Be warned, this is going to be a long one!
Friday night we got the train up to Newcastle, and arrived pretty late (it is 3 hours on the train from here). We managed to sleep until 10am on Saturday (the hotel room had black out blinds so the light didn’t wake me up) – we could hear the tannoy announcer for the Junior run and things.
It was lovely weather as we walked across from our hotel to the city.
Anyway, by the time we had walked up into the town from Gatehead, it was lunch time. I had seen Laura mention Olive and Bean before, and neither of us had been to Newcastle before, so we went there and had a lovely lunch, including a Teapigs Chai tea + soya latte for me- yum. After a wander around the shops, I left Andy to go and meet up with Laura and Sarah.
I was very excited, but also very nervous beforehand as I had not met them before, just read their blogs. Anyway, it was wonderful to meet them both- we went for a tea in the same shop- can you see the wall of tea and coffee in the pic? What a perfect place to meet!
After that I just had to show Andy the wall of tea (we only had a little glance as we had eaten upstairs), so we went back again and bought some cake for later (carb loading??) and two packets of tea (including one which smells of marzipan) even though I was just saying to the girls that we had enough tea at home- I could not resist and luckily Andy liked the sound of them too.
We had an early dinner (yummy salad in Zizzi’s), a bit of disaster with trying to pre-buy our metro tickets (turns out you can’t??), then I bought some jelly beans as I realised I hadn’t packed any mid-run snacks, and then a nice walk back to the hotel.
The view from the Millennium Bridge was very pretty.
Then it was back to the room to get ready.
In the end I pinned my number on to the charity vest, as I was wearing a normal vest top underneath- much easier than pinning it on once I am wearing it.
The next morning we got up early for showers and a teacake (not sure if that was the best breakfast, but I knew it would settle OK), and then a walk to the start. It was overcast, but mild. I was super nervous though! I packed some spare toilet paper into the waist-band of my capris just in case.
This apparently was the photo that I looked less terrified in! I had my bottle with a nuun tab in it (as I prefer to have that while I run) and a little bag of jelly beans. The organisation was amazing- the bag drop was great (big buses) but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of people there. You hear that 54,000 people do it, but that is hard to comprehend I think.
Anyway, Andy was in a pen further up than me, so we wished each other good luck and then went to find our places. I got a bit tearful- I think that this was the first race that I have done that I was genuinely worried about not making it to the end. Plus I keep on thinking about when I was unwell, and things will pop into my head (not really flashbacks, but I will suddenly remember something bad from the hospital or something)- anyway, I want to put that behind me.
My pen (a green one- near the back with about 3 pens behind me I think) was filled with people already- loads of charity runners, some men dressed as penguins (my favourites)- everyone was very friendly. The warm up guy was funny, making everyone do the Mo-bot and the Bolt! I could see a big screen but not really hear it- I did see the elite women being introduced (a big cheer for Jo Pavey and Freya Murray). I saw the men too, but again could not really hear. I got a bit teary at the start again, dearie me. I was hoping no-one was looking at me that closely to notice.
They were off! Only we were off, then we stopped, walked a bit, stopped, walked some more. I could see people on the screens giving high-fives to Mo, Greg Rutherford, Ellie Simmonds etc.We saw the Red Arrows fly over (and a lady near me said that last year she started further up the front and was crossing the bridge by the time they flew over). Anyway, by the time I saw the start line the clock said 35 mins! I cannot believe it took that long but it was a lot of people. As I was about to cross the line I saw two queues for the toilets- well it turned out one was for the toilets, and one was to high five Mo and Ellie! I decided not to go back so instead I just shouted “woo Mo!”. I bet he heard me???? Haha.
By then it was raining quite hard so my glasses were foggy. But the atmosphere was just brilliant! I loved it! Even with the rain the streets were crowded with people cheering, little kids trying to get high-fives, people giving out water, jelly beans, beer (!). The bands were brilliant too, although I always think things like that could do with more. There were so many charity runners (the man with the fridge- amazing)- I was loving just reading the different messages and charity vests.
I was looking at my Garmin (I pressed go just before the start, which meant that I got a beep just a bit before each mile marker which was good as then I could look out for it) and saw that my first mile was 10 something (too fast for that length of race for me) but it was hard to slow down. Anyway, people were going past me and I kept saying to myself “the tide is going out” (from Marathon talk and something I try to think about)- at the start most people will go too fast so they will overtake you, but by the end you will be overtaking some as they slow, so the tide comes back in again. Anyway, it worked because I managed to slow down, and did the first 5K in about 35 mins (34.16 according to the official results page). There were a few hills, but nothing too long or too steep, and after an hour the rain stopped so I could clean my glasses and look properly! Still the streets were lined with kids (although I wasn’t keen on the kids that were picking up water from the stations and squirting them at runners- maybe nicer on a hot day)- “Come and get your jelly beans here” etc- like going to the market! I was trying to count down the miles I had left, but as well as mile markers they had mats for 5K, 10K and 15K. Now, I am fine with maths, but clearly not when I am running, because I was very surprised when, just after 10k, I passed the half way sign- I had worked out half way as being 8 miles! Duh!
