Race Report: The Great North Run 2015

Race Report: The Great North Run 2015

Date: 13th September 2015

Profile: Flat

Terrain: Road

Weather: Warm and sunny

Website: greatrun.org

Positives: excellent organisation, first class support, seems like the whole of Newcastle, Gateshead and South Shields get behind the event

Negatives: I hate to complain about sunshine, but it was unanticipated, and I could have done without it!

As with many runners, the Great North Run has been on my bucket list for years. I had secured a lace last year, but had to defer after I picked up an injury. So, I felt more than ready and a bit overwhelmed as the date for this race came around. To add to all of that, the news that Mo Farah was running just made it even more special.

The lead up to the event was great, with frequent emails from the Great Run team and numerous social media posts about the event really meant I was looking forward to it, and very excited. @TheWelshWookie and I had booked the ‘coach, sleep and run’ package from Glasgow, via Nirvana Europe, and we didn’t quite know what to expect. We knew that our accommodation would be in Newcastle University halls of residence, which were very near the start line, and we were open to just seeing how the weekend turned out. It was excellent, and I can’t recommend the Nirvana Europe package highly enough.

We arrived at Buchanan Bus Station on Saturday morning, and spotted our bus right away:  

 We were first at the bus stance, but before long, a few other runners arrived. There were 10 of us on the bus, and it was a great crowd of friendly, supportive runners – as I’m sure you’d expect. Due to the low numbers, the coach had been subbed for a minibus (albeit a nice, comfy one), and our driver, Frank introduced himself. He’d been drafted in at short notice, and – to be honest – didn’t have much of a clue about where he was going. But, being a friendly bunch, mobiles were used as sat navs, to get us to where we were going.

Anyway, we made it to Newcastle, and to our digs, which were at Castle Leazes. We were warmly welcomed, and headed to the check in area where we were given our room keys and a goody bag:  

  That was a lovely wee surprise! There were plenty of staff on hand to continue with the welcome, and to make sure we found our rooms ok. The rooms were basic, as you’d expect, but ideal, with a bed, sink, desk, shelves, etc. There was plenty of tea and coffee available in the communal kitchen area, which was welcome.  

 In the evening, @TheWelshWookie and I headed out into the city, to find our bearings. We easily found the start line, and snapped a picture of what would be the start muster in only a few hours:  

 We then wandered through the city centre, and down to see the iconic landmarks at the quayside, such as the millennium bridge, and the Sage building:  

 We noticed that there was someone on the roof of the Sage building. Imagine our surprise when we got home and watched back the coverage to discover that it was none other than fellow runner and thoroughly good bloke, Professor Brian Cox, recording the opening scenes for the TV coverage! 😀   

  After a quick bite to eat, we took a lovely stroll up past St James’ Park, and back to the halls of residence for an early night. 

 As ever, I had my race gear ready to go the night before: 

 We were up at a decent time, and had arranged to get our bags back to the mini bus at 8am, so that Frank could get the bus out before the roads were closed, and we arranged to all meet back at the South Shields pick up point by 3pm or 3.30pm for departure. We then went to the refectory for breakfast. There was a brilliant spread: while we stuck to our usual breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, there was plenty of porridge and bananas being consumed, as well as some folks enjoying a full cooked breakfast 😮

Wee were grateful for the Newcastle Uni goody bags, as we could use these for some snacks and a change of clothes at the finish line. The forecast was for grey, cloudy skies and cool temperatures, so I thought we’d need something warm to change into. It had been very chilly when we put our bags onto the mini bus. Little did we know that this was going to change!

