I always thought the Great North Run would be fun. I was super-excited about the thought of running with Mo (or rather, running a long way behind Mo) and taking in the crowds and atmosphere on the streets of Newcastle.
I was less excited when they started predicting heavy rain and 70mph winds… but it was too late to pull out, so off I went.
Any event where 56,000 people are taking part is going to be a bit chaotic. Reaching the start line was more of a challenge than running a half-marathon. First there was the scrum on the Metro – trying not to choke to death on runners’ early morning breath, sweat and worse.
Then there was the charge towards the race area and the rush to get bags on the right baggage buses, which were parked in an endless snake along the road. Another endless queue for the toilets as the clock ticked down towards 10.40. The looks of sheer horror on the faces of the women coming out of the Portaloos. Shudder.
Then a stampede towards the pens, late, trying to get in, with thousands of others who were late too. A scary moment at a pinch point as we all got squished up against barriers. Finally found the right pen. And breathe. And stand around waiting for half an hour while the “faster” runners set off.
Eventually, at something after 11am, my wave finally made it past the starting line. Then the rain and wind started. It was at its very worst over the Tyne Bridge – a collective groan went up as we headed up onto the bridge to be hit by cross-winds and driving rain. The weather then eased off slightly and I continued on my mission of overtaking as many people as possible. Many of whom had clearly been unrealistic when estimating their finish time…
Weaving in and out of the crowds, for a titch like me it was hard to take in any scenery – but I did get to admire the charity runners in their crazy costumes. I felt sorry for the lion, who was adjusting his enormous head at around mile 3, clearly regretting his choices. The penguins were waddling impressively – perhaps more suited to the conditions. Then there was a chap who was either running in nothing but a T-shirt, or wearing a thong. I hope the latter but I didn’t turn round to check.
Amazingly, at half way, I was just about on for a sub-2 hour finish. This still looked good until around mile 11, when I hit a combination of hills and crowds which slowed me down and I was never quite able to make up the time.
Still, I kept on running as fast as I could, never quite giving up until the clock ticked past 2 hours with a few hundred yards still to go. So there it was – a new PB of 2hrs 1 minute – and the Red Arrows performed a spectacular display to celebrate. Then it rained some more.