The Great North Run – And The Benefit of Hindsight
Hindsight is a wonderful thing don’t you think? And it was with the benefit of hindsight – I realised quite quickly, yesterday actually – that thinking of running the GNR was extreme folly! Let’s look at the facts – I hadn’t done a serious race since 2017, the Coniston 14 in March. Since then I did the Beer Belly run, a fun run in Consett – 5K of fancy dress mayhem on August Bank Holiday 2017, and a couple of park runs this year. I had to defer my GNR number for last year. So there I was in the late spring this year, my knees had at last started behaving themselves, so I thought, hey, I’ll start training for the GNR. After all I would have paid over £100 for the same number.
So around 2 months of training commenced, basically starting from scratch. My longest run (last weekend) was 9 miles on the Waskerley Way, painfully slow. But I thought, what the Hell, I’ll get round. The plan was to start very slow, and to walk up the hills. Or to do Allan Seheult’s run 5mins walk 2mins plan. I had serious doubts all last week but I thought – what’s the worst that could happen … another black eye?? After all, it was plastered all over the walls of Howtown Outdoor Ed Centre when I was a young teacher “A quitter never wins; a winner never quits”. So no quitter, I thought just do it.
Sunday dawned and I pitched up for the bus. Arriving at the start there was the usual stampede for the toilet cubicles (with many repeat visits!). At first the weather was uncertain – rain or sun? Or both, as it turned out. Eventually, I went to my number area (green) and my ‘pen’ group (i). Kay Cairns was there along with a few new Striders. It was a long wait with rain, then sun, then more rain … and the Red Arrows. It took around 35 minutes of walking to cross the start line, mostly walking. And then we were off. I didn’t even start my watch but I realised pretty quickly that my ‘start slow’ plan wasn’t working. On the Tyne Bridge I spotted that my number/pen group were following the pace flags for 2h25 and 2h 35 – surprisingly close to each other. I was thinking about 3hours (pathetic I know!) but realistic. So I slowed down and after the Tyne Bridge walked up to the Felling Bypass. By then, Mo would approaching the last mile and a sub hour victory!
So far so good. It was warming up and I got to Heworth ok with the run/walk plan. It was when I got to Whitemare Pool that things began to unravel. I was hot and I was starting to feel achy. I thought it was the beginning of cramp. Very soon just about everything below the waist began to tighten up and ache. By then I was walking. I trotted into a St John’s Ambulance tent and explained that I thought I was cramping up and could I have a painkiller? “Oh no” they said, “ We couldn’t possibly give you Ibuprofen!”. “To protect my kidneys?” I asked. (You see I do listen Paul Evans!!). “That’s right”, they said. So they applied something topically to my legs and lower back. I have no idea what it was, there was no smell and it could well have been a placebo, but it did seem to work, for a short while. They also gave me an electrolyte drink and sent me on my way. By the time I got to the John Reid Road and around 8 miles I was struggling. My legs really hurt and running was just so painful. So walking and the odd period of jogging ensued for the rest of the way. I’d had lots of spectators shouting encouragement and calling out my name. And around 9 miles I heard “Pam Kirkup, Elvet Striders, what are you doing back here? Get a bloody move on”! I have no idea who it was but it was both flattering and encouraging but also a little bit disheartening. I knew I could do much better. By the time I got to 10 miles I began to think ‘no this is not cramp it’s just extreme muscle fatigue’. I kind of imagined my legs screaming out at me “No! Enough already! What are you playing at? We’re not prepared for this”. And if muscles could speak they would have been right. My training had been minimal and I just didn’t have the stamina or the endurance to get around without causing this level of pain and discomfort.
When I got to the horrible hill at mile 11 I looked around me and thought, ‘Yes I’ve found my level’. Nobody was running – young, old, slim, overweight – everyone was walking. And then we got to the Elvis Impersonator at the top of the hill. I didn’t actually see him but the song ‘King Creole’ was belting out. The last time I ran the GNR his song was ‘The Wonder of You’ which, in my case, would have been somewhat ironic this year!
I had hoped to run down the hill to Marsden and along the last mile to the finish but by then my legs had seriously gone. I managed a few hundred yards but then I realised I was wobbling so much that walking was the best I could do. I did think they might give way but I got to the finish and then lurched off to the baggage bus for my stuff.
I got to the pub after a very slow walk – mainly the crowds –to Bents Park and then up the hill to the Look Out. I’m not a beer drinker but I have to say, the restorative powers of a pint of lager are amazing. By the time we left the leg wobble had gone and the pain was receding.
Positives – at least I finished even though it was tempting to jump on one of the hoppers taking struggling runners to the finish; I managed to avoid the burly nutters and thugs so wasn’t pushed over and no black eye; I have recovered quite quickly – no pain today; and it hasn’t put me off. It’s just made me realise I have to do much more consistent training for such a race. Maybe I should do a few 10Ks and build up. From nothing to a half marathon like the GNR is probably foolish – with the benefit of hindsight!
|1||1||MO FARAH (Newham & Essex Beagles AC)||00:59:27|
|10994||18976||Ben Gary Hunt||02:05:44|
|25835||17414||Alan Harvey Smith||02:30:58|
|42115||366||Barrie John Evans||03:29:07|