I had started the morning of the 9th September 2018 with a run plan, yet I crossed the start line of the Great North Run with my plan in tatters. My GPS had not found its signal and it was going from bad to worse as my overpriced wireless earphones weren’t working. Well at least, I assumed they weren’t working. It seems that that frantic pushing of the on button was confusing the fuck out of the things and all that achieved was turning it off.
Calm the fuck down Tina.
I soon found my pace and eased into what felt like a comfortable speed and I was able to take in everything around me. The earphones I had desperately worked hard to switch on, I had now turned off as I wanted to experience the sights and sounds around me. It wasn’t long before I experienced the chants of “OGGY OGGY OGGY” under the underpass and a collection of blokes running with a load of cheek. I’m not one for stopping, taking photos, chatting with people but I decided to embrace the whole experience and even donated my emergency £2 coin to their charity bucket.
As I’m writing this, I realise how ridiculous it sounds that I was carrying an emergency £2 coin on a 13.1 mile run, with streets lined with people providing water, sweets, ice lollies along with myself carrying everything but the kitchen sink in my fanny pack (known in some circles as a belt strap – Jesus whatever way I describe this it sounds totally wrong).
I even became a sociable runner for the first time, introducing myself to another Family Fund runner and anyone who I could see with anything relating to Yorkshire on their back. I have no idea where this person appeared from but she had certainly calmed the fuck down and she was enjoying the run.
And then at approximately eight miles, I hit a wall. The temperature was getting hotter, my body was aching and I was no longer Billy Big Bollocks. The playlist I had carefully selected the day before was now getting on my tits. I had decided to abandon the usual tunes I play for running for two reasons.
- I had got fed up of listening to the same tunes over and over again over the last seven months
- I thought new music would provide the motivation I needed to get me to the finish line
Unfortunately, I had seemed to forget the golden rule of running of never changing anything on race day. Admittedly this usually applied to trainers, pants and technique and I didn’t realise the music would have such an impact on my mental state. Maybe in hindsight the uplifting words of Take That’s Greatest Day or Beyonce’s Listen from Dream Girls were not the right choices but each to their own eh?
A strand of hair that had been flapping in my face for about a mile was slowly driving me mad. I decided that at the next water stop, I would fix my wayward strand, take on water, have a committee meeting with myself and just talk myself back into The Plan. When that didn’t work, I resorted to desperate measures; texting the other half. Being a woman of words, it went like this:
So rather than being incredibly motivated by this message, I was left thinking “Five fucking miles? Where the fuck am I going to find the energy to run five bastard miles in this heat with this fucked up head and body?”
The next two miles were a combination of running and walking and despite many other people doing this regularly, it’s not my thing. I felt that my run was over. It had beat me, I had walked. At one point I even considered handing myself in to the first aiders with an announcement of “I’m fucked, take me to the finish”
I tried to get over myself and further along, stopped and accepted a wine gum from a kind lady. My Garmin said I had done over 11.5 miles but I hadn’t seen the 11 mile marker so thought that it wasn’t only me that was fucked, so was the Garmin. I asked the kind lady with sheer desperation, “how much further?” She told me I only had to go over the brow of the hill (oh brilliant, another shitting hill) and I was on the seafront. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the seafront, that is the start of the finish. What I also forgot was that the seafront finish appears to go on forever. I looked at her and blubbed “I am so disappointed with myself”. She told me that I had no need to be and obviously wondering why this strange excuse of a woman was offloading to her, promptly offered me more wine gums. I declined and began my ascent of the final hill.
After the steep drop facing the seafront I could see the crowds lining both sides of the final mile. There was no way I was going to not finish this and took on the pace. I eventually saw the 800 metre marker and kept repeating to myself, “two laps of a track, two laps of a track”. When the 400 meter marker appeared, I thought someone was seriously taking the piss “fuck me, another lap of a track, one more lap of a track”.
I saw the other half standing at the side of the road, mustered the energy to shout him and he gave me some words of encouragement. Well at least I think he did as I’m certain my hearing had also packed in at that point. For all I know he could have been saying “Fuck sake, get a bloody move on”.
I crossed the finish line with many others around me, a fist pump and a wave of emotion. I’m not the crying type but there is something about running that distance, that race that makes me let out the biggest sobs imaginable.
I staggered to the meeting point looking like someone who had been out on the lash and fell into the other half’s arms. I’d already checked my time and knew I had completed it seven minutes slower than the previous year.
Again, I sobbed telling him “I am NEVER doing it again”.
“Yes, yes”, he told me.
We walked back to the car me soaking wet, him walking faster than my legs were capable of at that moment in time. I wondered why I was so wet and was frightened I had pee’d myself but quickly remembered I had taken every opportunity to throw water over myself in attempt to cool myself down. Well that’s my story anyhow and I’m sticking to it.
Once in the car, I pointed out to him that I had only taken part this year to try and improve upon the year before and where did this now leave me? We smiled at each other. We both knew I would be entering again next year.
Some of you must be reading this thinking, “How brilliant this running lark sounds! When can I sign up for the Great North Run?”. Okay maybe not. You are probably wondering why I put myself through it. Why don’t I just accept that completing the run in itself is an achievement. I’ve heard so many times over the last few days ‘It’s finishing lines, not finishing times’.
Believe it or not, I don’t usually have that many thoughts running through my head when I’m running. I don’t really have The Plan. The best part about running, is not thinking and just putting one step in front of the other. All of the other shit, just complicates something that should be relatively simple. (Okay all the technical specialists who want to disagree with me here, just fuck off for a minute). You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. Gadgets, different training techniques, apparel (sports gear for those not in the know!!) or you can just take it for what it is. A brilliant way to get some exercise, time alone, fresh air, clear your head and release endorphins.
Taking part in a race seems to play tricks on my usual routine and takes away some of the enjoyment from what I truly believe helps me in life and which is why I don’t actually enter that many races.
So back to the ‘finishing lines, not finishing times’. Whilst I agree that I should be proud of myself crossing the time and it’s not always about the time, it sometimes actually is. I’m not about to contradict myself here in something that I have previously written where I said, sometimes it’s about making it to the starting line and your best is often good enough. It is, but we are all human and we want to have something to strive for. Take my attitude towards Joseph and what I would like for him to achieve in life. Am I likely to say that it’s good enough that he turns up at school or dance class and nothing more? Our natural instinct is to want to improve and that is what I want from life, to constantly improve.
I was left thinking, was I slower because I walked through every shower en route? Was it because I stopped to chat with the cheeky boys? Was it because I had sent a text to the other half or took a wine gum and sobbed? Was it because I wasn’t match fit, it wasn’t my day or have I reached the peak of my ability?
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I know I couldn’t have given anymore on the day.
What I do know is, I’ll be entering the ballot for the 2019 Great North Run where I’ll be my greatest.
*For those wondering, my legs don’t ache too much but I have friction burns in places that I never thought were possible.
**If you are inspired by my run, you can sponsor me here.