The Great North Run is a real bucket list race. People talk about the crowds and the atmosphere, and how they do it time and time again because it’s so great.
Last weekend I travelled from Surrey up North to experience the Great North Run for myself. I ended up staying with one of my best friend in the Lakes for the weekend, and I’m so grateful for her hospitality. We spent the day before the half mooching around Kendal, drinking plenty of tea and fuelling up on cake and spag bol. It was a great day.
Kendal is around 2 hours from Newcastle so we were up bright and early the next day at 5.30am to drive to the start. I snoozed in the car whilst my friend drove. How good a friend is she? I’d reached out on Twitter to get advice on where was best to get dropped off and a lovely lady recommended getting dropped off at a Morrisons car park about a mile from the start. It was the perfect spot and about 9ish I got out of the car and walked over to the start.
There was a real atmosphere on the walk down to the start and a met a lovely chatty guy who was running the race for his 15th time! At the start the atmosphere intensified, people were chatting away, and the pre-start interviews made me feel excited to be part of such an iconic event. The starting gun went off to cheers for Mo Farah and gradually the remainder of the corrals made it over the start line. When the red arrows flew over us it felt like one of the best race starts I’ve been to.
I eventually crossed the start line 35 minutes after the gun went off and I got carried away in the spirit of the race. The first couple of miles I felt really good and my pace was faster than expected. From the start the crowd support was brilliant, so enthusiastic, so warm, so friendly, and so loud! The support continued for the majority of the course, which was just what the course needed – it’s basically 13 miles of dual carriageway!
As the course continued it got more and more up hill, and my time got slower, and slower. I decided to stop worrying so much about my time as I knew it was going to be one of my slowest, and just enjoy myself. I walked when I wanted to, I ran when I wanted to, and I soaked up all the atmosphere.
By the time we got to mile 12-ish there was a steep downhill with the sea in front of you, and after all the uphill there is on the course, it felt pretty good! As you run along the seafront the crowds are two or three deep, and again, the support felt fantastic. I had no idea where my friend was, so I just focussed on getting to the finish. As I crossed the finish line and collected my medal I felt pleased to finish, but mostly I felt hungry! I’d had my breakfast at 8.30am and apart from two gels I hadn’t eaten anything and it was gone 2pm!
I met up with my friend (who snapped this awesome photo of Mo Farah!) who also had other friends running from her work and we all congratulated each other. We then headed back to where my friend had parked and attempted to leave South Shields. Aside from the course being almost all uphill, I’d say that getting out of the finish area by car was probably the only negative of the Great North Run. It took us about two hours to leave South Shields due to the sheer volume of traffic in the area. Not cool for two people who were hungry and needed the toilet! All I can say is thank goodness for the little corner shop on some back street that sold giant bags of crisps and chocolate!
The Great North Run truly is a bucket list race. It’s not a course for sight seeing, but it’s a course for the atmosphere. And if you ever get the chance to run it, I would recommend it. But take my advice – book a hotel early to save you the crazy costs, and book the Monday off work so you can hang around post race and take your time getting home! Running for trains after running a half marathon aren’t fun! 😉