There were a few tired legs and aching muscles around the office after a team of us, along with 57,000 others, completed the Great North Run in Newcastle to raise money for our charity of the year When You Wish Upon A Star. Paul Stone, Head of IT, shares his diary of the day and how he found the event.
As my alarm goes off, I think "is it that time already"? I jump out of bed as I need to be on the road for 6am. I'm always telling my kids to be prepared so, ever the role model, I had put my bread in the toaster and tea bag in my mug, all ready to go, the night before. However, getting downstairs, I find my toast eaten and mug used! My children are of adult age so I suspect they ate them coming in late on a Saturday night. So much for forward planning!
I’m in the car headed to Wetherby train station to meet my colleagues, Nigel and Tristan. We’re on a train by 8.30am heading to the event. We overheard someone mentioning to his mate that he's had a text asking if anyone had a spare pair of trainers; turns out he'd arrived in Newcastle to find he had brought one of his trainers and one of his wife's!
We get to Haymarket and quickly make our way to the start line to find our ‘pen’. We have an hour to kill, but the time goes quickly - race nerves. We join in the warm up, which not only keeps us busy but prepares you for the race ahead and helps to prevent injuries.
And we’re off! The elites set off first, including Mo Farah. It’s not often you can say you’ve competed against the world’s best, is it? He wins, of course. After 2 to 3 miles, we pass under the tunnels of Newcastle before Tyne Bridge and hear the obligatory cries of Oggy-Oggy-Oggy, Oi-Oi-Oi!
It’s at this point I spot a Minion. All the kids are cheering him/her on, and I’m determined I won’t be beaten by a character from an animated movie so I step up my pace and blow them away.
Miles 3 to 4
I’m just approaching the Tyne Bridge and “my” wish comes true, the Red Arrows come up from behind me and fly over, a spectacular sound and sight.
Miles 4 to 7
I’m well and truly in the groove now and feeling good with the help of the crowds cheering me on. I spot a runner dressed as a dragon towards the 7 mile mark and, confident from out running the Minion earlier, add him to my list of 'to beat'. I soon fly right past, showing you don't need wings to be fast.
Miles 8 to 9
I start to feel my pace slow and also notice the hills much more. I didn't do much hill training in the run up to the half marathon, and it's really starting to show.
Miles 10 to 12
I’m beginning to lose energy in my legs but are spurred on by random strangers yelling “Come on Paul! You can do it! Keep going!” I make use of the guy stood on the bus stop spraying water on runners to cool down and grab the odd orange slice and jelly baby provided by onlookers for some energy.
It’s at about this point I feel like giving up as I’m really suffering now. I give myself a good telling off and reminder to just get on with it. I begin to think about Pippa, the little girl from When You Wish Upon A Star that first inspired me to take part in the run. I think about what she has had to endure in comparison, and also about my mum who passed away in May. I can definitely do this.
Miles 12 to 13
I drop down the hill and onto the seafront to be confronted by an enormous crowd lining the road and each side. There must have been about 10 thousand people, or it at least feels like it!
In the distance I can see the 800 metres to go marker and concentrate on it, my head is up and I’m focused on the crowd. Next 400 metres to go, I can’t stop and give up in front of all these people! In my head I’m saying keep going, keep going… 200 meters to go - I can see the finish sign!
I’m over the line and people all around are cheering and congratulating each other. I’ve done it! I look up to see 2 hours 17 minutes-ish on the clock. Take off the 10 minutes to get through the start and I’ve done about 2 hours 7 minutes, I can’t complain at that!
I head to collect my medal which is presented to me, a nice touch by the organisation, and collect my goodie bag. So it’s all done for another year and I tell myself this race was my last. But it’s only a day or two after now, so who knows…
You can read about my training here, or if you’d like to donate or help with our fundraising efforts for When You Wish Upon A Star, you can find our JustGiving page here.