Event #6 – Great North Run (The End)

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13.1 Miles – 2 Hours, 55 Minutes, 1 Second

I set myself one main objective today. To finish. To cross the finishing line under my own steam, no matter how slowly or painfully. Mission accomplished.

While my primary goal was simply to complete the Great North Run, I was also hoping to ideally get through it inside three hours, and while I wouldn’t have been hugely concerned if I hadn’t managed that, I’m really pleased that I did so with a little bit of room to spare.

Before today, I had genuine doubts about my ability to finish a half marathon these days. The ordeal of the Great North 10k knocked my confidence quite a bit, because if I struggled to complete 6 and a bit miles, how would I get through more than double that distance?

On the day, though, I never really felt as though I wasn’t going to complete the race. That hoary old cliche about the atmosphere carrying you through really is true, and I was very careful to go really slowly early on.

Even when taking it leisurely, the first few miles whizz by, with the iconic and emotional trip over the Tyne Bridge an obvious highlight, enhanced by the pleasant surprise of seeing my friend Adam spectating just as I hit the bridge.

It was also a massive boost to see my wife and eldest daughter in their usual spot about three miles in, although it’s after that bit that it becomes a bit more of a struggle psychologically, because all that’s left after I’ve seen my family is 10 miles more of slogging.

I was pretty disciplined about it though – Knowing I was never going to run the whole distance, I made sure I ran to each mile marker and gave myself a few minutes walking time afterwards, before kicking back into a run.

That strategy worked pretty well until about 10 miles in when my legs just seized up and I knew I had very little running left in me. The physical wobble triggered an emotional one, and I turned to Facebook for a bit of support (an indication of how slowly I was travelling by then!) People were very kind and supportive and by then I knew I was going to complete it, even if I had to walk the last three miles.

I shook my legs out a little and managed to run some of the last mile, that torturous (albeit raucous and scenic) stretch along the sea front. As ever, it was a hugely emotional experience getting over the finishing line, although for the first time in my four runs, I didn’t burst into tears (I guess I got that out of my system somewhere between 10 and 11 miles).

So that’s it for Run, Browno, Run. I’d hoped to do another half marathon this year, but I know I don’t have the physical capability to do that any more, so this marks the end both of this year’s events and my half marathon days in general.

In spite of the physical challenges, and even though I didn’t complete as many events as I’d hoped, I’m still proud of the ground I’ve covered this year. I joked this year was a last hurrah for my knees, and that’s how it’s turned out, but it’s been a lot of fun all the same.

More importantly, I’m unbelievably grateful for the incredible generosity shown by all who have sponsored me this year. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been doing all this to raise as much money as possible for Bloodwise in a bit to show some solidarity to an old friend whose journey over the last year or so has been a million times tougher than mine.

If you still want to donate, the page is open for a little longer, and can be found here. All donations count for double because my employer match my sponsorship total.

Thank you all.

4.5 Miles, 51.32 Minutes

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Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I didn’t think I’d make it out for another decent run before the big day of the Great North Run in a week’s time. By that, I meant I didn’t actually think I’d get out again at all because my knees were playing up a little, so I intended to rest instead of agitate them (they’re grumpy old fuckers, just like their owner).

However, feeling surprisingly fresh-legged this morning, and having that familiar old itch in the feet to get my trainers on, I figured I might as well get out and hit the Quayside while I could.

Truth be told, I’d definitely rather have covered more distance, but the last thing I wanted was to mess myself up for next week – the order of the day was simply getting as many miles in as my legs could comfortably accommodate, and it turns out that figure was four and a half. Given that I was expecting it to be zero, though, I’m not going to grumble too much.

It’s painfully clear I’ve not been able to train as much as you ideally should for a half marathon, but one way or another, I’m determined to finish next week. Realistically, it’s extremely unlikely I’ll do the Morpeth half-marathon I’d booked in for October, so I’ll chuck everything I’ve got (whatever that may be) at next Sunday. I’m not even bothered about times – I’d definitely like to get back within three hours, but just finishing is the main goal.

This is most likely my last run until next Sunday, so I’ll see you on the other side.

(By the way, thanks again for the incredibly kind sponsorships throughout the year – Any more donations to Bloodwise are gratefully received).

Music: Martha – Courting Strong