I had been looking forward to running in Newcastle’s Great North Run last weekend since I found out I’d got a place in the ballot all the way back in February earlier this year. I wrote about all the running I’ve been doing in this post. It’s become a big part of life, more so since I read that book. Part of ensuring I achieve my goal of 1000 km’s in 2016 was booking in a bunch of races to keep me motivated, but this, I have to say was my most anticipated. I remembered the atmosphere, the scale and the people that made 2006’s Great North Run one of my best running experiences to date. It did not disappoint.
The night before I’d booked Souter Lighthouse as the camping spot for me and my friend Matt to have a sleep pre race.
I can’t fault the location, in fine dry weather, being so close to the coast was amazing. We took a walk down to Marsden Rock and got pizza from a van in the car park on the headland and took it down to the beach.
However, camping, after travelling for 9 hours, in the freezing cold and not getting much sleep was just a bit of a bummer. I was kicking myself for not throwing some duvets into the car. When I was sleeping, I was dreaming about all the people I have ever been camping with working together to get as many blankets together as possible to get warmer while we camped. It was that kind of restless night.
By 6am I was so cold I couldn’t be bothered to try and snatch a few more zzz’s and headed to the car to get changed. Getting changed in a one man tent had proved too challenging the night before and the car’s got blacked out windows. Winner.
I woke up to this sky. Absolutely incredible. It was so incredible, the fact that I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep felt suddenly very insignificant, I just felt lucky and awestruck. I watched that sky change for some time.
Then I sat in the car, with the radiator on and had a large coffee before getting the coach into town.
Here I am in my adidas crochita gear ready for race start:
By the time we got penned we had already walked 7km. By day end, including the race (13.1 miles – half marathon) my little legs had moved my body 39km. Altogether, the wall to wall support, the music, the bands, the locals handing out sweets, oranges and ice lollys, the unlikely and happy coincidence that Mel, (who I had been in touch with on Facebook and not seen for years) managed to pick me out of 55,000 runners at mile 5 made for an unforgettable experience. Added to these highlights, the runner’s camaraderie on the bus and on the track combined with the other extraordinary stories of individuals and teams running for charities made it at times emotionally overwhelming.
I have only just started to feel myself today, 2 whole days after getting back home. Lack of sleep, running, walking and driving for so long manifested in a flat, depressing, holiday blues type hangover of exhaustion that has been hard to shake. I was almost crying on the drive back I was so weary. Aching weariness like this is hard to push through. Why would you voluntarily do that to yourself I can hear you ask? Well, beneath, that veneer of weary is the elation at completing something you set out to, a sense of accomplishment and a happy neat package of an experience to pack up and make a part of your life. Unless you’ve done something similar it’s nearly impossible to explain. However today chores were done and the normal rhythm of my day resumed. I am restored.
Also, importantly the times improved. In 2006 I ran this race in 2hrs 12 minutes and 15 seconds. Now, in 2016 I got 1hr 53 minutes and 26 seconds. That I’ve got better means I’m fitter and faster than I was before and encourages me to keep trying to improve – it made me immediately think of the quote from Murakami :
“Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”