Great North Run, Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kerry Lister, Pam Kirkup, George Nicholson and Karen Chalkley

Kerry Lister …

15th September 2013, my 42nd birthday and my first Great North Run, what a way to celebrate!

Way back when the Daily Mirror Ballot for places for the GNR 2013 opened I hadn’t even ran a 5k never mind contemplated a half marathon but I entered and was shocked when I received the email saying I had a place. Because I had no concept of pacing I had put down it would take between 3-4 hours for me to complete so when my race pack arrived I was allocated Pink K – right at the back.

Over the last 4 or 5 months I have been training reasonably hard mainly by myself because of shiftwork but getting a few runs in with the Peterlee Ladies Running Club and some long runs on a Sunday morning with some Elvet Striders at Broom Park.

Trying to decide what to wear with the weather forecast being wet, cold and windy and packing my bag with warm waterproof clothing, my pre, during and after drinks and peanut butter, banana and honey bagel and gels I met the Peterlee Ladies for our bus to Newcastle. Felt like the shortest journey ever.

Arriving in Newcastle felt like joining a huge running club, there were runners of all shapes, sizes and ages all over the place. Even I couldn’t get lost getting to the baggage buses and starting pens.

We dropped our bags off on the pink bus and made our way to the pink starting pen, the queues for the loos were immense so we went ‘the natural way’ as were many others.

What an atmosphere! When the starting gun went off it took us 40 minutes to actually cross the starting line then we were off. Thankfully the rain held off until we were actually running then only lasted for a few minutes before going off again. Making sure we didn’t shoot off too quickly wasn’t a problem because we could hardly move so slow and steady away we went.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the first 2 miles went and that seemed to carry on throughout the whole event. The support from the crowds was amazing and also from the other runners – lots of ‘happy birthday’ shout outs as I went by.

My race plan had been to have a little 30 second walk every 4 mile but I got carried away with myself and ran the entire way, which I am immensely proud of. We never even registered the legendary John Reid Road climb, one of the benefits of living and training in County Durham.

Arriving in familiar South Shields territory was amazing, I am a native sand dancer, and memories of my younger days watching previous Great North Run finishes came flooding back, I would never have thought one day it would be me crossing the line with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

I really enjoyed my first Great North Run and am sure it will not be my last and definitely a birthday I won’t ever forget.

… George Nicholson …

As most of you know the Great North Run has always been very special to me.

This year certainly ranks as ‘one of the best’ . For me the build up started on the 10th August when I did my parkrunathon down in the West Midlands. Nowadays if you wish to carry out large fundraising for an event, you have to do something more than the event itself!

Then I received the exciting news that I was lucky enough to be selected in Mel C’s North Team in the JUST TEXT GIVING challenge, and we had our training day & photoshoot on August 15th at Gateshead Stadium. Mel lived up to expectations, Sporty, fit, and certainly a very nice Spice. I was thrilled to meet up with the rest of Team North. A group of truly wonderful inspirational young people. We all had our stories to tell of why we were fundraising, all of us have ‘bonded’ extremely well over the last few weeks, thanks in the main to being able to keep in touch with each other via a private closed Group on Facebook. Firm friends for life after this shared experience I am sure.

One story that does stand out is young Robyn Hadley, just turned 21, please find time to read it:

Our next meeting was at the Pasta Party in Gateshead the day of the City Games and Junior GNR’s. Again, exciting, good fun, and the chance to meet and be photographed with Celebs. With the added bonus of winning £50 for Acorns in VODAFONE official ‘Text Code ‘ Picture on their stand, it was yet another good day.

I’d been asked by BBC Radio Newcastle to send in some ‘Live Feed’ Pictures and text at the start, during the run, and at the finish. Taking pictures were not a problem, Texting and sending them without my glasses was though. So I was thrilled to be able to have my great friend Karen Chalkley alongside me to assist as my ‘Running buddy’ for the day. Karen has been such a good and loyal supporter to me for many years and she deserved her added bonus of a VIP wristband into Zone A at the start and Hospitality Tent at the finish. Little did I know though that she had a superior wristband than mine and gained access into a more Exclusive area than me! J

As for the run itself, nothing I can really add to the other reports, or in Vodafone’s Official Blog. My pictures will also hopefully give a good indication of the thrill of starting at the very front. I was disappointed not to be able to keep under 2 hours, but for me The GNR has never been a ‘time’. It’s everything else that takes place around it that makes it so special.

