Inspired by the Evening Chronicle’s 36 things you only know if you’ve done the Great North Run, here’s my personal reflection on the things that always happen to me, ahead of this Sunday’s epic event.
1. Cry on the start line
Years before I ever ran it, I reported on the Great North Run for BBC Newcastle and the local website. I mingled with the runners, took their photos and asked them why they were running. Every year, someone’s story broke through my professional mask and I had a little weep, and usually a hug.
It’s been the same since I started running it. In 2010 when I ran in memory of my baby sister Ava, I spotted a bloke dressed as a beer bottle with a sign on his back saying he was running for his son who he lost at birth too and we stood and hugged each other all the time Abide with me was playing.
Now, I take tissues, and I always have a couple spare.
2. Spot someone who’s run every single Great North Run
There are 103 of these very special runners who have done this race every year since it started. I usually see Anne Wilson who dresses as Minnie Mouse. They now get a special number.
3. Say hello to someone from BBC Radio Newcastle
Usually on the bridge over the start line. It’s always nice to get a wave from one of my former colleagues. I know they’ll be having a busy day!
4. Can’t believe I need the loo again
Honestly, talk about nervous race bladder. I always need to go at least one more time before the start.
5. Set off too fast and shout out oggies in the underpass
Even when I know I really should be trying to run a sensible first mile and save my energy, I get carried away by the atmosphere.
6. Miss people looking out for me
With a stream of coloured shirts passing by in their thousands, it’s often easier for runners to spot familiar faces in the crowd that the other way round, but every year I’ve missed seeing someone who later says they gave me a shout!
7. Get a bottle of water from Tanni Grey Thompson
The first time this happened was a complete fluke. I ran to the end of the water station just after 9 miles and took a bottle from a lady in a wheelchair, did a double take and realised who it was. After that, I knew she was there and made a point of looking out for her, even on my PB or bust run in 2011. Last year I stopped for a chat and a selfie
8. Thank the good folks of South Shields
By South Shields, you’re really flagging and locals know that climb up the John Reid Road is hard on tired legs, so they turn out in their thousands to urge you on. They shout, cheer, clap, spray hoses of water, anything to help you through the last few miles. Bless the mammies who hold out plastic boxes of jelly babies and orange segments. There have been times when I could have kissed you.
9. Sprint for the finish line
It’s a race, and I can’t help myself. No matter how tired my legs are and how much I’ve suffered and slowed down before I get there, I’ve always managed a death or glory spurt over the line.
10. Ask myself could I turn round and run back
I consider myself a runner. And I’ve not yet done a marathon. Would I? Never say never. But at the end of the Great North Run, the answer so far has been a resounding ‘no’.
And something that’s only happened once:
I got spotted on the TV coverage, running towards the finish line and waving for the camera last year.
This year I’m running as part of #TeamSage and raising money for Cancer Research UK.