The Great North run is the worlds most iconic half marathon made even more famous by Mo Farah. If you have been successful with the ballot and have a place, then many congratulations. It really is an amazing experience.
Last year, I was successful in getting a ballot place. My goal to running the Great North Run was to stick two fingers up to my social anxiety and prove to myself, it is not beating me. I will be running it again this year but this time, for the Samaritans.
Below are some things I learned from last year that you might find useful:
- The start is daunting but exciting at the same time. You are put into pens and there is close contact with other runners. Remember any grounding techniques you use with your depression or anxiety. For me, I went into the pen as late as possible and continuously reminded myself, on loop, why I was there.
- Wear a very old hoodie or running top you are happy to lose. Why? It’s Newcastle and it can be cold at the start. As you run, you will see thousands of hoodies and jackets on the pen walls left by runners. These are collected by a charity and donated to homeless shelters etc.
- Be prepared to be emotional. I expected to be emotional at the finish but it was at the start, as I crossed the line and realized what I was about to do, that it all sunk in.
- Practice your ‘Oggy, Oggy Oggy, Oi, Oi, Oi’s’. Every time you go through a tunnel or under a bridge, these will be shouted in mass.
- Don’t go off too fast, it’s not a flat course. There is an electric atmosphere and you want to go, go, go but seriously, it is not an easy course. Hold some back for the middle zone of the run, which can be the hardest part. So many runners went off fast, I soon caught them up.
- Sweets, sweets, sweets, ignore them! right from the start to the finish, you will have people lining the side of the road giving out free sweets, orange wedges and some even gave out ice-pops. Stick to the run fueling you know works for you. All sweets will do, is cause sugar spikes and you will crash quicker.
- It’s not a race – unless you are an elite runner, it is a hard course to get a PB. Remember the runners I mentioned who went off too quickly? They come back at you fast and when the dual carriageway merges to one side, you become a part of a sea of runners. It is then hard to overtake so simply sink back into your hips and soak up the wonderful event.
- Take music if you listen to it. There are bands playing as you go along but they can be quite far apart and very similar to each other. I did get to shake Elvis hand which was quite odd, I swear he died years ago?
- As far as I am aware, no-one died at last years Great North Run. However what shocked me was seeing 6 runners either being given CPR or have a defibrillator fitted. Don’t panic if you see this, it can be as precaution and there is an excellent level of first aid.
- So you have got through the start, ran 12 miles, drank plenty, fueled up as you go and then you see the sea. You have almost made it! In front of you is South Shields and the crowds have got bigger. Your energy is back from a psychological boost and ‘Weeeeeeeeeeee’ you run down the hill with great momentum – Don’t, behave and take it with caution! I love a downhill momentum but you still have quite a bit to go. Advice from an elite runner in my club last year, was to hold back on this downward hill and boy was he right. That last mile seems to take as long as the twelve miles before it. You can see the finish, the grandstands but flipping eck, when will that line come? If you go too fast, you might end up walking over the line.
- When the finish finally comes, there is a mixture of feelings and thoughts which all follow an initial numbness, a silence of ‘I bloody did it!’ You will have to queue up for your medal, goody bag etc. There are stands to visit from GNR merchandise to sponsors and charities. There is also plenty of food and drink to buy.
- Meeting point – If you are meeting other runners, there is an alphabetical meeting point. You could say, lets meet at ‘M’ for Mental health running group or your club initial etc.
- The number one rule: Enjoy it!