My first experience of the Great North Run weekend has certainly been memorable. I say weekend as it really is a full weekend of sporting and running joys. Travelling up to Newcastle on Saturday meant my sister and I were able to witness the Junior races taking place around the quay, as well as the Great North City Games in action. Seeing world class athletes perform up close was fantastic. I particularly loved seeing Jo Pavey race as I am a big fan of hers. As the games ended and we headed to the Great North Run pasta party you can thus imagine my delight as we literally bumped into her! Feeling about 12 years old I asked for a photo which she kindly accepted and wished me luck for tomorrow - the Great North Run itself.
Race day arrived and after a good nights sleep I was feeling excited. Despite a horrendous week of running behind me and my legs suffering from tiredness and overtraining, I put this to the back of my mind, and instead as we walked to the start line I was imagining all the wonderful runs I had completed and reminding myself of what I was capable of. We got to the starting area in good time, not too much of a queue for baggage and the toilet queue was just what you would expect for the large volume of runners! Getting into our starting zone was another story. Despite being early, the stewards decided to close our pen, it was too full apparently and we must join the very back. There was uproar among us runners, which led to someone breaking down a barrier, allowing a stampede of runners to charge into our area which of course I capitalised on. Standing waiting to start, my sister and I then had to lift barriers up to help other runners slide underneath to get into the zone. I even saw one man scale the high fending just to get in - the Great North Run clearly means that much to people!
The amount of runners at the start gave me a huge buzz, and as we crossed the start line I felt ready for the challenge in front of me. The positive race atmosphere was instantly apparent, the 'oggy oggy oggy' shouts bellowing through the early tunnels setting the tone well. As my sister and I hit Tyne Bridge the Red Arrows soared above us, creating a perfectly timed picture. Then the real challenge began...
It was hot. The sun permanently out with no real breeze to cool the air. Then there was the hills, which I did not expect at all, numerous long inclines which eventually caused my calves to scream. Lastly the shear volume of runners meant the mental challenge of weaving a clear runway was ongoing and draining.
Despite this I felt comfortable running until about the ten mile point. My calves were now at their tightest, and this one long road set on a gradual incline made them feel about to explode! By now I knew I was not going to get close to the 1hr 45min mark, my dream goal. The start had been promising, but in the last few miles the hills had taken their toll and tired fellow runners had also become increasingly harder to dodge. Entering the final stretch I still had a new PB (current PB 1.49.01) in my sights. I was however gutted to find the stewards bottle necking us into a tiny strip of road which removed any chance of a clear, fast finish.
I crossed the line in 1.49.36 - annoyingly knowing deep down I probably could have knocked those 30 odd seconds off. However, I quickly tried to let this disappointment fade. The Great North Run course was significantly tougher than the course I ran my PB. My PB race was also markedly less busy. Last weekend I was furthermore totally unsure if I would even be able to make it round the course, but today my legs had not failed me. Lastly, I ran the whole way with my sister, sharing our first race experience together. There are a lot of positives there, which a finish time alone must not overshadow.
My sister and I ran for Marie Curie and I was delighted to find the charity offering free massages post race. My calves thoroughly enjoyed their rub down, whilst I munched on the free Mars bar! As more runners streamed across the finish, telephone communication began to become tough as I tried to locate my other friend who had been running. In the end my sister and I resorted to walking towards the Metro station in the hope of getting signal. On doing this, I was shocked and worried to get text messages coming through from my friend saying she had been sick and was in the first aid tent. I literally marched back to find her, pushing my way through the crowds and going in completely the wrong direction to the norm. Seeing ambulances and first aid trucks go by I was imagining the worst. Thankfully on finding my friend she was fine, it had scared me though. Later on, reading that someone had tragically died while taking part in the race really put things into perspective. A finish time means nothing when you imagine what this individuals family are going through, and we should truly treasure memories made with family and friends, as opposed to numbers recorded on a watch.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...