The Scribbler

18 September 2011

The amazing Great North Run

Filed under: Great North Run — The Scribbler @ 17:54
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Was there anyone who didn’t know I was going for sub 2 hours for this?

Me with my Great North Run medal 2011

The end of an amazing race

I have felt relaxed and ready this week. Hoping hoping that I hadn’t peaked too soon with a couple of spot on target training runs in recent weeks. Good luck wishes from so many people this week, including some unexpected ones. Well, when it comes to running, I wear my heart on my sleeve.

So Saturday resting, eating well, trying to keep it cool and calm. Getting in touch with my top running buddy Alastair and hatching a plan that would guarantee I got to see him before the start and pass on some very important hugs.

And Sunday morning, after a decent night’s sleep, the sudden realisation this was it. Today was the day. The usual race routine, porridge, banana, multiple toilet stops and my secret ingredient – a home made oatmeal and raisin cookie to eat on the start line. The nerves were kicking in a little now.

Met up with Alastair and his running pal Gordon with plenty of time for piccies and a relaxed meander around the start line until about 10am when we went our separate ways to our pens. A fab warm off helped burn off some of the nervous energy and get the message through to my legs that they were going to have to do some work. And a nice little chat with a Helen from Elswick got my mind on the run.

Every year I’ve stood on the start line as a runner or spectator, something’s brought a tear to my eye. I held it together for Abide with Me this time, but when the Red Arrows flew over in the missing man formation, that did it for me.

We shuffled forward slowly, still nice and relaxed, laughing at the radio commentator reading out all the charity names and just walking to the start point. As the archway approached the excitement built and my feet began to move more quickly and then with a smile and a beep of the watch I was off.

Right hand side this year for a change and quickly up and over, hearing the shouts coming up from the underpass below. Finding space, conscious of trying to keep a steady pace. Last year I ran 08:09 for the first mile and paid for it around miles 9-11. I knew I had to keep steady, be sensible, focus and relax.

I allowed myself one oggy oggy oggy, then tried to keep my energy for the task ahead. High up above as we approached the Tyne Bridge someone shouted my name and I managed a wave, but could not see who it was.

Over the bridge and here come the Red Arrows again. Another raise of the arms in tribute and this run is really underway. Run my own run. Race my own race. I always seemed to find space and fixed my feet to the side of the white line. The band is playing the Blaydon races and I smile.

Checking the watch at regular intervals and seeing some alarmingly changing pace time – anything from 08:19 to 09:29, but settling, settling into a rhythm. A couple of girls always just ahead or behind me. One in a green cap and top, the pther in a pink hat and yellow blood cancer T-shirt. I kept them in sight as potential pace makers for most of the race.

Up and over onto the Felling bypass, picking up my feet and shortening my stride even for this little incline, conserving energy for later. Breathing steady, feeling good and strong.

The heat when it came was scorching. Motorway concrete and no hope of shade. A snatched sip or two of water at three miles and I’m on target. But my mind’s asking me, do you want this? Do you really care about it that much? And for a while I’m not completely sure, but I keep on running because I cannot do anything else.

After a good couple of runs without them, I decided to ditch the gels for this race. Run it minimally, just relying on a boost from a bit of dried mango. A bite planned for 6 miles came early as feel I’m drifting. And I kick back into focus.

Spectators, landmarks, music en-route – most of it just passes me by. I am running. In my own world. My own space. Just following that white line, reeling in the miles. I know this route so well, but I cannot tell you at any point where I am.

I spot the marker for 10k and check my time 54 something, that doesn’t look silly. The challenge is still on. I’m running well now, easing out the legs and picking up a quickish mile.

A band plays ‘Brown eyed girl’ and I give them a wave. A metro goes past and toots his horn. And at 8.5 miles as I’m really starting to feel it in my legs, there is Tanni Grey Thompson at the water station again, just like last year. I grab my bottle and get a shout out. A multiple gold medal winning athlete is my water girl today. I cannot let her down.

A couple of sips and I splash my face and neck, although the sun is being washed over by grey clouds now. 8-9 has been a tough mile, but I can pick this up. I spot Fred and Eric at the 9 mile marker (the only one I see all race), but at this time I cannot remember their names, so I shout ‘Jeff’ because I know he must be nearby. And then I see him and he shouts ‘Looking good’.

I’m biting off bits of mango now whenever I feel like I’m slipping, dipping into the ease of the earlier miles. Now the pace is toliing, now it feels heavy. But now is where it counts. Now I know I want this.

As I go through 10 miles the rain has started, a welcome cooling and ease. I want to wash my face in its reviving drops. Instead I check my pace again. If I go through in under 1h 30, it’s still on. The watch says 01:29:xx (quite possibly a 10 mile PB) and I know I can do this.

Where has the John Reid Road gone? Where is the scene of the hard battles? I do not see it, do not acknowledge its existence. there must have been a rise here, but athough my legs feel it, my mind does not take it in. This is where I have to stay strong, I have to keep pushing. This is where it hurts.

