The Scribbler

11 September 2010

The battle of the John Reid Road

Filed under: Great North Run,run — The Scribbler @ 22:50
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I’ve had it in my mind to run the last part of the Great North Run route since before last year’s race. And again in training this year, I’ve wanted to make it part of my preparation. So on Friday, on a day off, I drove through the Tyne Tunnel, parked up by the Lindisfarne roundabout and ran to the coast and back.

I’ve been looking forward and looking back a lot this week. I went to visit the Great North Run exhibition at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle today. It’s well worth a trip if you’re in the city. For me it captures the sense of history and the people that make this such a great event, along with those iconic pictures of thousands upon thousands of runners streaming down the central motorway or over the Tyne Bridge.

I enjoyed some wry laughter with John Gray who shares his thoughts on the run in one of the films, talking about going off too fast in the first mile and shouts of ‘Oggy, oggy, oggy’ as you pass under the road bridges. I got quite emotional watching some of the clips from 30 years, seeing the different people who started it and those who’ve taken part.

I watched a film of people speaking directly to the camera about their experience, their hopes and fears for the race. And it was amazing to feel those connections.

I stayed on to watch another film called ‘Runner’ – silent in the most part, but representing the journey of one runner, training on the beach and then in the race itself. At times the images blur into senselessness. At others he’s there, alone running the strip along the coast to the finish line. I thought it was a wonderful representation of what it feels like to run it. The sense of being in a vast bewildering crowd of people, but at the same time, lost and alone in your own run.

That sense of senses blurring and being lost is very true of my first experience of the run. I desperately wanted to drink it all in, experience every moment to its full. And I think it overwhelmed me.

There’s a big section of the route that I don’t remember. I can recall passing the bottom of the Tyne tunnel and I remember a great rock band playing on a roundabout, which I think was at the bottom of the John Reid Road, but may have been before that around Gateshead somewhere. And then there’s nothing.

Just a vague sense memory of being hot, hot, hot. Looking for shade. Following a pair of runners in Cystic Fybrosis shirts, just plodding, plodding.

When I tell this story, I say that if you’d have asked me my name at this point, I wouldn’t have known the answer. And I think that’s true.

My next clear memory is the blessed shade of some trees, deciding I had to let those two CF guys go and slowing down. And then the explosion of taste that was an orange segment, held out in a Tupperware box by a lovely South Shields Mammy. I could have kissed her.

After that I picked myself up again and re-engaged with the race and the crowds and the atmosphere until I saw the blue of the sea and knew I was going to finish.

So on Friday I ran that missing section, on fairly fresh legs and with my mind fully focused. Almost at once I was nervous, running away from familiar ground, deafened by the fast moving cars and lorries on the busy road beside me.

Up the long rise, looking for landmarks. Passing signs that loom so quickly when you’re driving, pointing the way to South Shields, Marsden, Sunderland and the coast. The sun, bright and burning on my cheeks.

On the ground I spot blue markers with those magic three letters GNR and think to myself, that’s a water point, or a shower spot. Past the hospital. I probably didn’t see that for the crowds.

On and up towards the parade of shops at the Nook. I remember the people here, and thinking briefly that I was okay, that everyone said this was the toughest spot and I’d made it. Then onto the tree lined coolness of Prince Edward Road.

I’d gone further than I thought before I had that moment of backing off and backing down. And somewhere not too much further along here I was revived and picked myself up again.

And then that glorious stretch of road where suddenly the sky opens up and you can see blue. And you think, is that the sea? Yes it’s the sea. And it rushes up to great you as you skip down the last steep little bank onto the front before the turn for the last mile.

I didn’t run all of the last mile on Friday. I didn’t feel right to anticipate that glorious finish. Besides, I knew I’d have to turn back and retrace my steps. But my plan said 14k, around 8.7 miles, so I expected to run some of it. As I ran I spotted a bus stop and thought to myself ‘Is that the same bus stop that’s the end of the NE Fetch mile?’ Then I saw the countdown markers on the pavement and I knew it was.

Last time I ran here, my running friend Jeff’s girlfriend Hayley was waiting, with a smile at the finish line. None of us knew then that sadly, she wouldn’t be with us much longer. Just as I reached it, my Garmin beeped for the half way point, so I said out loud “Hiya Hayley,” with a smile and a wave as I turned around. It’s good to remember people in happy times and happy places.

The run back up Redworth Lane was a bit rough for a flat runner like me, but I managed it, though I slowed down a good bit when I got to the top. And I continued back along the route, pace slowed by the odd road crossing, roundabout and pedestrian, but nothing that delayed me too much.

Once again I played the games in my head. At 5 miles I felt good, running smooth, relaxed and easy. Somewhere between 7 and 8 I felt muddled and slow again and boosted myself with dried mango and sips of water. I got through it and picked up the pace again for the last mile and a bit, but around 8 miles seems to be a sticking point for me. I always seem to go through a tough patch around then. But knowing that, and knowing that I do come out the other side means it gets easier to deal with.

And so back to the car, stretch and another run done. Another run closer to my final goal. Another battle, not so much battled as tackled and done. Strange to think that next time I get to this point, I’ll already have run almost as far as I did on Friday. But I’ll be able to say to myself, “Come on girl, you did this bit there and back just over a week ago…”

Stats and stuff 14k/8.7 miles 1 hr 21.34
mile splits:
1. 09.16
2. 09.03
3. 09.15
4. 09.06
5. 09.39
6. 09.37
7. 09.36
8. 09.51
9. 06.07 (0.7 miles)

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1 Comment »

  1. Gosh that brings back memories! What a great idea to run one if the toughest sections if the race. When I got to the last stretch this lady cane out of nowhere seeing I was struggling and said “Come on, let’s run the last bit together” – like some kind of guardian angel!!! What an incredible event it is!!! I will be thinking of you next weekend xxx

    Like

    Comment by Katie — 12 September 2010 @ 08:04 | Reply


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