She was barely more than four years old and I’d only gone about a kilometre before she yelled out from the sidelines, “Keep running fat girl!”
Kids actually make this race. They line up with their grubby hands outstretched for a high-five and I love it when they screw their faces up with a grimaced “euuuw” as they come into contact with your sweaty palm.
At the 8th mile one particularly bedraggled lad was offering out orange quarters from a bucket. I could have kissed him as I took it from him. I’d been hallucinating on the joys of oranges for the last few miles. I could see hundreds of discarded skins on route but didn’t hold out much hope of their being any left for the slow pokes at the end. The Great North Run spectators are so generous with their support and their treats and it was particularly impressive this year with the constant drizzle and occasional downpour.
After breakfast Dan joined us to wander down to the start line. We probably took it a bit too leisurely as we couldn’t even squeeze past the crowds to make it into the coloured pens before the race started. There seemed to be more people than ever trying to cram themselves onto the dual carriageway. We had plenty of time to eye up the opposition though including one old dear who we’d pegged as a lost spectator but who actually turned out to be a competitor – Gladys was her name. Here she is crossing the finish line about 4 minutes ahead of me, and she isn’t even sprinting.
It took 40 minutes for the crowd to clear enough for us to cross the start line. I was fit to drop before we started but as my four year oldfriend said, I just had to keep on running. I did just that. I hit an in-year record for my 5k time, not very good pacing but impressive nonetheless. At 5 miles an old geezer pulled alongside me and informed me that I was keeping a good pace – 15 minute miles he reckoned. I would have been happy with this comment if the old fella hadn’t been walking comfortably alongside me. I upped my pace and escaped.
My pace seemed to die around the 9th mile from then on I lost a couple of minutes for each remaining mile. I felt ok really, my legs weren’t suffering as much as usual but I was on autopilot, head down, eyes closed. I couldn’t seem to alter the pace after slowing down for an uphill trog.
At 10 miles I was broken emotionally, I was on a rollercoaster of weeping triggers. The first was a picture of young man on the back of t-shirt, a dad, dead of prostate cancer already. So many people run with powerful messages it’s too hard not to choke up. The second was the red arrows swooping over the Jarrow Rd and third, that actually did see me sobbing was the sight of the sea on the slope down to South Shields. There is still more than a mile to go but it’s the best indication, short of the finish line, that marks the end of the pain.
From here on in I was gasping from the increased effort and the choked back tears. Both Lynn and my parents had come down to support me and I knew I was going to see them any minute. It’s a lovely experience to collapse over the finish line after such a gruelling effort and find all your loved ones around you.
Yes, this event holds a special place in my heart.
Race t-shirt can be seen on the t-shirt page.