I was rudely woken by my alarm going off at 5:15am. 5:15 on a Sunday morning! My running kit lay neatly folded by the side of my bed in preparation for the Great North Run. This was in stark contrast to the other half who was slowly awakening from his slumber, groaning ‘Where are my running clothes?’.
We gathered our things together and headed through to Carlisle to catch the Nirvana coach that would take us through to the world’s greatest half marathon.
Running for the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of my dad, I knew this was going to be an emotional run. Even before we reached Newcastle there were tears as the other half said how proud dad would be of me. I think he would be proud. I know he’d think I was a bit crazy! I’ve posted before about why I chose to run for the Alzheimer’s Society. You can read that post here.
As we approached Newcastle, the grey clouds were evident and the rain began. After being dropped off about a mile from the start, we found shelter under a bridge and enjoyed our breakfast. I get taken to the most attractive places by the better half…
With our hunger satisfied, we followed the crowd of runners headed to the start. We had our first (of many!) toilet stop then sought the baggage buses. After depositing our bags, we headed down to the start. Music blaring, the atmosphere was already electric. We found a place conveniently situated near to the increasingly vile toilets, and soaked up the atmosphere. An interview with former footballer turned pundit, Robbie Savage, had me in tears once more as he talked movingly about his dad who he had lost the previous year. Suffering from Pick’s disease, a form of dementia, he’d died at the age of 64. As an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, Robbie was running in memory of his dad, hoping to raise money and awareness of this devastating disease.
As time crept by, we made our way to our zones. For the second year, I was starting in White Zone E while Tristan was starting in Green Zone H. By 9:45, the pens were starting to fill and, as Abide With Me began to play, my eyes once again filled with tears. It truly was an emotional time as, gazing round my pen, I saw other people struggling with their emotions as they remembered those they’d loved and lost.
As the hymn finished, I pulled myself together and joined in with the ever energetic Powerade man as he led the warm up. Before long, the gun went off and we began the slow amble to the start line. Ten minutes after the Great North Run began, I crossed the start line managing to give Christine Ohuruogu a High 5 as I passed.
As the runners spread out, we headed through underpasses to the chants of ‘Oggy,Oggy,Oggy’. The atmosphere of this race is unbelievable as crowds line the streets shouting out your name. As we headed towards the Tyne Bridge, the Red Arrows flew over. What an amazing feeling this gives you! Once on the bridge, the Arrows flew across from the other direction. Amazing!
Settling into my running, the first 3 miles seemed to fly by despite some nasty little climbs. There seem to be so many sneaky hills along the route making it quite a testing course.
I started taking a gel at mile 6 and I felt full of running. However, the lack of real long runs and lack of specific training leading up to this event meant my legs started protesting from mile 10. They felt so heavy and I took a couple of walk breaks in an effort to stretch them out. The last long drag up to the sea seemed to go on and on but, finally, the sea was in view and I knew I could do it! The quads screamed as I ran down the steep hill, turning sharp left for the longest mile of the entire race. The finish is in sight, you can hear it, but it’s still a mile to go. My legs were letting me know they were unhappy but the support from the crowd was amazingly uplifting. It seemed like every other person was shouting out my name. I couldn’t stop now! Every ounce of my being was screaming at me to stop but my legs just kept on going. 800m to go – two laps of the track: I can do that! 400m, 200m. My pace picked up as the finish approached and finally, finally, I crossed the line! What an amazing feeling.
It’d taken 2 hours and 1 minute to complete the half marathon. No personal best but I was happy. The day had been a roller coaster of emotions but, at that moment, the overwhelming feeling was joy.
I headed over to the baggage buses and waited for Tristan to appear. I didn’t have long to wait – he completed the run, with no real preparation following an injury, in the brilliant time of 2 hours 27 minutes!
We then headed to our coach, diving into a nearby cafe for chips as the Heaven’s opened. The journey back to Carlisle seemed to take forever as our sore muscles tightened. However, it was a thoroughly brilliant day and it felt great to be part of this iconic event once again.