"} Get a life, Get active! By Fit Lesley: Challenge 4 - The Great North Run - September 2011

Challenge 4 - The Great North Run - September 2011

On Sunday 18th September 2011 I completed my first Half Marathon, my first Great North Run and my first competitive race  - in 2 hours 21 minutes and  49 seconds!   It’s a hell of a long way for a former non-runner to actually run – 13.1 miles to be exact! After 4 months of hardish training I felt as ready as I could be for my first Great North Run.  I’d heard so much about it from others who had previously run the race!

It was an early start for us leaving home at 6.30am, and as the traffic wasn’t as bad as we expected I arrived at the starting area pretty early at around 8.45am, after being dropped off by my husband. However getting there early was a good plan giving me plenty time to find my correct colour zone, find the toilets, eat my energy bar, become even more nervous and suffer many imaginary ailments and injuries! Unbelievably during this time I even spotted a “Runkeeper” friend and stopped to have a chat, Incredible when you think there was 53,000 runners plus spectators around!
This year the Great North Run celebrated its 31st anniversary, and the starting celebrity was World Championships gold medal winner Mo Farah.
On the bridge before I ventured down to my zone I looked I down at the masses of people lining Newcastle’s central motorway, and up at the grey skies, praying the rain would hold off for the next couple of hours! I made my way down to my starting ‘pen’, White Zone Group G, with the runner number 32282.  I’d estimated 2.30 – 2.55  hours when signing up, and expected to be quite a way back however, not this far back ! I was surrounded by two clowns, a daffodil,  Sponge Bob, and many other fun runners in costumes! I stretched  and talked to those around me trying to take my mind off what lay ahead!
The excitement built as more and more people filled up the pen, then they had some random fitness guru (sounding like Mr Motivator) getting the crowd to warm up. At this point I was slightly annoyed to find people who had turned up too late to get into the pen, were jumping over the barriers to join us causing severe congestion and over-crowding.  Uncharitably, I secretly hoped they’d do themselves an injury before they started!!

The Red Arrows flying display team flew over the start line minutes before the starting gun fired at 10.35am, which was an emotional spectacular sight, as it was the first time they had flown since the death of one of their pilots Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, who died in a crash in August, apparently they also flew over the Tyne Bridge in the "Missing Man" formation to pay tribute to him but I missed this as I was busy with something else at the time!

I wore an old sweatshirt I’d rescued from the charity bag to keep me warm whilst waiting around which I ditched as we started to make our way to the start line.  There were masses of discarded clothes; I’m sure the charity shops will be overflowing this week with sweatshirts!  It took a good twenty-five minutes from the start of the race until I actually crossed the line. I’d tried my hardest to keep myself warm during the long wait and slow walk towards the starting line but finally, I was off! (The good thing is that it is a chip timed event, so your individual time starts when you actually cross the line!).As we ran through the start line Mo Farah  touched hands with hundreds of  runners, I was in the middle of a crowd so didn't even attempt this! 
Mile 1 
Starting from the central motorway in Newcastle city-centre the race ran slightly downhill for the first mile before reaching the most famous view of the race, the Tyne Bridge.  Lots of spectators were lining the route shouting and cheering which was a wonderful experience. The crowds of runners were still very compacted at this point and it was difficult to get into a comfortable pace. When we went under the first flyover “OGGY OGGY OGGY” was chanted and thousands of runners responded with "OI OI OI!", what a brilliant atmosphere! . The sun had finally decided to break through the clouds and the temperature was rising!

Mile 2 
As we left Newcastle we were immediately greeted by the sound of the first of many music stands that pepper the course with the race going along both sides of the dual carriageway which meant the runners had spread out slightly but as we came across the first water station I experienced the added problem of dodging discarded empty water bottles which were strewn across the road. I had brought my own water bottle so I didn’t need to battle with the crowds to reach a bottle at this stage.
Mile 3 
As I reached nearly the quarter point of the race I saw Gateshead Stadium on my left and came across two more music stands during the next mile. By now the sun was really strong and I was beginning to overheat! I began to wonder why on earth I was doing this and at this point lowered my target from “2 hours 10 minutes” to “finishing alive!”
Mile 4 
Now I was heading up towards the highest point of the race which was a gentle drag of a hill but very tiring in the heat!  I was beginning to wish I’d worn my sun cap! Another drinks station was around about here which meant more bottles littering the road to dodge!
Mile 5
I had reached the highest point of the race, but sadly there were no sea views as yet! I noticed at this point that people were beginning to tire and I had to weave in and out of people a lot more to avoid colliding with walkers or those who just stopped dead!  For the next three miles it was relatively downhill and there was lots of support from the massive crowds, who were not only offering vocal support but ice-pops, sweets, fruit and wet cloths!  Which meant more obstructions to avoid, I was beginning to think I had entered an obstacle race rather than a half-marathon!
Mile 6 
As I turned left towards South Tyneside I was now on the flattest part of the race, with just the smallest of down hills thrown in. I was roughly half-way round now, and there were banners around encouraging us all on! At this point the sun disappeared behind thick grey clouds and everything turned dark!
Mile 7 
Just as I came to the end of the downhill section the rain came in, which was refreshing at first and I actually felt relief at being cooled down, then it went from being refreshing to being torrential!  Yet again I wished I’d worn my cap – but this time to keep the rain out of my face! Even in the torrential rain there were crowds on the Tyne Tunnel cheering and clapping.
Mile 8
There was a slight incline as I entered South Tyneside but l barely noticed with all the roadside distractions and the biggest cheering point of the race so far! At this point there was a shower station which unbelievably people ran through – why? It was raining torrentially!!
Mile 9 
As I ran along the John Reid road which is described as the hardest part of the race, I was beginning to feel weary but there was an isotonic drinks station to refuel as well as 2 men with hosepipes drenching runners as they went past!  I’m not sure whether these were official or unofficial but they seemed to be having fun even in the rain!
Mile 10 
Everyone’s pace was beginning to slow by now and I was noticing more and more injured or ill runners being attended to by first aiders at the side of the road.  As well as this I experienced numerous ambulances parting the runners with sirens blaring at regular intervals – causing another tripping hazard with runners barging into you to get out the way and I struggled to keep my place and pace! There are some very rude people about!
Mile 11
The rain had reduced to a refreshing drizzle by this point, but the roads were wet and slippery. The numbers of spectators increased as South Shields approached. I was born in South Shields but have not actually been there as an adult so I had a strange sense of “Running home”.  There was a long and steady climb through the centre of South Shields pretty much all the way until you turn left onto a very steep 100 yards down hill onto the coast road. I struggled not to let my legs run away with me as I was frightened of slipping!
Mile 12 
My legs were beginning to object at this point, but as I turned left along the coast road I saw the 12 mile mark and thought I was home and dry!!!  However, the last mile seemed very, very, very long! The crowds were three or four deep along here offering lots of support and encouragement! I smiled at a sign saying “Run Forest Run!” The only downside was you could also see people milling in the crowds wearing medals who had obviously finished the race – I was very jealous that there pain was over and I was still suffering!

