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
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
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.