Team South have to prove what they can do at the Great South Run in October, but whatever they achieve TEAM NORTH can feel rightly pleased and proud of the amount we’ve raised between us all for our charities. A total of almost £18,000 so far and still rising – FAB. Thanks once again to all those who supported me and have donated to my ACORNS Fund.

… Pam Kirkup …

I’ve always liked the Great North Run, enjoyed it – even loved it. I know that in some running quarters that may suggest that I have a certifiable mental disorder. Especially when you consider the congestion, the jostling, the‘pens’ into which runners have to be herded by 10.15 … and then there is the cost of the entry. This year it was an eye watering £48!

I was really looking forward to it, although with some trepidation. I’d only been able to start training in July so preparation could have been better, but I was feeling reasonably ok about it. So did I like it this time? No not really! Did I enjoy it? No! Did I love it? …Oh please, get real! Before you stop reading – it’s not all really that negative! Although it wasn’t my usual experience.

The weather wasn’t great. The Striders’ bus arrived in Newcastle in very good time so we had at least an hour and twenty minutes to fill before the start. The predicted rain held off but it was windy and cold. After huddling up for warmth and many toilet visits, Christine & I said goodbye to Barrie and headed off to the baggage buses – White zone section G for me, F for her. I met up with Greta’s ‘9 min mile train group’ in White G. Greta was hoping to get several Striders as close to 1.57 as possible. While waiting, I learned a lot about the Medoc Wine Marathon that most of them had experienced the previous week. Sounds fab!

Anyway, I hadn’t managed to get even remotely warm since getting off the bus so kept my jacket on for the start, hoping to tie it around my waist by, say, the Tyne Bridge? Gateshead Stadium maybe? Didn’t happen.

It seemed to take longer than normal to get the start and then I said goodbye to Greta, Jacquie, Jill, Kirstie and the others – and they were the last Striders I saw before arriving in the pub! It seemed ok, running down the A167, the usual crowds cheering etc. I was still feeling cold by the Tyne Bridge and then the rain came hammering down and the wind was very blustery as we ran across. I’d hope to average 10.5 minute miles – hey, it was my first run this year! – and I was doing ok. The rain continued to be horrible down past the Gateshead Stadium and on up to Heworth … if you’ve blown it you usually know by then! Still felt reasonably ok!

The rain did ease up a bit, (well not much!) after then but the wind was still a problem! The 6 mile turn off – still ok. But by the time I got to John Reid Rd I was starting to get pain in my lower legs. That horrible hill up to the crematorium has always been a bad bit for me – well this time the cramp really started to set in. By the time I got to the Bupa Boost Zone I needed a wee (had to jump in a bush!! Never,ever had to do that before in any race!!) and some help with my cramp. A very nice young man in a St John’s Ambulance tent gave me a ‘quick rub down’ (!) and so I carried on. However, from then on I had to walk more and run less.

I must say, as I drifted further back in the field the race became more entertaining. In one of my walking/cramp moments I was overtaken by Fred Flinstone. This was a very short but very plump man, dressed in an animal print tunic and wearing a spiky yet dreadlocked wig. Next time I saw him he was sitting on a kerb hitting himself over the head with his caveman club. I can only hope it was made of cardboard … or polystyrene!

Then there was Indiana Jones who alternatively lashed out with his whip – at the crowds – or threatened them with his gun. Add to that a ‘flock’ of huge parrots who proceeded to ‘attack/ peck at’ spectators. And of course I cannot ignore the ‘swarm’ of lovely young girls dressed as butterflies, bees and wasps who raised the spirits of everyone. After the Elvis impersonator, singing “The Wonder of You”, on the way to the Marsden Inn, I had to feel almost happy! The last mile was encouraging but painful. Unfortunately I had to stop a couple of times – first time ever on the run in. I finished in 2.30.34 – my worst time ever I think – but I’ve never had cramp before in this race.