I do not allow myself to think of the cushion I have to my target time. I know there were some sub 9 minute miles back there, but I also know there’s a 9:2x on the deficit. Do not let this go now. I want this. if I can get to the bottom of Marsden bank in under 01:50 it is mine. As I pile down the steep bank overtaking runners, the watch says 01:48 with just over a mile to go.

But what a mile. At the turn, I see a runner just behind me fall flat on his face and someone picks him up. The crowds, sheltering under umbrellas are making some noise, shouting out names. And I am in a dream state, drifting, moving but not moving towards a distant distant goal I cannot see.

My eyes lazily scan the faces for Gary. This mile goes on forever. I start to turn over the legs, stretch out and try to pick up the pace, but it is too hard now and I just need to keep going. I see 01:54 on the watch and start to panic. How far do I have to go? I spot the 1km marker and mentally think five minutes to the end, but I cannot compute if that gives me enough time or not.

If I want this I still have to push. It’s not in the bag yet. I spot a guy with a huge camera at his face and it’s Gary. And I see the blue arches of the Elite finish ahead. We’re down to minutes now, seconds. Just keep running.

Me, Al, Paul and Mark at the finish of Great North Run 2011

Me, Al, Paul and Mark at the finish of Great North Run 2011

I have not the strength to push on much faster. I spot the army guys and now it’s not far now. As we turn away from the elite finish, it’s elbows out, runners clashing, pick up the feet, pump the arms and raise the hands as I come in under the finish line to a clock showing 02:08:xx. It took me 10 minutes to cross the line. Have I done enough?

In my fumble to stop my watch, I switch the screen back to time and I anxiously scroll through the menus to see. ‘Please, please, please,’ I say out loud to the amusement of the runner beside me. And the magic number appears 01:57:59 (Official time clocks me at 01:57:57).

Happy, happy day! I stumble towards the barriers near the elite tent, intending to stretch and get a little teary eyed. So, so happy with that. So, so happy that so many people will be so happy for me. So, so many good runners who have had faith in me, who have encouraged me to believe that I can do this.

I wander over to The F for Fetch flag to meet some of them, including Paul and Mark who I’ve now seen at the end of the Great North Run 3 times. And there’s Dawn looking fab in her sailor suit and Rebecca who I’ve never met until today. Another who knows I’m a triathlete. And Paul and Pen recently returned from Marathon du Medoc. And fab, fab Al for more hugs and photos. And they all want to know did I do sub 2? Well yes, the smile on my face says it all.

The sun is shining as we put on our T-shirts and medals and watch the Red Arrows draw a giant heart in the sky. What more could I ask for? Well the fish and chips on the way home were mighty good too.

Stats and stuff:
13.1 miles 01:57:57
1) – 1m – 8:19(8:19/m) – 103cal
2) – 1m – 9:05(9:05/m) – 112cal
3) – 1m – 8:40(8:40/m) – 104cal
4) – 1m – 8:58(8:58/m) – 105cal
5) – 1m – 8:56(8:56/m) – 104cal
6) – 1m – 8:40(8:40/m) – 105cal
7) – 1m – 8:51(8:51/m) – 103cal
8) – 1m – 9:00(9:00/m) – 104cal
9) – 1m – 9:28(9:28/m) – 105cal
10) – 1m – 9:09(9:09/m) – 104cal
11) – 1m – 9:25(9:25/m) – 104cal
12) – 1m – 9:17(9:17/m) – 104cal
13) – 1m – 8:52(8:52/m) – 105cal
14) – 0.17m – 1:20(8:01/m) – 17cal


  1. Michelle just read your blog as if you were writing it in front of me I was so pleased for you it brought a tear to my eyes. Watching the TV coverage I was on a high & bless him Joe McEldridge sang Dance with my father again which always brings a tear to my eye I just wish I could have been with Gary in the crowd to see you home. You are a star in my eyes & you know how much you are loved congratulations on your sub 2 Well done XXXXX


    Comment by Christine Sumner — 18 September 2011 @ 21:04 | Reply

  2. WOW! You did it in under 2 hours….you are a running Goddess…I can only dream! thanks so much for you lovely message at mine. Maybe I could get you to do a race in the States??


    Comment by Maria Jose @verybusymama — 1 October 2011 @ 23:17 | Reply

    • Thanks Maria. You have dreamed even bigger than my run and I am in awe of your marathon achievement. I really do wish you all the best with your new adventures and hope to keep reading about them.


      Comment by The Scribbler — 3 October 2011 @ 09:07 | Reply

  3. […] on PBS and everyone, but everyone asked if I’d got my sub 2. Well I did, and it was a definite highlight of my year. A muddy team […]


    Pingback by The Scribbler’s 2011 running round up « The Scribbler — 28 December 2011 @ 11:44 | Reply

  4. […] Great North Run blogs: 2011 2010 2009 Share this:ShareFacebookTwitterRedditStumbleUponEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to […]


    Pingback by Great North Run – who are you running for? « The Scribbler — 3 September 2012 @ 18:09 | Reply

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