report by Kelvin Elliott
When I found out earlier in the year that I had a ballot place for the Great North Run I was really excited by the prospect of running in the greatest half marathon and the London Marathon in the same year. After a tough run the week before at Kenilworth Half Marathon I felt I was ready for anything the Great North Run had to throw at me.
The day of the race was a very long day, I met up with Dave, Anne-Marie, Angela & Dave McKay and their daughter Anna outside our base the Holiday Inn. After pre-race photo we set off to the start line with full anticipation of what today would bring. We said farewell to our support crew and headed off to the start line.
We all headed towards the starting area we could see all the other runners heading towards the baggage area and see the mass queues for the loo. I said my farewells to the rest of the team and headed to the baggage bus which was a good walk. After dropping my bag at the baggage bus. I met up with Vicki Hands (Sphinx runner) who was also in the Green Zone. After a last minute toilet stop we headed to the starting pen. We were packed in like a pack of penguins the atmosphere was electric and amazing of 57,000 runners all raring to go. The sun was baking and the start gun soon went. We had a 40 minute wait before we could cross the line. I could see thousands of runners in front of us so it was going to be a good while.
Vicki said to me I will hold you back and for me to go ahead. I said to Vicki we will stick together and finish the run together which we did. We moved forward slowly and we could see on the big screens showing the runners starting. After a good while we got to the start line, we headed off on the 13.1mile journey in the warm sunshine. Words of wisdom from Dave Goodwin were ringing in my ears as I headed off not to go too quick during the first mile. As I headed towards the 1st mile which had a downward incline as well as going over the flyover over the River Tyne I was making good progress. We set off on the right side of the course we slowly started to overtake runners in front of us as well as other runners who were walking. The first mile marker came quickly I glanced at my Garmin and it showed that the pace was just under 10minute mile so I needed to slow my pace as I weaved myself around people during the 2nd mile. I must admit my first mile was slower than the week before so that was progress.
There was crowds of people supporting and you could hear the chants of Oggy Oggy Oggy through the tunnels and in the distance my instant thoughts were of Coventry City’s Goalkeeping coach (Steve Oggy Ogrizovic) as his name was constantly being chanted. I made good progress through mile 2 as I slowed my pace down ensuring that I felt comfortable. It was difficult to see the scenery as on the dual carriageway there was thousands of runners in fancy dress and I could see the Duracell pacers ahead of me so I started to catch up and pass them by. I kept checking that Vicki was still with me as we headed towards mile 3 for the first water station. As we approached the first station it was difficult to get water as many runners had got to the first table and were blocking the route to the other tables of water in which we lost a few seconds. We soon passed the 5k point and it was roughly around 32minutes which I was happy with. During the course there were some inclines were steep and downward sections. I overtook two soldiers carrying combat gear and wheelchairs on their backs which was amazing and on the other side of the carriage we passed Nessa the nurse and Karaoke Man who was entertaining the runners with his repertoire of songs. We was making good progress through miles 4, 5 and 6 as passed the 10k mark. During these miles we saw the red arrows fly past us which was amazing and at mile 5 we were able to get a Lucozade drink.
Myself and Vicki were still side by side encouraging each other as we slowly weaved passed and overtook runners. Our paced had slowed down due to the constant weaving as we hit the 10k mark which was roughly around the 67minute mark. We were approaching the half way mark and the news filtered that Mo Farah had won the elite race so everyone including myself did the famous Mo-Bot .For the first half of the race the runners had been spread over the dual carriageway but that changed when everyone was pushed together which meant it was more crowded and the space was a lot narrower so more weaving was needed to be done to pass runners who were slowing down. We approached the next couple miles of 7 and 8 averaging around 11m12s which was really good as we very crowded and it was getting very warmer in the sunshine.
We passed further drink stations and started to see the on-course showers as we headed towards South Shields. It was getting to the point where we could count the miles down it was 5 to go. I was thinking it is between roughly 2-3 laps of the memorial park to go. I always find that from miles 8 to 12 this is where your mind can play tricks and I knew that I needed to dig in strong and focus hard. At this point it was very difficult passing people as a lot of people were walking and I said to Vicki it feels like the march of the penguins then I soon realised that we had caught up with two penguins in fancy dress. Everybody around us burst out laughing another famous Kelvin quote. It started to become draining as we were constantly weaving and it was zapping our energy at times. In the distance we could see an Ambulance trying to get through with difficulty due to volume of people ahead.
We passed miles 9 and 10 still making good progress despite the constant weaving. I didn’t really notice the inclines and the surrounding area as there were lots of support and runners everywhere. As we headed passed further showers and drink stations we could see the Red Arrows in distance doing their display which was amazing. We got to mile 11 and Vicki started to doubt her ability and was getting frustrated she could not maintain a pace and wanted to stop so I had to reassure her that she can do this and the constant weaving was playing on her mind. I managed to reassure and motivate her to carry on running. During this mile there was a major incline which was tough as we navigated people in front of us I said once we got to the top then it is downhill to mile 12 and the finish.
We approached the top of the incline and then it was a big downhill slope in which it was hard to control your legs as we approached the sea front the view was amazing as we turned the corner then we saw mile 12. As we headed along sea front on the left hand side I heard my name being shouted by Kelli and Eunice I nearly missed them as I was told I was zoned out. Our pace picked up as gaps appeared in front of us the crowds were deep of people shouting and cheering. We approached the final distance markers as we were getting closer to the finish I quickly glanced at my watch and there was a good chance of a sub 2hrs 30m was possible if we maintained our pace which we did. We crossed the finish line which was amazing to know that we had completed the famous Great North Run, then it was the walk to get the medal, goody bag and photo’s then get our baggage.
The run was amazing and experience was fantastic I would recommend this run whether you are successful with the ballot or a charity place. To have the opportunity to run with 57,000 runners who have their own story why they run is amazing. I was pleased with my time that I got. It was tough having to weave amongst other runners and walkers and I tried hard not to let that affect me as my goal and focus was to finish the run and enjoy the whole experience which I did. It was great meeting up with the Massey runners who took part and our supporters who were there cheering us on at the finish and celebrate and acknowledge what we all achieved individually.