But, as we had decided to take bags, we had to get these onto the baggage buses by 10.10am. So, at around 9.50am, we strolled up to the start area, which had been totally transformed from the evening before. We easily found the right buses, and stashed our bags. I remembered to take a photo in case I couldn’t remember where the bags were:  

  And then we made our way into the starting pen. As we did so, the sun broke through the clouds, and the heat began to build. There were plenty of large screens by each pen, which was fantastic: it really kept you entertained as you waited. I also did my first ever Periscope broadcast, and having watched it back, I definitely need to give more thought to what I’m doing in future. It was fun 🙂

    
  Anyway, we watched the start of the ladies’ race and the ‘wheels of steel’ wheelchair race, and eventually it as time for the start of the men’s and mass participation race. I was great to watch Mo Farah et al actually start, knowing we’d be passing through the start soon! Then, the Red Arrows were overhead, and looked fantastic: 

 Well, when I say soon, it took our wave over half an hour to get to the start line! As we walked towards the start, there was a real mixture of excitement and a touch of angst as I realised that the sun was staying out, and I had no sun cream on. Ooops!

The support right from the beginning was amazing. As we ran through the tunnels and underpasses of the first mile or two, there was a lot of supportive ‘Oggie, oggie, oggies’ which was amazing! I had such a huge smile on my face!

The support as we ran over the Tyne Bridge was unbelievable – the streets were full, and nowhere on the course was unsupported. As we got to mile three, we had an impromptu pit stop so the ‘TheWelshWookie’ could use the facilities. And then, at mile four, it was my turn to stop. But, I stopped at the St. John’s Ambulance tent, in search of some sun cream. Fortunately, they carry sachets of Factor 30, God bless them!

Once I was suitably smothered in cream, we could get back to the run, and into our rhythm. After two early stops, and a crowded field, as well as a hot, hot day, we decided to just take the run easy, and make the most of it – savour the atmosphere. And that’s what we did.

We waved as we passed charity buses, we sang along as we passed the many music points, including joining in with ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ amongst other tunes. We high fived many, many kids who lined the route. It was awesome!

We were blown away by the support. And the food! Wow! I have never seen so many people with so much food for runners. Yes, there were tons of jelly babies and jelly beans. But there were also people handing out ice lollies and ice poles, polo mints, fresh lemonade, a young guy even offered us a can of Strongbow! 😉

Our favourite was the lady offering fresh sausage rolls, telling us that they were lovely – she sounded just like Sarah Millican! 😉 It was just awesome!

I won’t say that this race flew by – it didn’t. Miles 6 – 9 did, but there were a couple of tough points, too, particularly the hill at mile 11. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected, but it was tough. Just then, the Red Arrows were back overhead, and their aerial display really kept us entertained.

Then, there was the downhill stretch towards the sea, which was tough on the joint at that stage, and we found ourselves running the final mile along the water front. The support was outstanding.
We could hear music behind us, getting closer, and as it did so, it changed to ‘Uptown Funk’. Just what we needed for the final stretch! So, there we were, belting it out as we ran along the front, when we realised that the music was from a runner pushing another participant in a wheelchair. Wowee! And, yes, they did overtake us!

Then we were at the finish, and we crossed the line, in true Mobot style. Wow. I have goosebumps thinking about it now 🙂

There was a short walk from the finish to the medal collection, where @TheWelshWookie and I had to split up, as we were funnelled through the finish by t-shirt size. I collected my medal, give to me by a young guy with a hearty ‘well done’, which he must have said hundreds or thousands of times already.

We met back up again, and then walked to the baggage buses to retrieve our gear. There was a huge changing area, which was great, as I could get into some comfy clothes for the bus journey home. We then made our way to the bus, to find that only two guys had gotten there before us! So, we had time to chill out, have some snacks, and enjoy the sun, before boarding the bus back to Glasgow.

Here’s a map of the race: 

  Our stats: 2:39:01 my slowest HM to date, but that didn’t matter in the slightest

The Medal: 

 Goody Bag: Lucozade, water, crisps, cereal bar, samples and leaflets: 

 T-shirt: A pretty cool finisher’s medal. Excuse the wild hair – I’d taken off my visor, and the wind picked up just as I was having my pic taken! 😮  

  
I had left my Nike SportWatch in my room (which the staff kindly returned to me), so I used my Nike App to record the run. I’m not sure what happened, as it recorded the run as almost 15 miles!

