First ever road half marathon, in one of the UK’s greatest ever races.

Road racing has never really been my thing. I enjoy getting out for the training, or releasing a bit of stress, but I’ve never really been one for focussing purely on tarmac and streets. But when you get the chance to run for charity in arguably the UK’s greatest half marathon run, you can’t turn it down.

The route

The 13.1 mile route begins in Newcastle upon Tyne, through the city centre towards the River Tyne, crossing over the iconic Tyne Bridge, and into Gateshead on towards South Shields.

The start itself is really well organised, but incredibly busy. It’s definitely worth getting there early, if only to avoid the huge toilet and bag drop queues.

Also, the other thing to be aware of is the long wait. The build up to the start of the race was great. Music blaring out of speakers. Huge TV screens set up along the route to see Sir Mo set off. But even when the starting gun goes, it’ll be a good 15-20 minutes before you even start to move, particularly if you towards the middle/back off of the starting groups.

View from the starting line

In the build up to the run, we’d actually found training pretty difficult. Not the distance itself so much, but just fitting the time in to get it done and feeling fully prepared. Jobs, weddings, holidays, birthdays and so on meant we’d probably squeeze in 1, maybe 2 x 30 min runs a week together.

The crowds really play a big part in the day. I’ve been to race events before as a spectator, including London, and I’ve never seen anything quite like GNR. It was like the entire North East had come out to cheer everyone on.

The biggest highlight of the day for me however actually came at the 2-3km mark. Just before crossing the iconic Tyne Bridge, we heard a huge boom noise, thinking it was either a firework or a speaker blowing up. A few runners actually seemed to duck it was so loud. Then, right overhead, the red arrows shot past us with the red, white and blue smoke – it was such an incredible sight!

Even miles past the city centre, out towards South Shields, thousands of people were lining the streets handing out everything from sweets, fizzy drinks, ice creams, pints.  Yep. We clocked one guy who had a van, a mini diesel generator and fridges, handing out plastic cups with beer. Clear evidence again that northerners are without question the friendliest people going.

Finish line

Our final chip time was 2:30:59. Not bad for a first attempt at a road half marathon given our challenges with training, but something we can challenge ourselves with in future to improve on. But overall just being able to take part at GNR on behalf of Save The Children – raising over £550 – was a wonderful experience.

Clare & I about to enjoy a well earned pint.

Tips

Just a couple of points we thought we’d share to anyone else thinking of doing it

  • Get to the start early! It’s easy to feel rushed and overwhelmed by the big crowds at the start, especially if it’s a really warm day. Get there in good time, relax and soak up the atmos
  • Don’t gamble with gels. OK this is kind of a general rule of thumb for any kind of mid-to-long distance running. Again, I’m not an expert or a nutritionist, but, I know from experience and from speaking to others that if you’re keen to use gels and powders, include them in your training plan. Get used to them first. See what kinds work and which don’t. The night before the run, we’d dropped by a sports shop to get some plasters and new headphones, and saw quite a few people panic-buying handfuls of gels. Even at the start line, all over 200 metres into the run, were mounds of gel wrappers at the road side. I can’t imagine it’d be a comfortable experience if you’ve never used them before

Taking a stroll on the beach the day after the race to stretch the legs.

TT