Report from Rob Fearnley
A few observations, reflections and a bit of nonsense on yesterdays GNR for the website.
There is nothing you can do in training that can get anywhere close to preparing you for the Great North Run. Training for the run itself is arguably the easy bit but the event itself is overwhelming to the extent that miles 2-12 disappear in a riot of colour, cheering, and jelly babies. The whole thing is enormous and I loved every minute of it!
I’d railroaded my eldest nephew Liam into joining me for this one and we snuck in via a couple of charity places provided by the ever wonderful team at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice in Oxenhope. The added pressure of raising a few quid was banished a couple of days ahead of the race as we’d hit target so it was simply a case of turning up and getting round the course. Liam, by his own admittance, is no runner but he’s a fit lad, has age on his side and had prepared well. The weather forecast was grand and we were feeling fit – a good race was ahead of us.
Those of you who have experienced the GNR will be nodding sagely at this but getting to the start line is almost as difficult as the race itself. By the time we’d got into Newcastle, negotiated the truncated Metro service and walked to our holding pen we’d already covered about 4 miles. It then took us 34 minutes to get to the start line itself once the gun had gone off (I’ll get you next year Sir Mo!!). When we finally crossed the line though it was tremendous fun! The first mile or so along the city motorway is flanked by hundreds of people on raised slip roads, bridges and flyovers cheering like mad. The volume was impressive given that they’d been making a racket for night on 40 minutes by this point. The tunnels under the city centre gave plenty of opportunity for multiple choruses of OGGY OGGY OGGY, OI OI OI before the Tyne Bridge looms into view. Again, those that have done the race know this only too well but running over the Tyne with thousands of other other runners is a truly wonderful experience and takes you on to the 2 mile point before you even realise the race has started.
Once the river is crossed it’s racing time – miles and miles of Gateshead and South Tyneside road are ahead of you with multiple water stops, mist showers, energy gel stations and charity buses galore. At this point we were going well and heading towards the 3 mile mark but then Liam’s legs gave out a little bit. He got going again and we marched, we ran, we marched again and we ran again and save a stretch stop or two this was it for the rest of the race. We used distant road signs as mini-targets and we kept the 2 hour 35 minute pacer in site as the nephew ploughed gamefully on towards the finish. I encouraged, cajoled, praised and barked my way through alongside him with cries of “keep your legs moving”, “lets get to that next mile marker” and “we’ve just been overtaken by a bloke dressed as a shoe, get moving!!” and in all honesty not focusing on my own run meant it went by in a flash and I was able to enjoy the atmosphere that little bit more.
The final stretch along the seafront on South Shields fizzes by with runners spilling every last drop of energy on to the road as they dash to the line. With the last 200m approaching Liam found an extra gear and shot forward to beat me by a second in a wholly creditable time of 2 hours 38 minutes. A goodie bag filled with cereal bars, a space blanket and Nandos Peri Peri sauce (!?) was acquired and then we spent the next hour or so queuing for the Ferry back over the river with hundreds more tired but elated runners.
I’d thoroughly recommend the GNR to anyone looking to step up to a half marathon. It’s an unforgettable experience and the only half marathon where I’ve fancied another crack as soon as I’d finished. My final word goes to Liam – I’m immensely proud of him for taking on such a challenge and giving it a right good kick, well done mate!