As I prepare to head up north for my fourth running of the Bupa Great North Run, I feel it is time to assemble a top tips post, illustrated with snippets from earlier race reports.
Treat the Great North Run as 4 individual stages – XLMan from the runnersworld forum let me re-post his race strategy back in 2007. I’m still using it to visualise the race 5 years later.
Run 1 – 5 miles (8 km). (DON’T think about anything further) Huge crowds, great atmosphere, bands. Take it steady, not too fast, you’ve run five miles or further loads of times. Enjoy the spectacle, and remember you are part of it. Those inspirational pictures of thousands running across the Tyne Bridge? You’re in them this year. Yes, you’re in the Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon. Enjoy!
Run 2 – 3 miles (5 km). Forget the 5 behind you, they’re done. Think only of the next three. Three miles? Piece of cake, you’ve done 9, 10, 11 .. much more in training. These three are all downhill, wheeeeeee !! Great news for those of you after PBs for the event, or even if it’s your first time and you have a target. Go for it here, within reason. Unfortunately, the road narrows, so you may notice it feeling a little more congested. Be careful.
Run 3 – 3 miles (5 km). SLOW DOWN. This is where you need your mental toughness and/or your MP3 player. It’s a bit of a slog up the John Reid Road etc and there’s not much to enjoy, but hey, if it was easy, the medal wouldn’t be as important to you would it? If you’re a run/walk person this is where you may want to be taking extra walks, and psych yourself up, but don’t start thinking about the finish yet. Just get to 11 miles
Run 4 – 2.1 miles (3 km) That’s nowt! Of course you’re tired but you’re nearly there. Now, start to tell yourself that you’ve done it (almost) the goody bag is waiting for you, go and get it. The last mile and a bit up the sea front is fantastic. Huge crowds yelling at you, the end is nigh. Let your spirits fly, even if you’re knackered. You can stop soon. If you’re after a time, push, you know you are fit, you have prepared well, and as knackered as you will feel when you cross the line, the elation will speed your recovery. Well done, you’ve finished the GREAT NORTH RUN 2012
Go Low for Ritual Chanting – just past the start line the road divides and you get to choose whether to go under or over the bridge. The low road offers the full echoing experience of thousands of runners shouting oggy oggy oggy. It also carries the risk of a non too refreshing shower.
Take the high road for a shower free experience – at least a hundred men with bladder issues choose to take the high road and then proceed to shower the oggy oggy oggy runners beneath them.
I also came close to having an unwelcome shower from the guys caught short and relieving themselves on the overpass above me. GNR N0 1
Never underestimate the old and frail – This is one for Gladys who looked delightfully doddery at the start of the 2010 GNR but who had a second wind and was caught on camera at the finish line – a good 4 minutes ahead of me.
It’s all in the pacing – every seasoned racer seeks the holy grail of the negative split where you complete the second half of the race faster than the first. That only happens if you take the first half slower than the last and therefore requires you to proceed with caution and not get caught up in the excitement of the day. Breaking your 5k pb during a half marathon does not usually bode well for the finish line.
Remember to smile at mile 10 – For 2012 Bupa have installed a mile of smiles section at the toughest part of the run and you don’t want to be immortalised with a sweaty grimace.#happiestrun
Ride the emotional rollercoaster – it’s hard to run while gasping for air and choking on painful emotions
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. GNR No 3
Embrace the motivation from the crowd
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!” GNR No 3
Run with faster friends – That way they can deal with the carnage at the baggage vans and deliver your assembled kit to the finish line.
We found him eventually in an emotional heap after spending about 45 mins battling in the baggage bus for our clobber. Shoes and bags and shirts had been strewn all over and it sounded a bit like a blood fest. Luckily I got to avoid all that – that’s the benefit of running with fast friends, thay get to collect the bags while all you have to do is struggle over the finish and stumble into the nearest fish and chip restaurant. GNR No 2
If you find any of my tips useful, perhaps you would consider showing appreciation by donating to my Virginmoney charity site – raising money for the Samaritans