This race stands as the one I’ve done most often and the one I’ll keep returning to. The addition of chip timing and a very speedy online results service has only improved one of my favourite races.
And so I found myself in the centre of Newcastle on a sunny Sunday afternoon, photo bombing a line up of Fetchies in their distinctive red and yellow shirts, smiling, laughing, catching up with friends and meeting some new ones.
I didn’t know how this race would go. I had very few expectations, having focused my training on triathlon and leaving running to look after itself. But after feeling like I was wasting a weekend of beautiful weather resting up, I wanted to give it a good bash.
I left the chat and photos and went for a quick warm up to get my legs and feet into running form. I could feel the nerves setting in and told myself just to run well and enjoy it.
I wriggled into the starting area near a huddle of lovely Elvet Striders and had a chat with Alister about a possible new parkrun. Anyone in the Ashington area interested in getting one set up?
I was soon joined by the fab Penny and Megan whose chatter kept me calm as we waited for the start, even though I was too geed up to contribute much. There was a half hearted attempt at a verse of the Blaydon Races, and then a few minutes after the alleged start time we started to move forward and could hear the cathedral bells.
A walk down the cobbles and turn onto the street, running before I hit the start line, I was off and away, dodging in between the crowds and feeling great.
Round the first few twists and turns, finding space and avoiding the curbs and street furniture, I was soon looking for the wide spaces of the Scotswood Road to open up my run and start chewing through the miles.
But my initial enthusiasm for a quick start soon hit me in the ribs as I felt the twinges of a stitch. I eased back a little, focused on taking some deep breaths into my sides. That’s when I decided to let go of the tension I was holding. I smiled up at the sunshine and just said to myself, ‘Run!’
No clock watching, no thinking other than checks on my form – land light, bound forward, use my arms, keep straight, lift through my hips, smile. I’m racing and it feels good.
I bounce past Tony the Fridge getting shouts and pats and hand shakes from runners all around. I wave and say hi, then turn round and ask him to run a mile for my friend Zoe, before I bound on again. I can hear him for a good while afterwards, exchanging banter with the crowds.
Last year the Scotswood Road was a river. This time it’s a desert with the heat beating down and burning up through the concrete. Runners dodge to the side, seeking shade beside the industrial buildings, opting for cool over space. I jink left and join them for a while, but dodging signs and street furniture messes with my running rhythm and I return to the sun, where all I have to think of is the road ahead.
The band’s finishing Honky Tonk Women as I pass and I manage a burst of applause and push on, driven by the music. At the end of the road, there’ll be shade by the river, I tell myself. Just push on to the end of the road.
But I’m fading a little and I know it. My feet are falling flatter, my turnover slowing. I shorten my strides and ease on up over the bridge. A shout from Kelda gives me a real pick me up. I hadn’t expected to see anyone I knew there today.
On the brow of the bridge I see a girl in a Wallsend Harriers vest stretching out what looks like cramp. I call the name before I’m even sure it’s her, but it’s my running pal Kathryn. I shout out something to encourage her on, but I’m carried away and down before I can see if she comes along. I half expect to hear her footsteps as I’m baulked at the footbridge, stopped by the volume of runners passing through the narrow gap down to the riverside.
I’m slowed again a little as we run through the out and back section, though I’m glad of the chance to regather my focus and I grab a cup of water at the station. I keep one eye out for Kathryn on the out and back, but fail to spot her.
I pick up again as I run through the industrial estates and start picking off runners one by one to take my mind off the heat and the burn in my legs. There are no thoughts now, just targets, the next one and the next.
The next mile or so blurs into heat and colours. Black shirt, blue shirt, white vest – targets taken. But I’m fading again. Fighting to stay on my toes, feeling myself roll sideways. I push with my arms and lift my knees, but start to drift backwards and my targets come back at me. I start to count down the minutes until the finish, without really knowing, but I figure 16 at most. I push on.
I know there’s another little uprise before the finish, but I cannot hold the route for this race in my head. The crowds grow as we turn close by the old finish and a girl in glasses sticks to my shoulder for a while. I push on and take some distance, spotting another target just ahead.
I hear my name shouted a couple of times, but cannot place the voices and don’t risk losing time to look. I know the finish is close now, but I’m really running out of steam and the girl with the glasses goes ahead.
Then I’m onto the field, into the green and the sunshine and I can see the black inflatable finish line ahead. It’s still too far to hammer it, I think and then I hear a shout “Sprint!” It’s Adam, come to support his Elvet team mates on his crutches – although I don’t figure that out until later when I see him after the race. And I go.
It’s a longer run up than usual and I think I’ve overlooked it, but I keep on blasting and overtake a good few runners to the line, including the girl with glasses and the one in the white vest.
I manage to keep moving as the marshals shout for us to clear the lines and the masses pour through the finish. And it’s only as I collect my T-shirt that I actually look to see my time 49:08. I’ve never gone sub 50 before on this course 🙂
In the sunshine, I drink my bottle of water and scan the colourful crowds for familiar faces. I catch up with friends who’ve also had good runs and everyone is smiling. Canny racing.
Stats and stuff
5.76 miles 49:05
1) 1m – 7:57(7:57/m)
2) 1m – 8:19(8:19/m)
3) 1m – 8:27(8:27/m)
4) 1m – 8:57(8:57/m)
5) 1m – 9:00(9:00/m)
Photos from Scotswood Bridge by Ian Williamson on Flickr