The Great North Run takes place in the North East this weekend. It’s one of my favourite days out.
It’s that time of year again. Sunday will see 57,000 runners run the 13.1 miles from Newcastle across the iconic Tyne Bridge, through Gateshead to South Shields.
It’s the world’s largest half marathon and a bucket list event for anyone that lives in or around the North East.
I ran the Great North Run last year for the first time with the Posh Geordie. Unfortunately she’s on a pass out this year after a back injury. She’s sulking.
She’s be cheering on though while I run with my daughter Ellie.. We’re raising funds for the Sunshine Fund. It’s a fantastic North East charity that provides specialist kit for disabled children and their families.
The Great North Run is a huge social event. It’s a festival for Gateshead and Newcastle. If you’ve not run it before, here’s what to expect. There’s a tip for every mile.
#1 Left luggage
You can leave your gear on luggage buses alongside the start line. They’ll be transported to the finish line during the race. Pick a sturdy and identifiable bag. It’s unlikely to be on the seat where you left it.
#2 Slow start
The race starts on the central motorway in Newcastle. 60,000 people is a huge field. You’re a long time in the starting pens; only enter your pen just before they close. You’ve then at least a mile to walk to the start line. You need to stay hydrated but balance that with the need to go to the toilet as the queues are large.
#3 Dodge the weather
The weather forecast for Sunday is showers and a low of 9C. Take an old shirt or t-shirt to wear until you set off running. Discarded clothes along the route are collected and distributed to charities.
#4 It’s emotional
The crowds, Red Arrows, dedication on people’s running gear and Tyne Bridge make for a heart-warming and emotional start. Your adrenalin will surge. Avoid burning too much energy too fast.
#5 Run to the rhythm of the music
There’s a live band every mile or so to entertain both the runners and the crowds. It adds to the festival feeling, and is possibly the only time you’ll be serenaded by Elvis in the middle of the street in South Tyneside.
#6 Energy boost
Use an energy gel or sweets to maintain energy levels before you think you need them. I spent the final five miles last year being fed by the crowd.
#7 Social occasion
You’ll be passed by people 50 years older than you. It’s inevitable. Talk to people, especially if they look knackered, alone and ready to quit. I’ll be extremely grateful.
#8 Final stretch
The climb up John Reid Road at mile nine is tough. Keep plenty of energy back as you turn towards South Shields and smell the sea. The last mile is longer than you ever thought possible.
Don’t drink too much water at the start. You’ll become one of the thousands stopping before they reach the Tyne Bridge. There’s water stations and amazing sprinkler arches along the route.
#10 Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Grab a pint or two as you head from the finish line to South Shields and then head to Coleman’s for fish and chips. You’ve earnt it.
#11 Spectators are a huge sport
The entire route is lined with spectators. Newcastle, Gateshead and the finish at South Shields are popular spots. Shout and cheer. It’s a massive boost to runners.
#12 Returning home
Get the bus, not the Metro, back to Newcastle. It’s much nearer and quicker and you avoid the 1.5 hour queue for the Metro in the cold and rain.
#13 Spirit of the Great North Run
It’s a very special experience. Drink it all in. Enjoy it, hate it, celebrate it; it’s a hell of an achievement. No matter how much you don’t want to enter the ballot, do it, just to see if you get through.
Thank to Liz Bridgen, Karen Fewell, Joe Goldberg, Sarah Hall, Chris Love, Judy Lewis, Steve Maybury, Caroline O’Doherty, David Sawyer, Daniel Slee, and Alison Steel for their help and support.
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