The Blaydon Race is always on 9th June regardless of what day of the week it falls on. This year it was Sunday evening.
Arguably the most difficult part is getting your place in the starting line-up. Entries open on a specific evening (usually in February) and are gone in minutes. This year had more than its usual share of challenges. The date for entries opening was announced, then put back. Then things went quiet and there was talk of there having to be a route change because of work going on at the finish line.
Entries finally opened in March – when I was in Rwanda and not sure if I could rely on having an internet connection at the precise time I’d need it. Thanks then to my fab running pal Karen who went online for me and bagged me a place.
Just a small matter of training and running it. With the date of the race falling just 2 weeks after Edinburgh Half Marathon, I felt confident that I’d have the distance covered. Speed? My race plan was to go off hard and see how long I could hold on for.
I always enjoy seeing runners converging on a place for a race, seeing the coloured club tops, numbers pinned on, all heading in the same direction. The Blaydon Race starts in Newcastle city centre and soon Grey Street was a mass of runners meeting clubmates, looking for friends.
I popped into my starting area and chatted to a few people, sang all the choruses of the Bloaydon Race song and then waited for the off. We walked slowly down to the start and started to build up to a run over the line as the ancient hand bell was rung by Newcastle’s Lord Mayor to start the race.
We’d been warned of a bottleneck at the start, with narrow roads around the train station, but it really was a walk for a few hundred yards before there was enough space to start spreading out. So much for going off too fast!But I smiled and enjoyed the mad craziness of it all. If this run wasn’t a part of local folklore, I doubt they’d get permission to hold it.
Once I had the freedom I stretched out and ran comfortably hard. My legs felt strong and I just had to live with the sense of discomfort high up in my chest. Stay focused and push on was my motto of the day.
In truth, most of the race is a blur. Westgate Road was wide and hot and I was glad of my sunglasses to shield my eyes from the dipping sun. I got a shout out from the side of the road and applauded the band playing at the car dealership. And although it never gets any shorter, I felt like I was soon approaching the bridge over the road and easing up it.
Paying no attention to my watch, just running to feel, I looked out for runners passing on the opposite side of the out and back along the river, glad of a little cool shade. Back along the road and the steel band were out lending rhythm and energy towards the end of the run. Up and over the flyover and down towards the finish.
The route had been shortened this year, to finish in the illustrious setting of Morrisons car park. I was definitely starting to feel the strain, so was glad I didn’t have to claw out another half mile or so. This was roughly the finish I remember from my first couple of events, so it seemed fitting to be back.
A bit of a Scribbler sprint over the line, smiles all round and analyse the stats later. It felt like a reasonable run and I stayed pretty focused, although fading a bit towards the end.
I still have an irrational affection for the Blaydon Race. It’s not pretty. It’s not a standard distance. It’s not even the same route every year. It’s a little bit shambolic and chaotic and despite being a ‘big’ run in terms of numbers it feels like a runners run.
Having almost missed it last year, due to a crocked shoulder, it was good to be back and give it my best shot.