My first ever half marathon and it was probably the biggest and best in the country. Although a cold and wet day, the atmosphere was everything but. The sheer amount of people both running and supporting gave me that extra encouragement, particularly near the end of the race where I suffered from calf cramps. Supporting a fantastic charity in Sue Ryder and having their cheers along the route helped me to push through to the end of what was a lovely, but challenging course. Can’t wait to give it another go next year!
“Sunday 15th September saw a gaggle (is that the collective noun?) of Roundhay Runners tackle the 32nd Great North Run.
Fortunately the poor weather which was forecast did not materialise, so conditions were decent for running from Newcastle to South Shields.
The event itself lived up to the hype – no matter how many times you see it, there is something heat-warming looking at 56,000 runners stretching back over 1km at the start line. The phenomenal support for the entire route is always a big help too.
It was nice to see a PB or two, but a shame that honorary Roundhay Runner Mo Farah couldn’t make up the last few metres. He must be kicking himself that he didn’t pop down to the Park for our last intervals session.
No doubt there will be a large contingent heading to the North East again next year for the 33rd. See you there…?”
After meeting other RRs for a pre race photo and dropping my bag at the baggage bus I was at the front of my starting pen- Zone E by 9.45am – about an hour to wait before the race started. This did fly by though as there was lots to watch on the big screens and a warm up. I also managed to spot 2 people from work amongst the crowds! From the starting gun going off, it was only 9 minutes before crossing the starting line- couldn’t complain about that.
One runner gave me a good bit of advice to stay in the left pens at the start to avoid running over the flyover before the Tyne Bridge.
There was continuous support throughout the whole race even though it was a cold, windy day with torrential rain at one point. The best bits had to be going through the council estates and past the pubs with live bands playing outside (including an Elvis impersonator!). There was more food and drinks than I could have imagined during the race (even beer at one point) but I waited until mile 10 for the Powerade. The sausage rolls and biscuits were tempting, but not really a good idea!
The most difficult part of the race for me was the steep decline at mile 11- not good for the knees! The last mile along the sea front was very enjoyable though. Managed to get a PB by 7 minutes so I was pleased when crossing the finish line!
Apart from there being a huge queue for my baggage bus, everything else at the finish line was very efficient considering how many people were there. There were plenty of food stalls and bars etc to keep people occupied as the queues for the metro back to Newcastle were never-ending. Overall a very well organised event with a great atmosphere and would definitely do it again!
Course: From Newcastle city centre motorway, across the Tyne Bridge then on to South Shields. All on road, in fact mostly dual carriageway, except the last 50 metres on grass. First three miles mostly downhill. Then up hill drags at about 4 miles, 8 miles and 10 miles. The last down hill section is short and steep. The final “mile” along the sea -front goes on for ages.
Runners: between about 41,000 (actually running) and 55.000 (number registered) and included the world’s finest distance runners (Jeptoo, Defar, Dibaba, Farah, Bekele and Gebresalassie) , club runners, charity runners and Tony “The Fridge”.
Weather: wet and windy this year, just wet last year and I gather wet the year before.
Good points about the GNR: Just look around you, all you can see is fellow runners. Brilliant support all along the course, Geordie humour, it’s an iconic event, tremendous organisation, chance to appear randomly on the televised coverage, even though it’s huge you’ll likely meet other runners (esp RRs) you know. You’re part of it as the whole of Tyneside is taken over by GNR fever.
Bad points: There are so many runners it can get congested especially during the first few miles of the race. Getting out of South Shields afterwards can be, erm, time consuming.
My tip: If you are driving yourself there, buy a metro ticket over t’internet the week before (so you can by-pass the queues at the metro), park your car well before 9am in South Shields Town Centre or its western outskirts and remember where you park it ! Then take the metro from South Shields to Haymarket, a 30 minute ride, and then follow the crowd to the start (20 minute walk). When you finish the run, either find your car and drive out of South Shields as soon as you can, or chill out, have a meal and leave well after the rush.
High points for me on the day: The waiter at breakfast called me “bonnie lad”. For the first 7 miles running I felt really strong. The support from Pete and Ann at the roadside really spurred me on. I completed the course in over a minute quicker than last year and matched my half marathon PB exactly to the second ! I got away from South Shields much more quickly than last year. A bit personal this one; but I wore a compression T-shirt and so totally avoided runners nipple ! Finally, this was the last element of my one and three halves marathons challenge for 2013.
Low points: The Red Arrows fly over was delayed due to weather so I didn’t really see it. Despite this being my fifth half marathon event, it was still hugely challenging after those first 8 miles. Having to hold back on that last steep down hill, if I’d just missed a few of those road-side spectator high fives I would have got a PB.