After almost a year of preparation, packed with hundreds of miles, a botched 10K race, a knee injury and a six week wait for physiotherapy, followed by six weeks of physiotherapy, all manners of minor injuries and sickness bugs, ardent fundraising and finally a consistent program of training, the date with destiny I’d been waiting for was finally at hand – the race I’d been preparing for just over a year since my mother died of motor neurone disease. Great North Run 2013.
Setting off on Saturday from my home on the lone journey to the north east, I arrived in Newcastle around 2:30pm and made my way to the accommodation on Richardson Road. It was quite a sight that greeted me – hard camperbeds all laid out in rows and columns, allowing for nothing but a sleeping bag and a pillow for cold comfort. Still, you get what you pay for – I was tight on money when I paid for this and still am now. I was more than happy with this arrangement.
I allowed myself to venture down into the city centre once I’d sorted that out and allowed myself to indulge in the warm glow of the sun, as I coasted around taking in what Newcastle’s city centre offered. This was my first time in my late grandfather’s hometown. It was a wonderful experience, if only for an hour or so – in which time I’d bought a Thornton’s ice cream, a Sharpie marker for my back tag, and a new running top from Start Fitness, where with more money I could have gone wild in. Said longsleeved orange top would come in handy later that weekend. But shopping aside, I truly felt at home here. I marvelled the column dedicated to Charles Earl Grey. I was here in my grandfather’s home city, where he was born and raised, where he developed his wonderful Geordie accent which I sadly never got to hear. If only I’d have had more than an hour or so to explore the city. The weekend was to fly as quickly as my race was going to. Eventually I wandered back up to Richardson Road, diverting through Leazes Park, in the shadow of St. James’ Park, as I ambled back to residence.
Once there, I set about filling out my back tag, for the JustTextGiving code to encourage more people to text in for the MND Association, and began talking with a few fellow runners whom were to undertaking this huge challenge with me. Varying from first timers just like me, to people with as many as 19 years experience. It was great to talk to these people from across the country, of various backgrounds, given how much of my time I prepared for this race solely, my thoughts on my progress, my aims, and why I was doing this.
6:30pm arrived that evening, and it was over the road to the Castle Leazes complex to attend NirvanaEurope’s organised pasta party – which turned out to include more than just pasta and moreorless resembled a soup kitchen with its long queues and conveyor belt service. Still, it was a slickly run operation – the food was of good quality – not as good as at home or in a proper restaurant, of course, but it was a good solid meal to fuel up for the following day. I went for the beef lasagne myself, and it wasn’t bad – not the finest ever but more than capable for carbing up and tasty too. Pretty good for a mass operation. I quickly finished to try and find my way to meet up with some fellow runners from the Running The World community on Facebook, converging upon a swanky bar known as The Pitcher and Piano. It was my one and only chance really to gaze at the Tyne Bridge, lit up and adorned with the Bupa Great North Run logo Quayside, and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, here sitting right in front of me – a beautiful sight.
Into the bar for just under an hour, meeting up with more fellow GNR runners for a non-alcoholic drink (in my case). I particularly got on well with one guy named Rob who was also doing the sleepover back at the university. We headed back for the 9:30pm curfew together, sharing notes on our training, our hopes for the race, and our lives outside of running. I would count the remaining time away, scrutinizing the official magazine notes and talking to other runners again while waiting for my phone to charge. Eventually 11pm came, and I’d had enough waiting for the phone to reach full battery. The bed creaked under my weight, but eventually I got off to sleep, managing to forget for a while that in less than half a day, it would be showtime.