6.38 Miles, 1 Hour, 12 Minutes, 7 Seconds
The Great North 10k is an ideal warm-up event for the real deal, which is now not much more than two months away (Yikes). It also serves as a pretty good sense-check as to how someone is progressing in their training for the big day.
For me, today was a real race of two halves. The first 5k was a dream, although it got off to a worrying start when two minutes in I turned my ankle over in a pothole and thought for a second that I’d blown it right at the beginning. Thankfully that was a false alarm which I think was more scary to those around me than it was to me, and besides a little tenderness on the top of my foot, I didn’t do any real damage.
From that point, I felt strong and confident, in spite of the blistering heat. (One water station in this heat, though – Seriously?!) The course is a funny set-up, given that halfway through you turn back on yourself and start running back the way you’ve just come. The effect of this is that if you’re towards the back of the pack at the beginning, from very early on you’re parallel to a stream of traffic on their way back in, which is a bit disconcerting when you’re only a couple of kilometres in. Still, it was nice to give my misleadingly fast mate Andy a high-five, as well as seeing various other pals heading homeward, not all of whom saw me. (Hi Suzy, Tom, Bob and Pete!)
Notwithstanding that, once you’ve navigated the annoyingly treacherous roads around the stadium and hit the Quayside, it’s a pretty enjoyable route – I’ve waxed lyrical numerous times about how much I love this route on my training runs, although it turns out the Gateshead side is oddly hillier than the Newcastle stretch I normally hit.
It was all going pretty well up to the mid-point of the race where you start to come back on yourself and join the side of the barrier that people are jealous of. However, this is when the wheels started to come off. It started with my left knee feeling a little tender, but nothing too alarming at first. Historically, this has always been the weaker of my knees, although that’s a real classic ‘bald men fighting over a comb’ kinda contest.
By the time I got to 7k, though, I was closer to quitting an event than I ever have been before. The knee really didn’t feel good, and at that point I genuinely thought I wasn’t going to make it to the finishing line. To be honest, quitting probably would’ve been the sensible thing to do.
However, a combination of stubbornness and the thought of why I’m doing this drove me on. It was an inordinately slow last few kilometres, particularly once you hit the 9k sign and the dreaded ‘Slog on the Tyne’ uphill stretch, but the feeling once I had hauled myself into Gateshead Stadium and plodded around the running track and over the line was fantastic.
The last few kilometres was probably the most I’ve ever struggled in an event (yes, even more than the dreaded Cragside), and I think I need to spend the next few days thinking about what my body is capable of. Right now my knee is pretty sore, so I’ll rest up as best I can and see how that recovers before I make any snap decisions. Even in my pain, I’m still hopeful I can get through the last few events, although I may need to take the training easy, and I reckon this year might realistically be my last GNR.
Still, perhaps the sunburn and knee pain is worth a sponsor?
Music: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy