The (not so) Great North Run – Part 1

Sunday 9th September 2018

The day I completed my second Great North Run. Thirteen point one miles (and believe me the 0.1 mile does count for everything) running the streets from Newcastle through to South Shields.

For years, despite encouragement, I’ve always declined the offer to take part in a half marathon as although I (used to) have a love of running, I’ve always wanted to focus on shorter distances. I haven’t had the time, inclination OR the energy to train for such a run, yet last year I decided it was something I needed to do. Just to say I had actually completed one half marathon in my lifetime. I was told I would get the bug for it and want to take part in another or want to run further.

They were wrong

I didn’t get the bug but typical of me, I was left feeling disappointed with my time. I’d had a groin problem for about two months leading up to the run. I managed to complete it but I felt I could have achieved a faster time had I not been limping for the majority of the distance.

It didn’t come as much of a surprise to those around me that this year I decided to take part again. Training went well, with the only hiccup being the hot weather. I’ve always found it difficult to run for long distances in the heat. I was going to go into this year’s run, fighting fit and smash last year’s time.

Change of plan

Only that wasn’t to happen. Two weeks before the event, on what should have been a relaxing holiday, a fall down a full flight of stairs onboard a boat meant that my physically fit self was something of the opposite. Okay, there might have been a small amount of drink involved (although I still swear I was spiked) but the boat was moving and I’m certain it was only the movement that caused the fall.

The following day saw me not being able to move my neck, shoulders and the back of my legs were stiff. The sports massage I had when I returned, eased it slightly but I was cautious about competing my training when I could barely sit up straight, let alone run.

My last run before the Great North Run, resulted in me calling for a lift half a mile from home after only eight miles. The part of me that constantly doubts my own ability set to work in overdrive at this point. It didn’t help that a niggling pain I’d had in my foot was back again.

I received advice from various sources, telling me to defer my place, which would have been the sensible option. Of course I didn’t want to cause any lasting damage and there’s a fine line between stupid and headstrong, but there was no way that I was going to be withdrawing after the work I’d put in and the money I had raised for Family Fund. I decided to not run again until the day itself and was hopeful that resting would make all the difference (whilst silently praying for a miracle).

Race day arrives

and I’m ready for it. Got my kit packed. Got spare kit packed. The rituals that need to take place before a run are completed and I’m ready. The inner doubting self has taken a back seat and the inner confident self is the dominant voice.

I make my way to the start via the local bus service and I figured seeing two other women with exactly the same trainers as me was a good omen. We casually chatted about previous runs and I was offered malt loaf which I politely declined. It wasn’t part of the pre-run ritual and I wasn’t going to fuck this up.

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Lucky Trainers

I headed up to the official start line, but knew I needed to use the toilet and it wasn’t the usual pre-run nervous wee. I had consumed an adequate amount of water to prepare me for the run and now I was ready to unleash. Unfortunately, it seemed like the other 57000 runners also had the same idea and I was left queuing for 45 minutes. I nervously jigged on the spot whilst keeping check on the time. The starting pens were due to close at 10:30 and after that point I would have to join the back of the race. That wasn’t part of The Plan that I had carefully formulated in my head. Anxiety started to set in and I began to text the other half. Only the texts weren’t going through as the 57000 other people must have been jamming the signal, so there was nobody to tell me to calm the fuck down.

I considered the nearby bushes but decided that there wasn’t enough bush to conceal a crouching me so I waited patiently impatiently in the line. I could see there was a number of urinals so contemplated why there were still so many blokes waiting in the queue for the cubicles and was left with only one outcome. I counted up the number of people in the queue and worked out how many seconds their turn would permit if I was to make it to the start line before my pen closed and realised they would have no more than 20 seconds each. If any of these blokes (or women) were considering anything other than a pee, I was fucked.

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Longest pee queue EVER

By the time there were only two people in front of me (both blokes) I was two minutes from the pen closure time. I felt like I had no other option to give them my best threatening death stare (which only Joseph usually sees) accompanied by the words “you’re NOT going to be long are you?”. Which wasn’t really a question, it was more of a statement. Of course they weren’t, so I managed to pee and make it down the banking at 10:30. Only it wasn’t as simple as that. The green section of runners to which I had been allocated to, was at least half a mile walk from where I was stood. By the time I arrived at that section, the security people had closed the pens and I was directed to the back.

In the meantime, I looked down at my race number that I had carefully fastened to my vest and I convinced myself it was in the wrong place. It was too low down and it would surely irritate me if I didn’t move it one and a half inches higher. My pre-race run rituals were slowly falling apart and there was still no phone signal. Nobody to contact, to tell me to calm the fuck down.

I walked in the direction of the rear of the race and then decided that there was no way I was going to be starting back there. If I did, it would be a later start and a later finish. I needed to get back home at some point that day. I turned back in the direction of the green section, away from the pink runners and positioned myself near the edge of the barrier with a group of other runners who were late to the party. I looked down at my Garmin and checked how many steps I had walked that morning already and started to panic. How on earth was I going to complete a run when I had already walked at least three miles that morning?

I pressed the button on my Garmin so that it could start the GPS. It has a habit of taking an eternity to find it at the most inconvenient of times. I wasn’t going to get caught out with that; it wasn’t part of The Plan. The sun made an appearance and was beating down on the runners. I could hardly see it was so bright. That wasn’t part of The Plan – it was going to be a cool day in the story I had formulated in my head. I knew I had at least half an hour before our wave set going and the Garmin kept wanting to power-save. Every time I felt the buzz on my arm, I dutifully clicked it to ensure that it was ready to go as soon as I crossed the start line.

Then the heavens opened, the runners around me were distracted by their new found soaking wet selves and I found myself chattering about the weather as us Brits love to do. As our wave started to walk down to the start, I realised the Garmin had clicked off and I could feel the bile rise within me. If I set it going again would it have time to find the GPS signal and be ready for the start? Would I have to stand at the side and let everyone pass me until my Garmin found its signal? How could I run without my trusty Garmin? Should I set my Strava app going on my phone or would I not have enough battery to do it? This wasn’t part of the pre-run ritual or The Plan. Would I look like a complete Knobhead stood at the side waiting to start when we had already been waiting for so long already?

I decided ‘fuck it’ and crossed the start with the GPS still missing in action and convinced myself it would be okay. Once it started I would just recalculate the distance in my head. I would have my pace and that would be fine.

I needed to get back on with The Plan; I needed to calm the fuck down.

to be continued….

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