Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Great North Run

on 20 September 2015


A week on and I think my knees have finally found their way home from South Shields! I was a bit stiff on Monday, and more so on Tuesday, but by Wednesday my legs were fine – so of course the machine at work went bang and I finished the week with very stiff arms instead! Ho-hum.

How was it? I hear you cry! This was the first time I’ve done the Great North Run, and it was definitely one I wanted to tick off the bucket list – if I’m going to run in the North-East, I have to have run the Blaydon Races and the Great North Run – I can now say I have survived both! Both were also ridiculously hot and sunny…

I’d surprised J in the car on the way to Leaze’s Park, where Mr J was kindly dropping us off, with a tutu of her very own as I know she has previous for coveting other’s tutus at other races πŸ˜› She was running for the Great North Air Ambulance so was gifted a luminous green tutu, while I was in a black one with gold ribbons for the colours of the Blackhill Bounders.


We’d opted for leaving all our stuff with Mr J. rather than risking the crush of the baggage buses, so were walking down to the starting corrals as we were intending to run – it was somewhat cold. We joined the compulsory loo queue – fortunately before it got too long, and then found the corrals – or rather, we could see them, but not a clear way to get to them. With them essentially being on the motorway, it wasn’t exactly built for pedestrian access so in true direct style we hopped over the fence and down the slope! I think we must have walked a mile to get to our corral, we were starting from pink – the second to last corral and the start line wasn’t even in sight when we found it. Plenty of screens showing it, no sign of its physical presence!

It was at least heating up, our frozen fingers were a thing of the past as we cautiously sipped our pre-race water not wanting another trip to the portaloos, and praying it wasn’t going to heat up too much more. It had been cooling down nicely through September so of course race day had to be a throwback to a summer scorcher.

Finally, the ‘Wheels of Steel’ – the wheelchair racers, were off from the start line, the elite men and women runners were introduced on the big screen and then they were off too, closely followed by the speedy club runners! Unlike other Great Run series races I’ve done where they release the corrals one at a time, the Great North Run just lets all the corrals go more or less at the same time, even while having more runners – around 50,000 this year. Despite this straight-off-to-the-start, it took J and I 40 minutes of walking and stopping to cross the start line – Mo Farah had finished in less than an hour by the time we hit mile 3!

We set off at a steady trot, answering the obligatory ‘Olle Olle Olle’ shouts under all the tunnels (I hate those tunnels and junctions in a car, especially when it’s busy), and it was the only time you could see I had the lights on in my funky headpiece – it being too bright for the rest of the route! We were steadily eating the miles up, J already in machine mode – head down and just pacing one foot in front of the other while I flitted about slapping all the kids hands (gently I hasten to add! I’m not heartless!). We pinched water from all the water stations, rejected the Lucozade, stuffed dextrose tablets in our faces every few km, and continued soldiering on.

It was about the 8 mile mark when I started feeling a little flaggy – we were on a wide motorway with no shade at all, the sun was beating down on us and we were still trudging along at our steady pace. Going a little slower than usual, I didn’t quite have my frying pan face on just yet, but it was definitely warm enough to be slightly uncomfortable – and as it turned out when we got back to the park, burn. I got sunburnt right down one side of my face, nearly with a line, and one arm was several tones darker than the other! I could have posed as a summer lorry driver.

Mile 9 and 10 passed us, still we pressed on, through the charity cheerers, showers and water stations. I knew the Bounders had taken over the water station at Mile 12, so was just counting every step to get me to some familiar faces! I hope they helped clear those bottles away afterwards as well as just handing them out!

Photo by J. Nixon

Photo by J. Nixon

Many people have said the last mile is the longest – and it is, because it’s actually 1.1 miles long and god does it feel it! You pass the 12 mile marker, you see the sea and a big sweeping corner, surely it must be nearly the end?! No – the finish line is still donkeys away down the seafront, and you’ve run this far without stopping so you better keep going! You’re not falling at the final hurdle! You WILL make it to the finish in one go if it kills you!

We did make it, J’s first half marathon completed and completed in one go – no wonder she had a proud (if tired!) grin on her face after crossing the finish line! I think J finished in better shape than I did with her steady pacing and not flitting about in the first half – but I do so love the atmosphere of the crowds in the big races, it really helps carry me along.


We got our well-earned medals, water and finishing packs and walked down to the bus and taxi ranks – mainly because if we stopped I was afraid my legs were going to seize up! It’s the longest I’ve been on my feet ever and I was feeling it! We paused to stretch off by a convenient wall, and opted for the buses – the Metro had chosen an opportune moment to shut, and the buses looked frequent enough that we didn’t need to fork out a fortune on a cab.

