One of the things I like most about the Great North Run is that everyone has a story to tell. About training mishaps; about injuries; about slogging it out on those long runs; about what it was like to run it way back when… and most of all they have a story to tell about why they are doing it.
I have a long relationship with this race, that goes back much further than my running career. When I worked as a journalist, the date was etched on my mind, as one of our biggest outside broadcast events of the year. And many times I stood on the central motorway microphone or camera in my hand, listening to the stories. It was always a long and tiring day, but it never felt like hard work. It was a privilege to hear the stories. Many a time, they made me cry.
People run in memory of their mother, father, grandpa, son, daughter, auntie, friend, work colleague. They remember those who are no longer around to see the sweat and blisters, the tears and triumph of the run.
The runners celebrate triumph over illness, disability or just the bad luck that the world throws at good people. They raise money in their thousands, to fund medical equipment and research; to bring a bit of relief to people who are in pain; to take water to the dry places; to train guide dog puppies, or help animals in distress. To do things that make life a little easier for those that need it.
Here are a few I’ve heard this year:
I’ve already introduced you to Tony the Fridge who has added the extra burden of a 40kg fridge and a 30 day consecutive run to his fundraising efforts for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. I hope he finishes his 30th run in as good spirits as he’s seemed to take on this challenge.
Then there’s Mark Allison, better known as Run Geordie Run, who is running across Death Valley in America before leading a team of runners taking part in the mini, junior and Great North Run to raise funds for the Children’s Foundation.
I’ve also been in touch with Frankie Aitchison, who is supporting the same charity as I am. Frankie’s daughter, Ella was stillborn. So to mark what would have been her second birthday and raise money for Sands, the neonatal and stillbirth charity, Frankie is taking on the equivalent of a half ironman triathlon over the Great North Run weekend. On 14 September she will swim a mile; the next day, she’ll cycle 56 miles and then on Sunday 16 September she will run 13.1 miles on the Great North Run.
These are just three amazing people with inspirational stories of courage, endurance, bravery and heart taking part in this iconic race. But you have your chance to tell your story too and feature your charity.
Sky Tyne and Wear wants to hear your stories of who you are running for and why. It will feature these in a special gallery on its website, along with your Just Giving link to give your charity a plug too.
You need to submit a photo and a few words about why you’re running and you could also be in with a chance of winning an all inclusive membership package at David Lloyd gym in Newcastle.
Now Sky got in touch to tell me about this competition. But they’re not offering me anything in return for telling you about it. I just thought it was a good idea, and it could help you get some publicity and boost your fundraising for your charity.
So, if you’re interested, go to sky.com/tyneandwear, click on the “I’m Running For…” section and follow the simple instructions or email a picture or video to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “I’m Running For…” in the subject line. The competition is open until Monday 17 September 2012.
And if you’re not, I hope you’ve still been inspired by some of the runners’ stories I featured here.
Like Frankie, I’m also raising funds and awareness for Sands. I do that in memory of my baby sister Ava and I’ve found it’s been a great way to bring something positive out of a very sad time for my family. I have wonderful support in this, particularly from some very special friends, but also from people I’ve never met who have found out about my fundraising through doing the run.
It really means a lot to me to get a donation or an encouraging word of support. It’s like having my own crowd cheering me on and it certainly helps me if I find part of the race tough, to think of everyone who has got behind me and my charity.