This is the DAY. This morning is THE Great North Run. As I write this I’m (literally) sat on the starting line, having arrived very early with over an hour to go, and am beyond excitement, anticipation, joy, appreciation, and also remembrance.
Excitement that I am taking part in the 41st Great North Run in the first place. The journey home from Newcastle to South Shields, the place of my upbringing and all of my formative years. And I’ll tell you how excited this gets me. On my way up here first thing this morning from South Shields (an approximately 13.1 mile journey by Metro train, as it is a ‘point to point’ course) I stood in the queue for a ticket along with many other runners, and when I got to press the buttons on the machine I just clicked ‘return journey’ – it had somehow bypassed my befuddled braincells that I would be heading back under my own steam!!
Anticipation for the unbridled rush of emotions that this event always brings. It is a run through the places of my life, and all of my family’s lives. Every year that I have taken part (I think this is my 8th one now, but it might be 7, as I said, I’m excited 🙂 ) it doesn’t take long for me to get a total head rush. I have to bring myself out of it every time or I would literally have to stop and be properly overcome. It is generally about mile 1 when it happens, and you go though the tunnels before Tyne Bridge. There will be choruses of “oggy oggy oggy…..” and it overwhelms me every time. It actually contributes to my heart rate going through the roof, and me running too fast at the start. Happens every time and will probably happen today too. Just can’t help myself!
Joy and happiness to be together as part of the weekend with old friends, some who put me up last night (thanks Kate and Mark!) and others whom I met yesterday (fab to see you as always JB and Janine – it’s becoming a ritual 🙂 ). Joy also to be able to see the places and things that did indeed shape who I am. The beach at South Shields, the streets where I spent time with my grandparents when I was a kid, the baths where I learnt to swim, the technical college where my Dad used to teach pottery classes, my school, and the shops and sights and smells of the place of my birth are all, simply amazing. I am so grateful to be able to be in the midst of them once again. Yesterday I went down to the beach, as I always do when I am here, to just drink it all in. The word ‘sentimental’ doesn’t even begin to get close.
And my appreciation to all of those things and people extends very far and wide. To the founder of this race, the iconic and humble Sir Brendan Foster. He almost single handedly created an institution, from which so many people benefit. The charities and their beneficiaries who today alone will be some £25m better off because of it, the local communities and hospitality trade in the North East who have struggled over the last few years due to the pandemic.
And also to and on behalf of all the people of the area to whom this event alone brings in a lot of money in terms of hospitality revenues, they are all I know very grateful. There are 60,000 runners, mostly from out of the immediate area, and their families and friends, who are all spending money, on top of the half a million or so people who will be lining the route to cheer us on. Yes ‘us’, I’m one of the 60,000!
And so to remembrance. This weekend of course is very poignant for the whole country due to the death of the Queen. The event nearly didn’t take place because of it, and I’m just so glad that it is on. Many millions of people will be paying their respects over the next week or so, and this event will play its part in that. But remembrance for me, in the main, as it is every year, is for my Mam and Dad. The course will run past the street I grew up in, and where my Dad used to stand on the corner every year to cheer on the runners. He used to enthuse so much about it, and as I run past the corner of The Nook (about mile 10 1/2 on the course) it will bring every ounce of love and emotion out of my body. It’s probably even more special a place for me than the crematorium where their ashes are scattered, which incidentally we also run right past about a mile before that.
And so this week will end week 16 of the 18 weeks of the training schedule for Berlin. Another 50 or so miles – 57 I think including today. I won’t run hard, it wouldn’t be good. I am supposed (according to my religiously observed training schedule) to be doing a 10 mile run at a slow pace today. I won’t be able to run slow either, but hopefully I can just pace it well and come out at the end without injury. That’s really the most important thing. Actually writing that, I’m wrong, 100% wrong. The most important thing is all of the above things – to enjoy the very reasons why I am here, and why I will ALWAYS be here.
Come what may, this is the event of my life. The time, the weather, how quick or slow I run, anything and everything else in fact, don’t matter. This is more than special, and what I look forward to all year. This, is THE Great North Run 🙂