I used to love the TV series Fame when I was a kid. It was the only programme I’d ask to stay up late for. So the dance teacher’s words from the opening of every episode have been ringing in my ears as I started my Great North Run training this week.
Now don’t be mistaken. This isn’t some slog, some drudgery that I have to endure. This is something that I really want to do. In fact I’m looking forward to it. I’m a creature of habit and I like to have a focus. The part of me that made a conscientious student still likes to have a plan and the satisfaction of a task well done and ticked off, even if there’s no one but myself to impress.
And so the journey begins again. But there’s so much different this year. I’m fitter, stronger and more importantly I think I understand myself and how I react to things when I’m running better than before.
From 2008 to 2009 I went from 0 miles to 13.1. And I learned to love running. It’s a relationship I’ve had to work on, and I’m sure we’ll continue to have our ups and downs. But it’s worth it.
And I’m more confident. Because, after all, I have done it before. But that doesn’t mean I’ll take it for granted. A lot could happen between now and September. But what I’m hoping will happen is that I’ll enjoy training, build up the mileage and get to that start line feeling excited confident and ready for a fantastic day.
There are many reasons why I feel an affection for this particular race. This area is my home now, and the Great North Run is part of that. Geordies, Makkems, Sanddancers may have their local rivalry and differences, but they well deserve their reputation for warmth and friendliness and never more so than on race day.
I also love it for the stories. For the hundreds of thousands who have run it and have their own race story to tell. For the millions of reasons why they do it. One of my favourite things about the race is the few moments before the start when people are encouraged to stop and think about the causes they’re running for, the memories of loved ones lost or hurting. Call me a sentimental old fool, but it is an incredibly moving moment.
I was there in 2001, when 50,000 runners fell silent in remembrance of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. And when the moment of reflection was over, they let out a cheer of such strength and life and celebration, that it seemed proved the very best of human nature.
I didn’t run in 2001, but maybe it’s where the idea first started. Last year, my first year of running, my start line story was a personal one about going from a non runner to a runner. The culmination of a long quest.
This year it will still be a personal challenge, but a poignant one too. Because I’ll be running in memory to my baby sister Ava who was sadly stillborn in February this year.
I found out I had a place in the run just days after the sad news of her death and it just seemed to help me make sense of the senseless. Believe me, I’d rather be running to celebrate her life, but I hope it will be a fitting tribute to her. And that’s why I’m also hoping to raise money for Sands, the neonatal and stillbirth trust. To help other families who are in the same situation and to help find out why such tiny lives are lost.
I’ve set up a JustGiving page http://www.justgiving.com/michelleGNR2010 and set a challenging fundraising target. So if you can help by sponsoring me, thank you. And if you can’t, then thank you at least for listening.