Aileen - Brenda and I ran our first Great North Run on 28th June 1981. We are part of
an elite group of runners who have completed all 29 runs to date. This group is made
up of 122 men and only 7 women. At that time we worked together in a shop in
Morpeth. We were always looking for ways to exercise and lose weight and when we
saw Mike Neville on Look North promoting the run we decided we would enter. Our
training began as soon as the training schedule arrived through the letterbox. We
began on Morpeth Common in our Green Flash tennis shoes. We were very aware that
there were very few women who ran then and to start with we were slightly self
conscious. Our aim was to run around the perimeter of the common non stop. We
progressed to running on the road and we bought some decent running shoes and
increased the miles as fitness dictated.
Brenda - We trained regularly around the lanes of Northumberland and on one occasion
when running a 9 mile training run, at around the 8 mile mark I asked Aileen, her being
a country girl, what sort of wild flower was growing in the hedgerow. Her reply was I
don't ************ know and don't ********* care. I still don't know what type of flower this
was but we still remain friends after all these years.
Aileen - We arrived at the start of the first run not knowing what to expect. We had
never ran 13 miles in our training sessions and had no idea if we would complete the
distance or if we did how long it would take. I found the atmosphere totally amazing
with 12,000 runners on the starting line along with all the spectators.
Brenda - Arriving at the start of the first run was awe inspiring. I was running 13 miles
for the first time in my life. I was thinking will I make it to the end in one piece - time will tell. The gun went off and off we went.
Aileen - I remember the gun going off with the crowds lining the route all along the way,
cheering us on with words of encouragement. I noticed some runners stopping for a
cigarette on the Tyne Bridge and one or two stopping for a pint of beer. We started the
run off together with Brenda going ahead at around Gateshead Stadium.
Brenda - I was feeling good at this point so I decided to increase my pace - bad
decision. One mile on I was breathing like a cart horse, looking forward to the first
Aileen - I continued at a steady pace as I was really wanting to finish the run.
Brenda - I arrived at the 10 mile marker feeling not too bad apart from the heat I have
now seen the incline in front of me and thinking - oh my god.
Aileen - I remember getting to the 10 mile marker and really having to dig in to get up to
the 11 mile water station. Only 2 miles to go. Then came the short sharp downhill to
Marsden - sounds easy but then came the longest 1.5 mile stretch to the finish line.
Spectators were shouting ‘only a mile to go’.
Brenda - I reached Marsden bank water station aching from head to toe and feeling
very emotional and thinking not far now - ha ha. I grabbed a cup of water to throw over
my head only to find it was orange juice. I am now not only look exhausted but look like
an exhausted punk rocker.
Brenda - The finishing line is in sight –I have picked up the pace. I can't believe I have
made it in one piece. I had completed the run in 2 hours and 5 minutes. I really hope I
can do this again next year.
Aileen - See the finishing line was the most fabulous sight. When I crossed the line I
had the greatest sense of achievement I have ever had. I had ran a half marathon in 2
hours and 30 minutes. Not fast but not bad either.
Brenda - We have now completed 29 runs. Who would have thought that we would still
be running all these years later. Over the years we have competed in many other runs
and have made many friends along the way. Because we have ran all the runs we start
at the very front and meet many celebrities. We met the great Kelly Holmes who had
just won her two gold medals at the Athens Olympics. She autographed our numbers.
Aileen - Our part in the GNR is more than just completing the run - we have been had
our photographs taken and been interviewed many times for the local press. We have
had our story published in the book “The Great North Run - The First 25 years and my
part in it". We have also been invited to the 21st photograph session on the Quayside
and the Cultural Programme Evening at the Sage, Gateshead.
Brenda - In the future we would like to meet Nicola Hedley of Nova International. We
have spoken to her many times over the years when we needed information regarding
the run. She has always been very helpful. It would be nice to put a face to a name.
Aileen - We also aspire to being enrolled into the Great North "Hall of Fame'. We are
very proud of our achievement to date and look forward to completing in many more
runs to come.
Brenda - We would also encourage other women to put on their running shoes and give
it a try. It’s not about being the best but the taking part. In the words of Jim Alder "No
pain no gain" - and we have had plenty of that.