Great North Run

On Sunday I was one of 54,000 taking part in the 31st Great North Run. This is one I have watched on TV several times but had never considered – too far away, too expensive – all sorts of excuses – until this year when I figured I could enter the ballot and Just See What Happened. And what happened was a successful application. So Saturday morning saw me, my mother and father piling out of King’s Cross up to Newcastle. There’s probably a whole other blog post about the travelling…

Race day dawned bright and clear and I went through what is now a fairly familiar routine of drinking gallons of water, stretching, eating porridge and that food of champions – the hot cross bun. I don’t remember why but these have become a breakfast staple for me now alongside the bananas. Just like the gin & tonic for flights, I’m not now prepared to change what works!

We stayed in central Newcastle so once I’d been seen off it was about a 25 minute walk up to the start. I’d memorised the map but this was completely superfluous as there were several thousand other people to follow. Several thousand people to follow also meant several thousand people in front of me for the loo queue and baggage bus and at one point I wished I’d left a good 30 minutes earlier. Once I’d made my final pitstop it was nearly 10:20 so I hopped over the fence and landed just at my assembly zone. I reckon this was about halfway – I could see neither the start nor the back of the crowd.

The Red Arrows arrived on a flypast – what a great start to an event. There’s just something about them that is so iconic. I watched the men’s race start on the big screen and waited to shuffle forwards to the start – took about 15 minutes, not so bad. Just like in July I remembered those for whom crowds are not benign; that I was there running for pleasure and not for my life; that water and food will be plentiful at the end.

As I was about to cross the Tyne Bridge the Red Arrows appeared again, which was another huge boost. At that point, my run was well under way. The things I remember, in no particular order, are…

  • A really bad Elvis impersonator at about mile 10
  • Seeing the St John Ambulance folk handing out vaseline and staffing first aid pointsNot liking seeing three folk on the floor being treated by paramedics nor the ambulance we met at about mile 9; I hope those people are recovered
  • Rain. Did you see the rain on the TV? It was very very wet. Actually, it was very welcome as it was a little warm in the sun, and annoying only that I was concerned my phone was getting wet.
  • Hills. At the start the chap I was chatting to warned me of the hill at mile 11. And a lot of the race felt uphill. None of it as bad as running up Ipswich Road in Colchester, though, so that training brought its benefits
  • The last mile is a long mile and it was crowded – no chance of pulling a few seconds back
  • Jellybabies: mine, slightly damp, eaten halfway through mile 10 when I was bored, wet and hungry. I walked a bit.
  • iPod shuffle gave up the ghost at about mile 8; this was annoying!
  • Race numbers had our names printed on them – two people cheered me on by name – thank you
  • Oranges and sweets being handed out by spectators, some of whom looked dreadfully wet
  • Hadrian’s Brewery giving out beer samples: I didn’t take one
  • Roundabouts: horrible things to run round; the physio I saw last week had fore-warned me though
  • At about 10 miles I was overtaken by the Runners World 2hr pace marker – quite a boost as although I’d been logging mile times I’d not been looking and I felt really slow.

Above all, I remember feeling mostly happy, relaxed, pain-free and confident in my ability to run the distance. Lucky to be able to; thankful for all the roast dinners Mum has cooked for the end of a 10mile run. Incredibly grateful for the support of my family and friends.

Looking at my times below I’m pretty pleased. My long runs all happened before Greenbelt and the Jesus Arms, injury and physio. Interesting that mile 12 was exactly the same pace as in February. So I guess the challenge for the next run I do is to even these times out to a consistent pace. I think with practice and a bit more fitness I could aim for 9 minute miles; at least for 10 or so. That would give me a fighting chance of a 2nd half marathon. And there’s a local-ish 10 mile race this autumn. Hmm.

Split times
8:45
9:04
9:07
9:21
9:49
9:26
9:25
9:53
10:25
10:06
11:28
9:56
10:39 (forgot to stop watch)

Rain, running and relationships

It’s a spring Bank Holiday Monday, so naturally the weather is abysmal. I am studying today, at home, steadfastly refusing to put the heating on. It looks more like November out there!

On Friday I completed a lovely walk with my father, Harwich to Mistley, getting bits of me sunburnt along the way. I definitely picked the best day for that!

I haven’t run much in the last fortnight. Not least because the achilles pain I thought I had beaten has surfaced again.

I did two 4-miles last weekend on Friday and Sunday. The week before I phoned in a 5k at the Castle Park Race for Life – 31.04 when my target had been sub-30. That’s  not exactly a difficult target, yet I missed it by what feels like miles. The most realistic extrinsic excuse I can give is that for the last mile, one has to dodge the people that are walking the race and so lose any rhythm or momentum.

However, that wasn’t the real reason that I did so badly. It was all about mental attitude. As soon as I thought I had missed the sub-30 target, I gave up. Normally even after a 10k training run I can find the energy for a sprint over the last 100metres, yet at the Race for Life I could barely be bothered to jog to the line. I surprised myself by how quickly that sense of failure turned itself into a lack of motivation and energy. I have been pondering this for some time now, trying to work out how I can stop that kind of self sabotage in future.

It’s not just there that my confidence has taken a bashing.

I’m struggling again with faith and trust, with more complications in family relationships. I can’t see anything but a bleak future on this; and I am so utterly frustrated with the situation that all I want to do is scream and shout and howl with anger at both God and my brother. Yet if quiet prayer or quiet advice doesn’t get through (to either of them) will howls do any better?