I am generally a positive person (hence my nickname ‘Jolly’) but if I had written about my experience as soon as it happened I doubt I would have had a single positive thing to say. I have now had time to reflect on the whole experience and feel more able to write about it without it being pessimistic.Without a doubt, the Great North Run had broken me. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I knew it would be hard, but take that and times it by 10 and that’s how difficult I found it. The heat made it almost unbearable and I still don’t know how I made it to the end. I truly admire anyone who goes back and does it year on year!
I’ve been saying for months that I wouldn’t be doing again as I have not enjoyed long runs one single bit. Everybody kept saying I would change my mind after I experienced the Great North Run so I was hopeful that I’d love it so much that they might be right. I am glad I did it, but even now, three weeks later, I have no desire to do it again. I definitely won’t give up running but long distance just isn’t for me. I will be back on the sidelines cheering everyone on and giving out jelly babies next year!
I had a brilliant day on the Saturday of the Great North Run weekend at the Mini and Junior North Runs on the Quayside. It made me really excited for the big day as the atmosphere was great. I hadn’t been running since the previous Monday and I think this rest was good for me as I was excited to get my trainers back on again on the Saturday morning.
I ran the Mini North Run with my friend’s son, Joshua, who was excited to be running with Auntie Julie. He was fantastic and really he enjoyed it. I loved sharing in his first running experience and it made me excited for the Great North Run. My sister ran the Junior North Run with my niece. I really enjoyed seeing all the children running and cheering on Toni as she approached the finish. Seeing Joshua and Toni with their medals made me feel proud.
|Joshua and I, with Joanne and Toni|
The Saturday’s excitement was still with me on the Sunday morning when I woke up and got ready for the big day. My parents left early to go to South Shields to look after my niece and take my sister (Joanne) and brother in law (Craig) to the metro station.
Rachael and her dad came to pick me up and dropped us off in Newcastle. I got my photo taken outside the university with some of the team I was running for (the North East Trust for Aphasia – NETA). It was a lovely start to the day and made me feel proud to be running the Great North Run in their name. Joanne and Craig were stuck on the metro so missed the NETA photo but met us at university (where we all used a proper toilet before we began! Luxury!!)
|Some of the NETA team|
The four of us then headed up to the baggage buses and Craig very kindly carried our rather heavy bag. The sun was beginning to get warm and I began to wish for some clouds. It concerned me that it felt so warm at 9.30am when surely it would just get hotter?! Any other day of the year and I’d be more than happy that the sun was shining at that time in the morning, but not on Great North Run day!
The four of us took photos on the grass and soaked up the atmosphere. I was surprised that I didn’t feel nervous, but I felt nothing but excitement! A year’s worth of training all for this big day!
I began to feel hungry (it had already been a while since my early breakfast) so I ate a banana as we were wandering around. We then left Craig at his zone and we walked to ours.
We walked. And we walked. And then we walked some more. We were in the last green zone (I) (a couple of zones from the back) and I thought we were never going to get there! I was so pleased when we finally did (about 20 minutes after saying goodbye to Craig).
|Still feeling excited!|
As we entered our zone, I saw my friend Charlie (who sang beautifully at my NETA charity night earlier in the year), before proceeding to stand squashed like chickens in a pen!
While we were waiting to start, we watched the big screens and I was still feeling pretty excited, but I began to feel too hot, and a tiny bit lightheaded. I ate my first energy gel and drank some of my isotonic drink. I felt like I was beginning to burn and hadn’t even thought about putting sun cream on.
When the red arrows flew overhead, I felt goosebumps all down my arms. It was seeing these planes, that made the reality of the situation truly sink in and the nerves started to appear. I was actually about to run 13.1 miles. As my mam said that morning – it’s the only day of the year that anyone thinks it is sensible to go from Newcastle to South Shields on FOOT! Even though I was nervous, I knew I could do it. I had trained so hard for this day and I could finally give it everything I have!
|Waiting to begin!|
It took us more than half an hour to cross the start line, but I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere and sharing in the experience of the build up with Joanne and Rach. Once we crossed the start the line they ran ahead, as planned, as they are both faster than me and I was determined not to start off too fast.
With lots of people’s recommendations we went ‘left and under’ (rather than right and ‘over’). As soon as I went under the first bridge the ‘Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!’ began. The echo was good and the atmosphere electric, but the mass of people and the heat and noise made me feel a bit dizzy. I had to slow down to almost a walk and I was glad when I was back out in the fresh air again. (I realise I may be the only person that has gone left and not enjoyed the ‘Oggy!’ experience. In fact, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it! I think the sheer amount of people and the covered in space was just too much for me)
By the time I reached the Tyne Bridge, I was struggling. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy experience, but I was hoping I would have got a bit further before I felt like I wanted to give up! There were lots of children offering their hands for a high five, which kept me going a bit longer!
I knew my Uncle and Cousin were going to be in Gateshead. I’d asked my Uncle Stephen where he would be and he told me he’d be where he always stands - after the big first aid tent on the bypass. I saw a first aid tent and when I didn’t see them just after, I was quite disappointed, thinking I’d missed them.
I kept running and kept looking in case they were standing in a different place. Further along, I spotted another first tent and felt hopeful. Sure enough there was my uncle, cousin and cousin’s daughter. I have never been so pleased to see a friendly face. I stopped briefly and they told me that Joanne was ‘miles’ in front of me. I high-fived my cousins daughter and started running again – telling them that I wasn’t trying to catch Joanne up! Haha.
