The controversy surrounding the Great North Run in 2021 had been massive when they announced the route would be changed and no longer finish in South Shields. It would be in Newcastle to Gateshead and then back to Newcastle to finish. Obviously living in South Shields and walking home from the finish line I wasn’t overly happy about this either, but I had already paid for my place and it was my 10th official event, not really counting the virtual event last year.
When my bib number arrived I was down as wave 3 in Orange so I was more than happy with that considering it was actually an earlier start time than I usually get, so far so good in terms of the different wave and number start times. The set up on the Toon Moor was brilliant for the start area, I have always hated that battle up and down the central motorway trying to get in the pens and never really been able to use a toilet. This was utterly brilliant and I travelled with Simon and we started the race together as well!
When we got in the start pen as the screens told us that our numbers could go down already so we could actually see the start line, I’ve never been able to see the start line before! Oh and to make it even better I heard the starting gun as well! I always remember by first ever Great North Run being utterly disappointed that I couldn’t hear it because I was so far away from the start. (Please Great Run keep these staggered start times and using the Town Moor as the starting area with the toilet set up etc).
Probably started a little bit too quickly but couldn’t help it, hearing local hero puts such a string in my step. My target time was 1:45 and thanks to some advice from Carl at the Pasta Party at the Lakeside on the Saturday night he told me not to count miles and aim for 25 minute 5ks across the whole race. That’s what I went for and was spot on 5k, 10k and 15k even up to 10 miles. Then the wheels absolutely fell off after going up that massive hill back from Gateshead and it just killed my legs! I actually nearly cried as though I was going to have to stop. I kept pushing though and in all honesty I don’t remember much about the last three miles, especially the last two. I must have been looking at the ground as don’t remember running towards the monument. Over the years I have become a strong finisher and really pushing for the final mile. I didn’t have that in me and even when I hit 800m on the finish stretch I had nothing to push with.
I was still over the moon with 1:47 finish time and I know that I am capable of more over this half marathon distance. The worst thing about it finishing in Newcastle was going to be getting back home and the fact I then bought a hat and jacket which cost a lovely £58, that probably wouldn’t have happened in Shields as my Mam and Dad would have had a bag with a hoodie in!
As a runner though it was a dream in terms of not being too close to others and having your own space constantly across the course, so I will say again please keep the staggered start times as it meant less congestion throughout the start line process as well as actually running the race. The return to South Shields has already been announced so if you took part in the 40th Race you can say its the one off year that the route was changed!