The Great North Run, 30 Years of Joy and Pain

Duration: 3:55 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.491
This story has been viewed 6202 times

John has competed in all 30 Great North Runs and tells us about his memories of the event.

By John Gray

Other information

This story was inspired by the 'In The Long Run' exhibition at the Great North Museum : Hancock.

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Video transcript

2010 is my 30th year of competing in the Great North Run. I feel privileged to have been part of this brilliant event every year of its life. In 1981 I watched the London marathon in awe on TV and saw on BBC Look North that there was to be half marathon taking place in June of that year. I applied and sent for the training schedule. That mentioned to try to run for 20 minutes. So after thinking what a doddle that would be, after 10 minutes I realised how unfit I was. Although I was only 100 metres from home once the 20 minutes were complete I stopped and walked the rest. My face was bright red all that evening.

After a few years I was persuaded to join Shildon running club. This was the best thing I ever did for the advice and the great friendships formed. When I had completed my 25th Great North Run I realised how my endeavours were perceived by others as friends at my club put on a surprise party for me. I was presented with a lovely glass shield and a very special book with photos and messages from all my friends, some of whom had left the club and I hadn’t seen for years. I was overwhelmed by the turnout at Shildon leisure centre as almost 100 were there just for me, or maybe just for a night out.

I also organise the marshals for the baggage buses from my club so on the day of the race I am very tired with the early start, arriving with the marshals at 7.30am by minibus from Shildon. We all chat until it is my time to go to the start area, which luckily is on the start line with the celebrities. This being my reward for completing every run.

Even now I am amazed at the sight as I cross the bridge looking down the central motorway and see the masses of runners lined up from the start line as far as the eye can see. The gun goes off and I start too fast as usual. I go under the motorway bridge and I hear ‘oggy, oggy, oggy’ even after 30 years. I watch for celebrities I pass and who pass me to keep my mind off the struggle ahead. As I cross the iconic bridge I look for the TV cameras to watch out for myself later on the highlights show.

I pass Gateshead Stadium, the scene of many great athletics meetings and I hear ‘come on John!’ but can’t see who it is but no doubt will be told at a later date that I ignored them. As I tire more and more I notice more and more pubs with people with pints of lager. ‘Yes please’ I think to myself but hopefully in an hour or so that will be me.

As I tire I notice a penguin or a nun pass me looking fresh as a daisy which makes me even more exhausted. With 2 to 3 miles to go I catch a glimpse of the t-shirt as one of those annoying good runners is running back along the course, showing it off to all in his wake.

Down Marsden bank and onto the seafront and there is a wall of sound as a tunnel of people 20 deep along that longest mile in the world are cheering you on not to stop. The finish is visible but seems to be getting pulled further away. However, teeth gritted I notice the 800 metres to go sign and get a new lease of life and speed to the finish. I feel relief and great satisfaction as I am in the finish funnel and the timing chip is taken and I collect my t-shirt and goody bag.

Another year completed and another year of promising myself to do more training next time…and there will be a next time.  

John has competed in all 30 Great North Runs and tells us about his memories of the event. Posted on 03/11/2010 at 03:33:19

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