When I had 5 miles left, I started on the jelly beans- I didn’t end up having too many (after a while the sugary feeling in your mouth is a bit horrible really), but I thought I would need the boost.
Around 10 miles ish, we went through the Bupa Boost Zone- the Great South run had one of these two- they have a guy cheering people on, playing sort of pumping music, and they were saying about how we were getting close. Again, I got all emotional and nearly cried as I was running through it. I just kept on thinking that it was the furthest I have run this year, since I was out of hospital etc, and sort of remembering how far I have come since then. Silly.
When I got to 10 miles, I was close to South Shields and could see signs for the coast. Then the Red Arrows started flying up ahead. I knew they were doing the display at 1.15, but as it had taken me so long to cross the start line I had no hope of getting there in time. But it was perfect timing- apparently one of the hills near the end lasts for a mile, but I was so distracted watching them that I didn’t really notice it. I just love seeing them. My favourite bit was when they created a heart in the sky, and a women near me shouted “Oh my G*d, they are doing the Mo-bot!” Er, no, it was a heart- made me giggle anyway.
The Red Arrows continued- I went down the hill and saw the sea! I tried to run down it fast, like the Sweatshop people have been trying to help me get better at it. There were brilliant signs “It’s the sea!” was my fave! The Red Arrows were still going strong, and then all of a sudden it was the last mile! The crowds were massive, and I was trying to look out for my Dad’s cousin and their orange balloons, but I stood no chance! At the 800m to go sign, I realised I was going to finish, and tried to keep a steady pace and not let the adrenaline get to me too soon. Then with the 400m sign I picked up the pace a little (tried to overtake the people who were walking), and then I heard someone say “that’s the end, the blue sign” so I pushed on. Only the blue sign was by the corner, and you had to turn and run up another 10m or so before the actual finishers line. I was so excited to cross the finish line, and then of course more tears came. I have no idea why I found it so emotional, but I did. I also realised that I was pretty close to 2 1/2 hours, which was the time I was aiming for. My first half I did in 2.32, and my second in 2.19 (but I knew I was not that fast)- I did it in 2.27 so I am really pleased- it is a “come-back pb” anyway, but also it my second best time (out of 3). Plus I ran the whole way- I was going to let myself walk if I needed to, but I didn’t!
It took a while to meet up with Andy- he had already collected our bag and had some food.
I was excited to have a space blanket in my bag, and of course a medal too! I did it!!!!!!!
By this time, it was gone 2pm, and so we headed to the Metro station (easier said than done)- it seemed a long hobble! Then a long queue. I had a cereal bar in the queue, but I was not feeling that hungry. Anyway, the trains were organised, but the queues were huge, so by the time we had got on a train, got to Gateshead and walked down to our hotel, it was after 4pm! Where did the time go? We both changed (always pack baby wipes for races) as I didn’t want to spend another second in my running clothes, let alone a 3 hour train journey. As I was changing I found the toilet paper in my waistband- rather disintegrated! (I hadn’t needed to use the port-a-loos in the end).
Anyway, we started walking to the train station, but just over the bridge we saw a taxi, and thank goodness it was there. We had just enough time to buy a sandwich at the station, before getting to our 5pm train. Then the hunger just hit me- I realised that all I had eaten was a tea cake, some jelly beans and a cereal bar- not great to get to 5pm with just that.
When we changed trains we had about 25 mins, so we bought a cup of tea at the station before the final journey home- got in the door just before 9pm last night. It turned out to be a long day! But a brilliant one too.
Then it was time for a quick shower, dinner (I bought a nice Waitrose pizza on Friday for us to share as I wanted something that could just be put in the oven and needed nothing doing to it), and a rest in front of the TV. I put my compression socks on and I had forgotten how much they help.
This morning I was a bit stiff, but I have not been too bad. I am having today and tomorrow off from running, and am going to see how I feel on Wednesday- I might go to Sweatshop, or I might do a jog on my own if I am still a bit sore.
Anyway, I loved it! I loved the crowd support, and the atmosphere- it was the closest feeling to running Stockholm marathon. I loved all the random signs, the crowd doing the Mo-bot, the charity runners in their fancy dress, the amazing man with the fridge on his back (I passed him after about 10 miles- how was he still running???), the people setting up their own water and food stalls (Andy saw people giving out beer near the end- each to their own!). The one thing I would say is that Powerade should make smaller bottles- after each station there were so many bottles discarded where runners had only taken one sip and then thrown it- what a waste. Ideally I would have spent the night up there and travelled back down today, but one of the small draw backs of teaching is of course that I can’t take days off, so it did turn into a bit of a rush at the end. But it was brilliant, and each time I think about it, I am smiling.
Today I left work earlier than usual, brought my marking home and watched the race (set it to tape yesterday) and had some new tea 🙂 Resting my legs.
Right, that is enough for now. Thanks again for anyone who has sponsored me, for all the good luck wishes etc. (And if you did sponsor me, I will be getting my bake-on next weekend).
What did you get up to this weekend?