stopped, sat down and not moved for a long, long time. But then, I started hearing people shouting my name! ‘Come on, Kathleen, you’re nearly there’! They may not know how much they helped me but hearing them shouting kept me moving one foot in front of the other. After hearing the encouragement, I couldn’t stop. Not in the last mile. I kept going, focussing on keeping moving despite this mile going on and on and on. Then we saw the 800m to go sign. I picked up the pace a little and, finally, 400m to go. I again picked up the pace and managed a sprint finish, enthusiastically doing the Mobot as I crossed the line! I’d done it! I’d completed the Great North Run. An iconic race that I’d watched on TV for years and now I’d been a part of it! What an amazing feeling.
I finished in 2 hours 1 minute and 19 seconds; 13 seconds slower than my PB but I was so elated.
I was reunited with the other half in the Family area and received the best prize of all. A lovely, warm hug from Tristan who’d travelled all this way and spent hours wandering round South Shields just to watch me pursuing my crazy hobby! Thank You.
We then went to stand in a massive queue in order to get some hot drinks. Although, while waiting, we got to see Jonathan Edwards and Colin Jackson.
We made our way back to the bus and, after a delay of 45 minutes, eventually headed on back to Cumbria. I’d really recommend the Coach and Run service organised by Nirvana. It takes the stress out of the day and negates the need for overnight accommodation, which does get pricey.
What an amazing, amazing experience! I loved every minute and it’s the crowd support that really makes it such a special run.