I still had the water bottle that I got at the start and was reluctant to get rid of it, despite not liking running with a bottle, as it was just too hot. When I could see there was a station ahead I dropped the bottle to run without one for a bit, before picking another up. I had a drink at every station as I needed to keep cool. I also took advantage of everything else on offer, including oranges, jelly babies and even an ice lolly!! Thank you so much to everyone who was out there cheering us all on, it means so much!
I enjoyed hi-fiving the children on the route and it was great that people were calling out my name. I felt that the morale of the runners was really low where I was as it was just so hot, and even though I was surrounded by people I felt rather lonely at times. I also had to keep weaving between people who were walking and tripped over a few bottles.
I began to feel hungry and found it difficult to keep going. My legs were heavy and I was really struggling. I took half a rich tea biscuit from another kind spectator and kept focussing on putting one foot in front of the other. I knew my dad and eldest nephew were going to be at 11 miles so I kept focussing on that. I was so pleased to see them, and Darius offered me a jelly baby from his bowl. I was disappointed I didn’t stop to see them for a minute but I felt that if I stopped now I wouldn’t get going again. I’d ran this final stretch with Joanne in training a few weeks before, so I knew I could do it (although during training, I didn’t have so many miles behind me!)
|Approaching Dad and Darius|
|Smiling through the pain|
The live music on the route made it more bearable and I tried to catch the musician’s eye and gave them a thumbs up at each one I passed, to let them know I appreciated them.
My legs and feet were so sore as I approached Marsden bank and I didn’t know if I would even be able to run down it. Once at the bottom, I knew I really was on my final stretch and the finish was in sight, albeit still a mile away. I felt quite emotional seeing the soldiers and everyone cheering us on.
I kept running and there it was BOOM (800m to go!). I just kept running, knowing I could soon stop, even though I felt like crying. The loud speakers said that there was less than 500 people until the millionth finisher. I was excited and hopeful that it could be me! I kept running, hoping that I’d be the millionth finisher across the line. As I crossed the finish they said it was into the final 50! How exciting! A minute or so later I saw the confetti and fireworks as the millionth finisher crossed the line. It was exciting to be part of the event, even though I was in so much pain and I just wanted to find my family. I wanted to cry as every inch of me ached. I limped along to the water station and got herded on through the crowds. My mam and niece Toni were on a water station at the finish, but I didn’t see them. Also, I later found out that Joanne was waiting with them for me and I didn’t see her either L
I got my goody bag and just kept walking. By pure chance, I bumped into my dad and Darius. We headed down to the Beer Tent which still felt like a million miles away. I was feeling deflated and in pain. I finally made it to the tent and couldn’t see anyone I was looking for. I chatted to some beer tenters and kept looking for Joanne, Craig and Rach. I finally found Craig and subsequently got rather grumpy with him due to the fact I hadn’t known where anyone was. I realise this was not Craig’s fault but unfortunately for him he was the one standing in front of me!
Joanne had gone to get into some different clothes. I stretched my legs and then went with my dad and Darius to have a paddle in the sea to cool myself down. Well, I went paddling – my dad and Darius didn’t. It wasn’t very enjoyable as the cold water kept splashing me!! (it wasn’t as soothing as sitting in an ice bath!). When I headed to the beach Joanne and my mam were there and I gave my mam a hug and burst into tears. I was in so much pain and felt so overwhelmed by everything. I got dried and put my sandals on and we headed back to the tent. I could hardly walk.
|After paddling in the sea|
I had something to eat and calmed down a little but I just wanted to go home. I had a glass of bubbly with Joanne and chatted to some of our friends. I saw my dad’s cousin Sarah and we spoke to her too J I took part in a group photo of the Great North Run Beer Tent Group, which was good.
|Joanne, Craig and I in our matching T-shirts!|
|Trying to look proud - you can see the pain in my eyes!|
I still haven’t been for a run since the GNR as my knee is still painful. I do think it is getting better as I have been resting where I can and foam rolling my legs every day. I really hope it is better soon as I want to start running again!
A couple of weeks ago my mam drove from Newcastle to Gateshead with me in the car. Some of this was the Great North Run route and it took this for me to feel proud. When I saw how undulating the route was just for this short distance, it was not surprising I was struggling by the Tyne Bridge. Slowly, since then it has begun to sink in that despite the pain, I did actually complete a Half Marathon. I do feel proud now and I am so glad that I did it, but I am still in no hurry to do it again. It’s one of those things that I am pleased to say I’ve done it and I am glad that it was the inspiration to get me running (which I certainly won’t be giving up!)
Thank you so so much to everyone that has been part of my journey to the Great North Run. We would be here all day if I named every single person who has made my journey special but there are a few people I cannot fail to mention. Thank you to Steve for coaching me from an absolute non-runner to someone who actually completed a half marathon – couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you also to the people who inspired me to run Joanne, Rachael, Tony the Fridge, and Craig (whom I have watched running, in awe, for years). Thank you to the new friends I have made, particularly those from Dynamic Personal Fitness, and the old friends who have continued to support me through my latest adventure. Especially Katie for the leg massages! Thank you to all the kind strangers I have met along the way and to everyone at the Parkruns (especially South Shields which continues to be my favourite). Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me and encouraged me to keep going.
And most importantly thank you to my mam and dad who have been there for me through it all -running me cold baths, supplying me with running fuel and putting up with me after my bad runs. They never stop believing in me and because of that I believe in myself.
“If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” Henry Ford
Anyway, if you are still here thank you so so much for sharing in my journey – it means so much! I am delighted that I raised an amazing £531for the North East Trust for Aphasia J