My longest Half Marathon, the Great North Run – Part 2
The route and recap continued
At the Great North Run the amount of support from the onlookers was marvellous. You could hear the constant sound of spectators cheering you on, shouting words of encouragement, and calling your name as you ran past. Children had ‘power-up’ banners and also gave ‘high fives’. Jelly babies were being handed out all along the course for anyone. The generosity and kindness of the locals were in abundance as they came out in force to support everyone running.
I have never experienced anything quite like this before. Accompanying words of encouragement, I heard my name regularly shouted out. Although Duncan is a Scottish name, it just seemed to roll off the Newcastlelonian’s tongues. Perhaps this was down to the popularity of the television series Byker Grove, with the famous Newcastle characters – “P.J.” (Anthony McPartlin) and “Duncan” (Declan Donnelly), who we all now know as the television duo Ant & Dec!
There were plenty of refreshment stops throughout the route, in fact at every 2km or so. Endless amounts of drinking water were on offer. It was grab and move on as quickly as you could, due to the sheer volume of runners.
Initially, I utilised most of the water stops. However, I did find they somewhat interrupted the rhythm and flow of running as you slowed down or had a little walk. By all means, one didn’t have to use every refreshment station. In hindsight, it would have probably been better if I used one, skipped the next and so on.
The course consisted of wide and long main roads, not particularly picturesque, but the crowd support made up for this. In the distance ahead, you could see a continuous river of runners making their way to what appeared to be a long incline.
I thought to myself, don’t worry, what goes up must come down, there must be a downward slope soon. All the other race routes I’ve run have been in the form of a loop. This is most likely why I thought a downward section would eventually appear, but the Great North Run is an out and no-back route!
At the mile eight water station, Para Olympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson handed out water alongside other volunteers. It’s very generous of her to do this year in year out. She handed me a bottle of water, and I was on my way.
A couple of miles later, it was beer o’clock, that’s right, beer! An unofficial refreshment station, but a tradition amongst the supporters to hand out small glasses of beer to the runners. As I was not racing for a time, I decided to treat myself. Why not, it’s just a bit of fun! Probably not advisable or a great choice of hydration with a few miles to go!
In the latter stages spectators also handed out ice pops and ice-lollies. This went down very well in the warm conditions. By that time, many of us were hot and quite tired – it was just what we needed! Also, along the route were several water spray tunnels, that showered you with a mist of water to cool you down.
Towards the end of the race, many participants started to slow or even walk. This resulted in a little congestion. By this time, runners had forgotten to move to one side as per the race guidelines. It made running a little tricky weaving in and out of people, or just settling with the pace of those still trying to run.
A short while later, a Volvo ambulance drove through with an LED sign on the rear, stating “slow down”. Perhaps a few runners had struggled or become ill. I eventually reached the last roundabout before the downhill stretch, which was quite short. It looked much longer on the television! At the end of the slope, you made a left turn onto the final stretch (approx. 1 mile) for the last push along in South Shields to the finish. It was fully lined with supporters cheering and encouraging you to the end.
Some say, the last mile feels long. Runners hit the downward slope knowing that there’s not far to go but underestimate perhaps how tired they are. I took it steadily and ran comfortably all the way to the finish. I must admit it did feel rather long.
Great North Run complete in aid of Parkinson’s UK for and subsequently in memory of my late Grandfather Ernest!
Apart from the section towards the Gateshead bridge, the majority of the run felt as if it were travelling slightly uphill until you reach South Shields. When running, don’t look too far ahead but rather a short distance in front and keep going. Throughout the run, the crowd support was amazing. The noise and cheers on the last stretch are incredible – this will see you home. Remember to maintain your pace and only gradually increase when closer to the finish. South Shields is longer than you realise.
If you want to race, I would say you want to be finished by the 2-hour mark to avoid the congestion of tiring runners. But whatever your pace is or how fast you run, enter. Soak in the atmosphere, it’s an experience like no other, and you will want to come back again for more.
After collecting my medal, goody bag, and the photo stop, I made my way to the charity village to the Parkinson’s UK tent. I didn’t stay too long as I wanted to get on my way knowing there was going to be a queue for the bus and ferry. Fortunately, I managed to catch the next available bus…it was nice to sit down! I was thankful I decided to stay north of the river with not far to go, especially after seeing the amount of people at the metro station as I passed by.
However, the queue for the ferry was long. Only two ferryboats’ go to and fro crossing the river, so there was quite a wait. During this time, I was aching all over and could tell I certainly had not put anywhere near enough training in. Nevertheless, I made it round, and there’s always next year! ;-)
The Great North Run was a brilliant experience and a very well-organised event. There was a fantastic atmosphere with incredible support from the people of Newcastle who came out in force. I would definitely do it again!
The Great North Run next year will be in its 40th year with even more places (60000). I definitely will be back.
I completed in a time of 02:48:22 raising over £1350 for Parkinson’s UK.
I am going to give the Great North Run a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on the Runiversity of life™ Runometer™.
Route and elevation profile
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