Lots of offers for “physio leg massage” at the finish but at all the tents the queues were huge. So I wandered into the Medical tent – which resembled a field hospital with camp style beds and lots of people with injuries of various levels of seriousness. Most were minor so I didn’t feel too bad about asking for help for cramp. They gave me some exercises to help and some painkillers – after they asked if I had been drinking alcohol that day or would be breast feeding!! Medical history would be made if I were to be capable of breast feeding! Eventually I arrived at the Look Out. There would be about a dozen of the bus passengers there at the time. I was greeted by Barrie, Andy’s appointed bus clippie, with “Where’ve you been? We were going to send the bus back to pick you up tomorrow!” Thanks mate, Bazza!!

I’m always amazed at the restorative powers of a pint of Stella! Pretty soon I started to feel really fine. It was a nice convivial atmosphere and it was good to talk to some newer members and other that I haven’t seen for a while.

The journey home was quicker than we all expected. So a good day for all.

Will I be doing it again next year? Well, what do you think??

… Karen Chalkley

I was looking forward to running the Great North Run again as I wanted to try and beat the 2 hours if I could, having had it allude me 3 times before. I considered running with Greta who was going to pace some other Striders so they could finish in less than 2 hours but had already decided not to when George propositioned me! Did I want to be his aide in emailing live updates to BBC Newcastle and in return I could start at the front with him. Wow, I thought, what an opportunity. It wasn’t a hard decision, of course I would. Best of all is that there are separate toilets for the front runners so no queuing!!

I had trained well (thanks to Karin and her training programme) and felt ready for the day. The night before the race however it suddenly dawned on me that I had a big responsibility in taking the photos and sending them by email on George’s phone, me, who can only just text on my own phone let alone anyone else’s, why on earth did George ask me! The morning arrived and thankfully the trepidation of my impending technological feats had disappeared. It wasn’t going to be that difficult and after all George would be there to help, I was really just going to be his eyes for the typing.

George, Anne, Karin and myself, headed off to County Hospital for the coach pick up, all of us excited, George nervous as usual. Karin, looking forward to her first GNR, was looking glamorous as usual. The weather a dull grey but thankfully not as windy as had been predicted. On to the bus we filed. George gave me my lesson in how to use his phone and I sent my first live update. George then gave me some more good news. He had managed to get me a VIP guest wristband for entry to a marquee at the end of the race too! I would be able to join him and his Justgiving Teamnorth friends for food and drink before we headed off to the pub! How lovely.

So after alighting the coach and saying our good lucks to our fellow striders George and I made our way to the front pen. Photos were taken, people arrived, including Mel C to wish her team good luck,and soon the pen was full to capacity with no room to join in the warm up. Having had a jog down to our personal loos near the start, minus any queue!, we were pleasantly warm anyway. The gun went off and 5 seconds later, yes just 5 seconds, we were over the start line and on our way to South Shields. People started to overtake on both sides as we ran along the bypass towards the Tyne Bridge. But the flow of people soon ebbed as we found our pace and we were well past the bridge and by the Gateshead Stadium when the Red Arrows did their fly over and we even had to turn back to see them! That was a first for me; I usually see them as I cross the Tyne Bridge.

After about 6 miles I gradually went ahead of George, another first for me. I was feeling good and managed to keep a good pace. I had written my name on the front of my top and what a difference it made having the supporters shout your name, which they did often, it really spurs you on. I definitely recommend that to anyone for next year. It was great seeing Louise and Pip cheering everyone on along the last stretch at the coast road. Having chatted to people along the way 13.1 miles went quite quickly and I didn’t even notice the inclines this year. Another first was not having the need to stop and walk at all. So as I turned the final corner and saw the clock on the finish line saying less than 2 hours I put on a final spurt to make sure I did beat my goal. My official time 1h 59m 28s, hooray.

To top it all I had my pass to the VIP marquee. Unbeknown to George or myself he had given me the wrong wristband and I ended up in a marquee with celebrities, having a free massage, posh food and drink before finally having to ask Mel C if she had seen George! She was most helpful and pointed me in the right direction to the marquee next door! Having found George we made our way to The Lookout to meet up with our fellow Striders who all had their own tales to tell of the race. Each one special for a different reason. What a fab day and a big thank you to George for helping to make it so special 😉

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