8 September 2019
Two minutes after the horn blew I crossed the start line. I took advantage of the wide road by weaving amongst runners. The inevitable euphoria of a big race meant my pace was faster than I wanted. I slowed then kept my pace steady despite the surprising undulations. I had to keep concentrating.
I crossed the famous Tyne Bridge.
The spectators were large in volume and decibels. There was music blaring from speakers and musicians playing live.
I absorbed it all but kept glancing at my Garmin watch to ensure my pace didn’t drop.
I purposely ran through several shower stations then took a bottle of water and a sponge from an aid station.
The sun cream on my face stung my eyes a little as I sweated more.
My achilles felt sore in both feet but I ignored the pain.
My left foot became numb for several miles too.
The inclines stretched for longer, and I found myself running alone for short periods.
But every time I reached runners in front I overtook them, naturally.
My average pace was on target as I passed roundabout after roundabout.
Then I dropped down to the coastal road at South Shields.
There, the atmosphere was even more electric.
I picked up my pace. My breathing became audible and my quads felt sore.
I kept passing signs for the upcoming finish.
I raised my arms aloft clapping at the spectators.
I got a warm response.
Then I sprinted the last 100m or so on the grass to finish.
I recorded a new personal best, tired but extremely satisfied.
The experience of running my first SimplyHealth Great North Run was inspirational. The tens of thousands of runners and spectators all along the route was an amazing spectacle, and spurred me on to my best ever performance at the half marathon distance.
My training had gone relatively smoothly since my last race (the Great Baddow 10 Mile race). I maintained consistent mileage (43 miles on average per week) and running threshold workouts (at a pace slightly quicker than my target race pace of 6:20 per mile). I stayed injury-free throughout the weeks leading to the race and enjoyed my first visit to Newcastle-upon-Tyne as a tourist.
I was also fortunate enough to be only several yards away from famous people such as England national footballers Jill Scott and Steph Houghton, TV presenter Gabby Logan and the legendary founder of the race Brendan Foster. I saw the Cricket World Cup trophy that England recently won in the distance too.
Best of all, to be a part of such an incredibly well-organised and historic running race, was a humbling experience. I was able to raise £225 for Havens Hospices in the process (the highest amount I have ever raised for a race), and run the race the way I wanted to.
Not only did I receive a wonderful medal and t-shirt, the perfectly executed race in ideal weather conditions with previously unimaginable support will live very long in my memory.