On Sunday, I took part in my first ever Great North Run. The worlds most famous half marathon (13.1 miles) located in the North East of England. In total, there were just under 58,000 runners whom took part. To line up alongside this amount of people, not to mention penned at the start and run with them, would of been something I could of not done even a year ago. Yesterday was not just about completing the Great North Run but it was my way of standing up to the years of social anxiety and depression that I have had and still battle. Standing up to it, is exactly what I did!
The weekend was made easier by travelling with friends. We booked the same coach package via Nirvana travel. For £185, we had a return coach, overnight stay at Newcastle Uni with dinner and breakfast included. The start of the Great North Run was only a 5 minute walk away.
Generally over the weekend and during the build up, I felt excitement and nervous. It is a very hard run to get into. The anxiety didn’t kick in until the day but there was no way it was going to win. There was simply too much to lose by not completing it.
There was a lot of hype at the start. Music, interviews and of course the elite races were shown on the big screen. The warm up was quite energetic but at the same time, hard to complete with so many nervous people around me.
I was in orange zone D, i had expected to be further back but I was soon to discover that did not matter. From the start of the run (note that I am not using the word race), it took me roughly 10 minutes to cross the line from the starting horn. This is down to the runners in front of me getting over first.
I thought when I cross the finish line, I would be emotional. Yet it was going across the start line that I nearly cried but cry for joy of knowing I am doing it. I knew at that moment, I really was doing something, that for me, was massive. I was proving to myself, how far I have come with my battles. Naturally, it had to be a run like this to prove it.
The reason why I used the word ‘run’ and not race, is that by mile four, I knew there is no way I could race this run. On this type of course and with less runners, I would expect a time around 02:10:00 but instead I finished with a time of 02:33:16. The heat played a part in slowing us all down, in fact I am sun burnt. I got sun burn in Newcastle! That said, it really became the case of follow the crowd. It was hard to overtake people. I tried being on the inside, middle and outside but found it too hard to get a constant pace and at times, I was forced to walk whether i liked it or not. This also mean’t my leg muscles were not getting stretched out and I soon found them becoming tighter.
To put into perspective how tough the run was, in July I ran the Heckington Show 10 mile in 01:37:28. It almost an hour to run an extra 3.1 miles at the Great North Run.
Despite the frustration of the crowd, I was still determined to enjoy and take in as much of the experience as possible. I had hoped to Facebook live during and after the run but the network was bad.
I was pleased to make the ‘Tyne Bridge’ in time to see the Red Arrows fly over and of course, arrive at the finish to see their display. The Red Arrows are a vital part of the Great North Run, another reason it would be a shame to lose them.
One thing I had not prepared my mind for was seeing at least 6 runners being given CPR or having a Defib fitted. You read about runners in races such as the London Marathon but when it is still so rare, it is still a shock to see. It does hit your confidence and naturally, you have great concern. I did find myself praying for them. Thankfully, it appears, everyone pulled through. The support from the emergency services, from the Ambulance crews, the police and military was amazing.
Once I crossed the finish line, it took some time to absorb what I had just done. When out on the course, you become focused on the other runners and getting back. One thing that could not be avoided was the amazing support from the locals. I have never seen so many, kindhearted people giving away free sweets, orange wedges and even ice lollies. I even had Elvis come up and shake my hand. For a dead man, he looked quite well.
It has taken a lot of small steps to be able to take the giant leap and run in the Great North Run. It is something, I am very much proud off and I hope to be able to do it another day. I may enter a charity place next year. I could not do this, this year as I will be running for charity in two weeks time at Equinox24. You can sponsor me and learn more about this by clicking here.
I have gone from living to work to working to live. A cause of living to work is burying your head in the sand, if you are busy, busy, busy, for a while you can hide from the depression and the reality of having social anxiety but it soon finds you.
I have had so much support to get me to this point and I cannot thank people enough. From my family to my partner and friends in all walks of life. You helped me to get to this point and i hope to keep going from strength to strength.