Mile 13  
The sight of the finishing line was a good sight to see   I remember smiling as I approached what I thought was the finish line and nearly cried when I realised the runners ahead were veering off right to a different point!  Apparently the finish line I’d seen was the one for the celebrities, because it had a better view for the TV cameras whilst I was shepherded through the peasants finishing line with the masses, but thankfully it was not further!!  I tried to look like I wasn’t going to die as I crossed the line as I was aware that there was a finishing picture at the end.  I even managed a smile and to hold my arms up in the air (I think!) - I’m still waiting for the photo’s to be issued on the website! (if indeed my information source is correct and there is a finishing picture, if not I wasted my last ounce of energy!) I felt a huge sense of relief and a great feeling of achievement crossing the finish line! The finishing clock stated 2 hours 48 minutes which was the time from the starting gun firing, but not knowing how long it took me to get to the start I didn’t know the exact time my chip was activated.

My next challenge was to actually bend down to take off  my chip timing device which was fixed to my right trainer, unfortunately I failed this and the nice young man took pity on me and removed it on my behalf!  Next I collected a free bottle of water and a goodie bag! When I got my goodie bag the very first thing I did was rip open the packet and get my medal on!  I had just ran 13.1 miles and I was as proud as hell!   I’d done it – I didn’t know my time but I didn’t care – I had done it! It was an amazing feeling to be here. Everybody was so up for it. I have never seen anything quite like it!  it was very, very well organised and everything ran smoothly!

My final challenge was to navigate my way to the relatives meeting point and find my husband in the chaos! We had been told prior to the race to meet relatives under the banner with the initial of your surname on!  I despaired when I realised “W” for Wallace was right at the far end of the field and tried to ring my husband to say meet me at “A”.  Unfortunately 02 let me down and I had no signal, so I had to stagger the extra distance before I could show off my medal! At this point the red arrows flew over again and did many fabulous manoeuvres including drawing a fantastic heart shape in the sky!  Very moving! My husband had received the finishing line text stating my official time, so this was the first I knew of my exact time! In future i would provide 2 mobile numbers - my husbands so he would know when I'd finished and my own so I could find my exact time promptly! We took the obligatory photos as proof I’d been there, done it and actually got the T shirt!

I then had a couple mile walk to get back to the car, but it was nice to soak up the atmosphere and see the other runners finishing and having the opportunity to shout encouragement to them!

I vowed that was the end of my running career ... but after resting overnight ... perhaps I will give it another go!  In hindsight perhaps I didn't put enough training in, but I will know for next time - After all I have a PB to beat now!!!



Friday 20th May 2011 - 18.00

OMG I seem to have announced I am running the Lancaster Half Marathon on the 6th November 2011.  What am I doing this for?!!  Training starts on Sunday!  Maybe this is a step too far - who knows?! Watch this space ...

Thursday 26th May 2011 - 16.42

Well ... How's it going I hear you thinking!  I enrolled in the Runkeeper Half Marathon Fitness class and have done my first 2 runs.!!  First one was a 3 mile slow run on Sunday, and my 15 year old daughter decided to come with me!  I'm not sure what shocked her most - how unfit she was or that her Mam was fitter than her!!  However, after moaning all the way round and walking some of the distance she announced when we got home that it was her first and last run with me!!!  How's that for motivation and support from your near and dear?!  On Tuesday I did my second training session which involved 3 minutes walking followed by 3 minutes running for 30 minutes!  I managed this OK, however towards the end I found I wanted to run rather than walk but I stuck with the programme and obeyed the rules!!  I am now sitting here in my kit ready to do my third training session, which is a 3 miles slow run. Just as I opened the door to go out the heavens opened - do I wait or just bite the bullet and get drenched?!!   Find out what I did and follow my progress by clicking the links below!


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