The chance to say I’d raced against the likes of Mo and Haile – and high-fived Christine Ohuruogu – are just some of the things that prompted me to enter this year’s Bupa Great North Run.
That and the fact that my long-distance running career began 15 years ago with this iconic race, Britain’s biggest running event. Back then as a nervous newbie I was so touched by the families in South Shields urging us runners on by banging pots and pans with wooden spoons that I knew I’d definitely be back for more.
Wet and windy
Unfortunately, gusty winds and torrential rain were forecast for the big day but when we arrived I was relieved to see it had done nothing to dampen the spirits of the 56,000 runners taking part. If anything, it had resulted in a sort of blitz spirit as runners huddled together in their pens doing last-minute stretches while casting anxious glances skywards.
We had plenty of time to soak up the electric atmosphere because, starting in the final wave, it took us an amazing 40 minutes (and an almost unbelievable kilometre) to shuffle to the start, where a beaming Olympic medallist Christina Ohuruogu high-fived us on our way.
Early on the route divided and I chose to bear left – which meant I ran under rather than on the flyover – and so accidentally managed to dodge the first rain shower of the day. Soon after that we crossed the iconic Tyne Bridge that links Newcastle upon Tyne to Gateshead and were treated to spectacular views of the River Tyne and the Norman Foster-designed Sage Gateshead, a glass-and-steel cultural venue that certain people have likened to a giant silver slug!
Beating The Fridge and The Bridge
A personal highlight was instigating my first-ever mass chant in one of the underpasses. Shouting out ‘oggy, oggy, oggy’ and hearing hundreds of runners thundering along chanting ‘oi, oi, oi!’ back is something that’ll no doubt continue to send a shiver up my spine every time I think about it.
Unlike most races with an elite field, fancy dress runners were everywhere and I’m relieved to be able to report that I beat The Fridge (a charity runner called Tony Phoenix-Morrison who runs with a 42.5kg Smeg fridge on his back) and The Bridge (two runners carrying a scale-model of the Tyne Bridge complete with Lego runners and little Red Arrow planes). Talking of which, in the latter stages of the race we were entertained by a spectacular Red Arrow display – the roar of the jets often drowning out the cheers of the thousands of intrepid Geordies.
Eventually we reached the final 1KM stretch along the coast, which was preceded by a short but steep downhill stretch, and then we were at the finish. No sooner had I donned my fab T-shirt and medal than the heavens opened, and this time I got thoroughly drenched. But once again everyone pulled together, swapping race tales and times (and sharing space blankets) as we waited in the enormous queue for the Metro, proving to me once again, that it’s not just its size that makes the Bupa Great North Run live up to its name, it’s the people who run and cheer for it.
Next year’s Bupa Great North Run takes place on Sunday, 7 September 2014. To sign up for an email reminder to enter, visit www.greatrun.org/north
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