Shona Cannings Great North Run – The Destination.

In true Lincsquad tradition any race has to involve camping so off we went up to the Toon in the rain. Kerry had given us all the info we needed so we were booked on a campsite close to the finish line in South Shields and set off in the rain on Sat. Once we hit the North East we started seeing the road closures signs and banners for the Great North Run and it became very real.

Tent up we headed into Newcastle on the Metro as I wanted to do the full GNR experience. Fuel and fluid were on my mind as I had learned through this year that the day before the run was just as important as the day itself – for me avoiding bread in the 24 hours before a long run was absolutely must.

Pasta party experienced – I think I may have once tasted worse pasta !!! – we decided to watch the Junior races which we knew Tom Padley was running in – we couldn’t quite work out the waves so decided to make our way over the Millennium Bridge and immediately bumped into the Padley Family. .

After a good tea (and no alcohol deciding the glass of wine would taste much better tomorrow) we headed back to South Shields. Whilst experimenting with running fuels I had tried jelly babies, beans and gels etc. but couldn’t get on with anything until I tried crumbly mints that just melted gradually but realised I had left mine at home so popped into Morrison’s to see if I could get any and it was then that I got any inspiration I needed to complete the race. The lady serving me saw my Meningitis Now hoodie and asked if I was running for them tomorrow and then explained that her son had died of meningitis and it was great that people were raising money for the cause. I didn’t manage to leave the shop before dissolving into tears.

Race day dawned and I joined Kerry and Scunthorpe and District AC runners on the bus to the Toon – the next few hours passed in a bit of a blur but consisted of Professor Brian Cox, portaloos, excitement and trying to spot Mo. I wasn’t brave enough to try and get in a pen with an earlier start so trooped to the pink pen right at the back with Bev from SDAC – we had to have a roadside wee as the queues for the loos were so long – I did say I wanted the full GNR experience!!!

Finally we heard the theme from Local Hero and yet again I got all soppy – having watched it on TV for so many years to realise I was actually going to be running in one of the iconic races in the world was amazing. We could only just hear the commentary particularly as beside us was the Huddersfield Marching Band warming up for the race. It took 40 mins from Mo starting to me crossing the start line (19 mins later he had finished!) but we were entertained by the Red arrows flypast. My aim was to run the whole way and not worry about the time (although I secretly had an idea of what time I should manage) So off we went – again this bit surprisingly is a blur of bands, supporters outside their houses, water stations, loo queues and negotiating through lots of walkers. I ran past Chris a friend of Truan’s from Scotter who had overcome a serious ankle injury and op to make it to the start line. I hadn’t seen Chris for a few years so quite strange to bump into him in a Newcastle underpass. Poignant messages were all around me on people’s backs – people they were raising money for or running in memory off. A few people stood out – a bloke with a karaoke machine encouraging everyone to join in with his Beatles songs, a bloke walking using crutches with a note saying he was recovering from a broken hip and a man in a wheelchair who I kept seeing having to shout to ask the crowds to let him through. It was really warm day and he was obviously suffering in the heat. I was very grateful for my cap.

Before I knew it I was at 10k a quick check of my watch and my pace was just as I expected however I was now desperate for a wee. Was I going to be ladylike and queue for the loo or was I going to make sure I hit my target time and go in the bushes again? I ran for another mile before going for the bush option – I am not a Scout leader for nothing.

People were really suffering in the heat although the two firemen who I passed in full kit seemed to be coping ok. I was able to tip lots of water over me and the man in the wheelchair to try and cool down and kept plodding onwards. There were so many bands enroute that time passed really quickly and suddenly I was at 10 miles – finally I passed children giving out ice pops and old ladies with oranges. I did decline the sausage rolls from a Tupperware box though. Next it was Elvis and I knew I was nearly home Jacqui Saxon had messaged me to say once you have seen Elvis you have done the worse bit.

Suddenly the Red Arrows appeared again and I was lucky to just be turning onto the seafront to see the full display. I knew Stephen and Mark were going to be at the 800m mark but had forgotten to check which side of the road they would be on fortunately I spotted Stephen and then realised that Torin and Erin were with him too. They had decided to surprise me by coming from Manchester to the finish line to meet me. With a big beam on my face I ran to the finish line knowing I had achieved exactly what I had set out to do. I crossed the line feeling quite in control and then saw a fellow runner needing assistance because she was overcome with emotion so I have to confess to a bit of a cry too. It then seemed a never ending walk to collect my medal goodie bag and have my official photo taken. Then off to the charity tent area to meet Stephen. Torin, Erin and the Padleys. I eventually had a massage which was probably one of the most painful bits of the day before heading back to the tent and waiting for the traffic to clear. Thank you to Kerry whose info and support made the whole race experience feel so under control.

So would I do it again absolutely – running has become an integral part of my week now and I can tell when I need to go out and sort my head out. I would encourage anyone who wants to give it a try to go for it – approx. 5 years ago I really couldn’t run to the end of the road but starting with Steve Clark’s boot camps and a Couch to 5k group I gradually built up my ability and became brave enough to give it ago. I did whatever felt right for my body and built up my mileage very steadily.

In Lincsquad we are surrounded by amazing elite athletes and tend to compare ourselves against their achievements. I have had nothing but encouragement from athletes of all abilities throughout my progress. I think us ordinary folk need to look around our non-sporting friends and colleagues and realise that in their eyes we are doing something special – something they are not brave enough to try.  I say do what makes you happy – enjoy it and do it for yourself – you may just surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

I will have raised over £700 in total to be split between my charities (thanks you to those who sponsored me) was well within my target time (Chip time 2hrs 21 sec) and run my first half marathon.  Who know what next year might bring but there are two half marathons already pencilled in ……………………………………………