Sunday, September 21, 2014

Great North Run 2014:race report

My usual pre-race jitters were way out of order. It was a beautiful, sunny (even too sunny) September morning, I was with my favourite training buddy of all time, the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement, yet I was as tense as a violin string. For the first time in 7 years of running I hadn't trained for a race. Despite doing some running while I was away, my longest run was 16 km...2 months ago. Top that with 0 training in my last 10 days was the recipe for disaster.
In a whim of enthusiasm my mum and I had decided to run together because, despite having stepped on the start area together in numerous events, we've never managed to cross the finish line together. Which made me even more nervous because my mum had been training for the whole was going to be a tough 21.096 km.

The start line was heaving, it was the biggest assemble of runners I had ever seen. I stood on the barrier and I looked over the swaying sea of charity and cub tops which at the back stretched beyond my sight. An almost electric buzz of excitement permeated the air. 
And suddenly we were off. It felt so surreal to be running on the highway: there were no speeding cars, no rushing buses today, only a river of runners. The scream of city traffic was replaced by the rhythmic drumming of a million feet. 
Newcastle was out in force to cheer: a smiling, noisy crowd was happily perched on the sides of the street and on the overpasses. Never I had seen so many people out to support a race. In my experience it was good if we didn't get killed while on the course by some inpatient driver.
We ran across the Tyne Bridge among two wings of smiley faces, carried by the wave of our and their excitement. The sun was shining in a perfect blue sky over the bridges, the silver back of the river and the Quayside bustling with the life of a sunny weekend morning.
By far one of my favourite views in Newcastle, today was made even more special by the camaraderie of the race and especially by the presence of my mum. 
At that point we had just cleared the 2-mile mark and it was evident that she had set a brutal pace (she was in charge this time to prevent me going off at a crazy pace).  I was keeping up with her but I was working hard: I wasn't sure I could keep up with her for the whole way (we didn't in the end).

The support never died down along the route: whole families out, kids with outstretched hands or splashing us with water, bands and charity crews. And, most of all, a lot of my friends from Tyne Bridge Harriers and university. I would hear my name called at random times which really lifted my spirits. I was overwhelmed by how enthusiastic everyone was: I missed the whole summer of training with them and yet they genuinely sounded happy and excited to see me. Once again I felt part of something special. 

The finish line had a special feeling to it too. We first saw the sea as we came down the last hill, then the last km mark. The finishing straight was a bit of a blur, running hand in hand with my mum among the cheer of the crowd. When we crossed the line I felt a bubble of emotion swell up in my throat. We did it! We ran a race together! After 7 years of plodding the streets together, we finally managed a whole half marathon together. It felt like accomplishing a challenge bigger than any PB because I was able to adjust my pace and ambition to someone else's. My mum has always been my model for running and healthy living. She's always been active but since starting running, almost 10 years ago, she took it to a completely higher level. She takes care of a family, a house, her job while training for a marathon, all with a smile. She faces injuries and setbacks but always came back stronger. She's the person who got me into running and to date she is still my best running buddy and number 1 supporter through injuries and setbacks. Sharing the emotion of the finish line of this special race with her was a unique experience, which no PB could ever match. 

We took pictures together and I met some of my friends from running who had all done very well and were all excited. It was nice to see them after such a long time.

We found my dad at the baggage buses and we all sat in the grass watching the sea. The sun was shining,people all around were laughing and celebrating and for the first time in 2 weeks I felt deeply content there and then.

Getting back to Newcastle was a bit of a challenge: there was a massive queue for the metro, a huge snake of stiff runners, eager for a shower. Luckily they had increased the frequency of the trains, so it wasn't too bad. As soon as I got home I collapsed in a heap on the floor with a cup of green tea. Chip timing revealed that my mum had indeed beaten me by 1s, which amused Aaron endlessly. He's still laughing about it and makes fun of me at any occasion (very rare now as my knee hurts and I haven't been running). That's what real friends are for, huh?

We headed all together to Las Iguanas to celebrate the race and my birthday in advance. The food was delicious and the company even better. We ate a lot of guacamole and laughed even more.

I fell asleep fully content and exhausted after a very exciting day...I can't wait for GNR2015!

Also, a special thanks and thought goes to my friends from Tyne Bridge Harriers, those supporting and those running. It was good to see your smiley faces and the enthusiastic welcome you gave me after 3 months of absence were truly heartwarming. I can't wait to go back to training...knee hurry up to heal!!

Did you run the GNR?

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