Happily Ever After

Life in The Rural Retreat with a beautiful wife, three cats, garden wildlife, a camera, a computer – and increasing amounts about running

Earlier posts can be found on Adventures of a Lone Bass Player, where this blog began life. Recent entries can be found here.


Down South For The North Run

by Russell Turner - 21:14 on 08 September 2019

That’s the Great North Run over and, as Facebook and Twitter helpfully reminded us today, six weeks until the Yorkshire Marathon. Which means just six weeks and a day until a proper rest. Lovely.

Today began with a bit of a worry when, after getting everything organised (almost – more later), I stepped outside my Jesmond Airbnb to wait for the taxi I ordered yesterday, having decided it was less faff than finding my own way to the start, only to see it driving away down the road. Old-fashioned me had expected a doorbell to ring, rather than my phone which was tucked away as I didn’t want to take it on the run.

A replacement arrived following my anxious call and soon got me to a traffic crawl 10mins from the start, so I had some walking to do after all. Then more as I tracked down the baggage bus and my starting area and attempted to wade through the athletic masses to reach the 2:15 pacer in the far distance. It was not to be, so I resigned myself to being my own pacer and waited underneath a blazing sun in a cloudless sky for the 40mins to pass between the start of Mo’s race and the start of mine. That’s when I realised I’d remembered sunglasses but forgotten sunscreen. Matchgirl will be appalled.

Not finding the 2:15 pacer was a blessing in disguise: had I followed him I’d probably have blown up halfway round. I ran to effort (Matchgirl will approve) and made it up the hill after the bridge and the longer one from 3.5-5 miles without trouble, unconcerned by the people passing me.

The first drama occurred during the downhill-then-flattish Miles 5-8 section when, at Mile 6, a chorus of voices behind me shouted to “the man in the yellow vest” that he’d dropped his keys. I’d had them in my wrist holder, which had never let me down before, because leaving valuables in the baggage buses was discouraged. Fortunately the woman behind me had them in her hand so I lost no time. The keys found a new home in my back pocket where they proved to be not the nuisance I’d expected.

I should have zipped up the wrist holder tighter (the sticking zip made me reluctant) because a mile further on my energy bloks fell out, beneath the feet of following runners. I made do with spectators’ sweets until I was able to restock at the Clif station at Mile 9.

Whether that had an effect is difficult to say, as unsurprisingly I was tiring anyway (my second half was 6mins slower than the first), but despite the dramas, the mid-road walkers, the occasionally narrow roads and the heat I made it to the end having run every step apart from a couple of boxed in moments. My finish time was 2:28:30 – satisfactory (to me) under the circumstances.

The 171bpm heart rate high was another Garmin glitch. Ignore it – I'm not about to have a heart attack.

The bad news was that it took as long again to get back to the Airbnb: the walk to the baggage buses for my jacket (the breeze off the sea was fresh on cooling sweat) after which I’d no enthusiasm for visiting the race village; the much longer walk, and queue, and walk to South Shields Metro (very well organised, it must be said); the rail journey itself then the walk back to base.

I’d seen medics tending a couple of heat victims on the course and another one in the Metro queue. I could have been one on the train itself when the stifling conditions in a packed carriage caught up with me. Fortunately the proud mum and gran seated with a 17-year-old novice runner were able to offer me the shooting stick-type implement they’d used around the course, allowing me to sit rather than fall on top of them. I recovered after a minute; maybe it was the chips I’d half eaten on the way there. They’d seemed a good idea at the time.

Back at base I enjoyed a shower, rubbed lotion into various red bits, took a rest then walked around the corner to a Turkish restaurant I’d spied earlier, my appetite restored. It didn’t disappoint. There was even a free drink for GNR finishers.

So what’s my verdict on the Great North Run? Not as good as its PR, to be honest: confused at the start, too many course bottlenecks and, this year, a disappointing medal design. It goes without saying that the goodie bag was rubbish. Nice T-shirt though. Am I glad I did it? Yes. Would I do it again? No.

Positives: I ran to the end on an undulating course on a hot day; I had no desire for toilets; I never looked for an excuse to walk; my legs feel fine. Let’s hope they still feel that way in the morning.

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