Race report: Great North Run 2015

Race report: Great North Run 2015

So I did it, I only went and ran a bloody half marathon!

On 13th September I ran the Great North Run, the largest half marathon in the world. What better place to experience my first half?

Pre-race

The race starts in Newcastle city centre and goes all way out (13.1 miles, obviously) to South Shields, a town on the north-east coast.

I have family who live near Newcastle so I was fortunate enough to have somewhere to rest up the night before. Then it was just a short, and very packed, tram ride to the city centre for a late morning start.

Massive thanks go to my aunt who travelled in with me and made sure I didn’t get lost. I’m not sure I’d have made it on time without her local knowledge.

The first thing that struck me was just how many people there were. Of course, it’s the world’s biggest half, and I’d heard the number 57,000 bandied around, but I couldn’t quite imagine what that looked like (the Manchester 10k has 40,000 runners but even that starts in four staggered waves).

Turns out it looks a bit like this…

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The weather

All week long I’d been checking the weather forecast obsessively and it was swinging between cloudy and rainy, but both around 13c. Cloudy would have been perfect, though a little shower can be welcomed at the end of a race to cool you down.

Turns out neither were correct as we ended up with blue skies, sun, no cloud and 17c. Not my ideal running conditions if I’m honest. But I dressed up for the occassion in my Mind charity top and floral tights.

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And we’re off…

I started in Pink wave J, which although it looked like the second to last wave actually turned out to be the last to go through. I hadn’t anticipated quite how long it would take us to get going, which in retrospect was only to be expected with the sheer volume of people.

But after 40 minutes of waiting and shuffling along, we were off and running.

Before and at the start my nerves had really started to build. I knew that I could do it (well, I knew I could run 11 miles, and it’s only two more), I knew I’d put the training in and I’d been injury free. The only thing that was going to stop me other than illness was a lack of belief in myself.

It was only when we came up to the Tyne Bridge that it really struck me what I was doing, and it would have been so easy to freak out (did I mention I’m not good in crowds?) but I decided to suck it up, enjoy it and use the crowds and the atmosphere to power me on.

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Throughout the last couple of months of training I’ve been concentrating on going further, not faster, and maintaining a consistent pace. I’d settled on a slow but steady pace of 6 minutes 50 seconds per kilometre. I can run faster over 5k and 10k, but never having run this distance before my priority was to make it around. Full stop.

And overall I achieved it. I was faster in my first 5k, spent the next 10k on target and then slowed right down for the final 6k. My breathing, my legs and my energy levels felt good all the way through.

In retrospect, I think I could maybe have picked up the speed a bit, but with it being such a busy race I was doing a LOT of overtaking. And I also wanted to just enjoy it rather than trying to hit an arbitrary time.

The toughest bit was the last few miles. I think it was partly physical (I was tired, my hips were starting to ache, and there are lots of small inclines) and partly psychological because after 11 miles I was in unchartered territory. I’d never run this far before!

The final part involves a lovely little drop down into South Shields with a view of the sea. I think I got a little carried away and took this too fast as when I finally levelled out on to the final 800 metres I had a terrible pain in my knee.

So I just took it easy and made sure I got over the line.

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That’s me! A knackered, sweaty, surprised, happy mess. Honestly, I could hardly breathe when I finished – not from asthma or being unfit but because I was so overwhelmed by all the emotions. I’ve truly never felt so happy to feel so tired in all my life.

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My official time was 2:28:57 – so just within my unofficial 2:30:00 goal (the official goal being making it over the finish line!) and I’m very happy with that.

I’ve also raised £220 so far for the mental health charity Mind, which makes every mile doubly worth it.

Overall I’ve got mixed feelings about the distance. I’m SO happy I achieved it and I think I’d do it again, but I’m not in any great hurry to repeat the experience. 10ks are definitely more my thing.

Did you take part in this year’s Great North Run or are you training for a half marathon? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

One Reply to “Race report: Great North Run 2015”

  1. Great post, just read this in anticipation of my 1st half marathon! I’m literally signing up as we speak and this is really comforting. hahaha! I’m not much of a runner, I’ve done a few little stints where my half running boyf has dragged me along!

    So awesome to hear about the start, that would have built up some anxieties in me! I’m prepared now, will continuing reading your posts!

    Thanks again,
    Erica 😀 xx

    http://www.spinachandspecs.co.uk