The Scribbler

6 June 2012

Blaydon Race preview

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 18:55
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The Blaydon road race commemorates a popular music hall song from 1862 that tells the tale of a riotous trip from Newcastle to see the Blaydon Races. There’s been a road race that takes in the landmarks mentioned in the song since 1981, so this year marks its 150th anniversary.

It’s always on the same day – the 9th of June as mentioned in the first line of the song:
Aw went to Blaydon Races, ’twas on the ninth of Joon”

Oh yes, it’s written in the Geordie dialect, as are the race instructions sent out to the 4,000 runners who now take part in this annual 5.9 mile race. In fact, getting a place is almost as challenging as running the route as they are snapped up within minutes of being announced.

It has a great atmosphere, with crowds of runners packed into Newcastle city centre at the start, hanging around the Bigg Market area, better known for its bars and nightlife. It’s quite a challenge to put on as the route goes through some of the busiest roads in the city centre. It’s well supported too with spectators and bands along the route and watching from the bridges, before gathering in numbers around the finish area at Blaydon.

The route has been changed a few times. It was originally 5.7 miles, then lengthened to 5.9 miles. It’s run mainly over main roads and dual carriageways, so not the prettiest scenery. It attracts a good mix of runners, from the super speedy club runners to those just giving it a go, running for charity and being part of a local tradition.

Crowd of runners at the Blaydon race

Can you spot me ‘Gannin’ along the Scotswood Road’?

It’s usually pretty congested at the start, as runners pick their way through a couple of twists and turns, minding not to trip over kerbs and street furniture in the city centre. Once the crowds reach the dual carriageway onto the Scotswood road, it thins out a bit and there’s more space to run.

A couple of up and over bridges and an out and back along the river add to the variety, although there’s often a bit of a bottleneck coming down off the bridge to the riverside. And there are usually a few groans as the race reaches the final flyover before Blaydon.

There’s another change this year, with the finish at the playing fields on Shibdon Road, which looks like it could be uphill. But the distance remains at 5.9 miles.

Once through the finish line, you’re guaranteed a decent goodie bag with a much-prized T-shirt, bottle of beer and a selection of local food (usually including tripe, pease pudding and pickled onions).

This will be my fourth time running it and it’s firmly established as one of my favourite races. The distance, just short of 10k makes it unique and the fun atmosphere lifts it and makes it special. I’ve also always run really well on it.

My first run was in 2009, when I was still a pretty new runner and it was, at that point, one of the biggest fields I’d raced in:

In 2010, with a bit more experience, on a cold wet and rainy run, I had one of the best races of my life. It’s still up there in my top ten.

So last year, I felt a bit deflated when I failed to better my performance. Soon afterwards, I went on to run some record times over a shorter distance, so really I was quite hard on myself.

This year, I’m running again. And I know I’m not running as fast as I was this time last year. So I’m going to learn from my experience and not put too much pressure on myself. I shall just run and enjoy it for what it is.

I still hope to run well and I’ll be pushing as hard as I can, but I hope I’ll be smiling too and I’m guaranteed to be among friends at the start and finish.

So roll on the 9th on June and I’ll see you on the Scotswood Road.


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