It took us a long time to get out of South Shields, and we tucked into a bag of crisp snack things from our finisher’s packs to try and get some fuel back into the system. We’d both drank plenty of water on the route (which probably saved us from heat stroke), so stomachs were already full and personally I couldn’t face eating a huge amount. I was ready to fall asleep on the bus I was so tired! It wasn’t until I got home about 2 hours later that I realised why I was so tired – I literally cleared out the house of food within 15 minutes of getting home, I was starving – I’d had breakfast at 07:30, and that was it apart from a pack of dextrose tablets and lots of water all day – and breakfast was probably used up finding the corrals and getting to the start line! Lesson learned – next time have a snack bar or something before the race, especially if there’s going to be a long wait!

The finishing packs for this one were a bit more interesting than the Manchester one, and also I think a bit more random…we got the usual supply of snacks and drinks that are expected after a race – water, sports drink, cereal bar, crisps, a race t-shirt (non-technical – I wish the Great Run series would do something other than cotton shirts – they’re too warm to run in!), and then some miscellaneous goodies.


There’s some joint gel stuff I was very tempted to use on my knees on Monday as they’d stiffened up even with the stretching and a hot bath when I got home; they weren’t bad – they’d loosen up if I was mobile, but I’d stiffen up again like a board if I was sitting any length of time – and do not asking me to crouch down at a desk!

The TX.Direct Wash-In is supposed to help waterproof your kit, I may try it on my blue shell jacket before the winter – it’s been through the washing machine a few times and I’ve got it into my head that’s not good for waterproofing – not actually based on any fact you understand.

The other thing is a DVD of a super-juice diet which I’m not sure I approve of being in here…fad diets do not exactly encouraging balanced nutrition, and it’s even more important when you’re doing high levels of exercise and other situations that you hit all the food groups in the right proportions (high quantities of chocolate and icecream for runners obviously!). I think I’d have to be really short of other entertainment to watch it…

Will I be back next year? I’m not sure yet. I’m certainly not checking the calendars like some other people I know are already! I enjoyed it, but more for the cameradrie than the route itself – I’m finding that I prefer the trails and running with a view to road races where all you see are motorways and there’s only the spectators (who to be fair, were fantastic) to distract you from the mindless tramping of your own tired feet. I’ll definitely be doing a couple of half marathons next year – but I think this one will be outvoted by Bamburgh and Kielder – which I also don’t have to enter a ballot for to secure a place, or pay as much for. I’m definitely pleased I’ve done it, it’s a very big tick on my running journey, and I’m so very very proud of J for getting round it – less than a year of running and she’s gone from nothing to a full half marathon without stopping. What a trooper!


I’ve (tried) to have a quiet week to recover, and went out for my first run today. I’m trying to get gently back into it before my next race next weekend – the first cross country race of the North-East Harrier League – something I haven’t done before! Kielder is also just around the corner, which J will also be joining me for.

On more of a blog related note, I have some good and some not-really-bad news. This is my 100th post! I started this blog in February when J and I got through on the Great North Run ballot, as a way of logging our progress, training and journey – and I feel I’ve done that. It’s also helped push me to go out sometimes knowing I didn’t want to leave too big a gap between entries incase someone spotted I was slacking!

I’ve also found that sometimes I’ve also used it to put a fair amount of pressure on myself – I had to do an entry after every training run or race, either that night or the next day, and with the pictures, maps, logos, spell-checking, tagging, etc., it actually takes a long time to write them – and when work is busy too, sometimes that’s time I’d like to use elsewhere – resting for example, or actually catching up on the washing! I’ve always enjoyed writing, so it’s also been good as a creative outlet. Now that our Great North Run chapter has reached an end, I will not be ending my blog, but I will not be letting it play such a big part in my day. I’ll still publish race reviews, and maybe monthly reports of what I’ve been up to, but I’ll not be listing every training run I do, and things may not be published quite as timely. I am proud of it – I like having my own site and it’s probably the longest I’ve stuck to a writing project that wasn’t a piece of coursework, but I need some brain chill-out time too, at least until things settle down a bit at work and my brain’s less fried.

Thanks for sticking with me through the journey so far – see you after Tanfield Cross Country on the 26th of September!



You can download the GPX file for this course from my Dropbox account by following the link below:

GPX data on Dropbox


3 responses to “Great North Run

  1. Well done Sarah!! As a ‘plodder’ of a runner, I have no ambitions to conquer the GNR, but have great admiration for anyone that has tackled it and survived. I will be seeing you at Kielder! x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done! I’d love to try the GNR, maybe next year!


    • Sarah J. says:

      It’s definitely worth doing! Running with that number of people is such a buzz πŸ™‚ get your name in for the ballot – even if you only want to do it once (for now!)


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