I can understand why people rate the GNR so highly. I really is the King of Half Marathons. If you ever get the chance to run it, take that opportunity! And if you have run it, what were your thoughts about it? I’d love to hear them.

Race Report: The Inaugural Carradale Canter 10K

Race Report: The Inaugural Carradale Canter 10K

Date: 12th July 2015

Profile: Undulating

Terrain: Mixed: road, sand and trail

Weather: Warm and sunny

Website: https://www.facebook.com/greatcarradalecanter

Positives: brilliant course, with a mix of hills, flat, beach, road and trail. Excellent support, awesome views

Negatives: not a negative, but a quick field on a difficult course left me fourth from last 😮

Carradale is a picturesque village nestled on the east coast of the Kintyre peninsula, some 25 miles south of Tarbert. It’s blessed with a lovely harbour (with a working fishing fleet) as well as a golden sandy beach and a great network of forestry trails. If you read my post about crewing for Julia at the Kintyre Way ultra, you’ll perhaps remember that Carradale is also located on the Kintyre Way.

As ever, I had my race gear ready to go the night before:  Fortunately, the race wasn’t an early one as it was scheduled for an 11.30 am start (I’m assuming this might be to do with the tide, making the beach section easier to run), and so this morning we had plenty of time to get ready, have breakfast and the drive the long and winding road to Carradale (yes, THE ‘long and winding road’ that Paul McCartney wrote about 😉 )

The sun was shining as we arrived in Carradale. We parked in the primary school car park, and as we were doing so, waved to the marshals we knew, who were having their briefing. We walked to the harbour for registration, and as we walked, saw that the village was a little hillier than we had remembered!

The registration area was pretty busy when we got there, and when we checked in, I realised that I’d been given bib number one! Wowee! I realised, looking around at the other runners, that I might actually be the first runner with bib #1 to finish last 😮 

  
We checked our bags, then chatted to other runners as we waited for the race briefing, and everyone was relaxed and having fun. Then we had a short walk to the start of the 10K, where we had our race briefing. Instructions today included things like ‘watch out for adders’ and ‘beware of the mud’…. I knew this was going to be an interesting race!

Here’s a map of the race:

 The race was started by a countdown and a starter’s pistol, and we were straight onto the road leading back into the village – and it was a tough hill! It got the legs working from the start. TheWelshWookie and I knew we’d be slow, and so we kept to the back of the pack. The support was great from the start, with villagers out in their gardens to support us all.

We soon turned off to the left, and headed down a country lane to the beach – my first ever race section on the beach! Although it was tough, I surprised myself, because I really enjoyed it – I had a smile plastered on my face. A lady asked to take our picture (I think she liked the skort). She had camera problems, but we stopped and waited, to let her take a snap – I think we were happy for the break, but it did cost us a couple of minutes (not that time was a concern for us). I loved dodging the jelly fish and the flotsam and jetsam, and before we knew it we were back onto a track road, and heading for the forestry section.

The forestry part was great – lovely and cool, shaded, soft underfoot. We were soon way behind the pack, and had the run to ourselves. We didn’t see any adders, but were treated to an awesome aerial display by a golden eagle – lucky us 😀

Next was a short section back on the road before heading onto the kintyre way at the Network Centre (you’ll see pictures in my blog post here), and then we were at the hilly part – a steep climb up a forestry track to the highest point of the race. Well, that got the heart going! We walked it, unsurprisingly! Next was a great downhill section for about a kilometre along forestry roads.

Finally, we had the last section: into the village along the main road, back along a side road, up a short grassy hill, down a track, through a field, over a style and then onto the harbour road, where we could see the finish line 🙂

We reached the finish line to a somewhat subdued welcome – but we were not far from last, and people had been waiting to see the finishers for a looooong time by then, so I’m thankful they stayed!

I was handed a goody bag which contained the medal, and grabbed a bottle of water. Other runners were really chatty, and we had a great catch up with quite a few people about how we’d found the run, and how amazingly scenic it was.

TheWelshWookie and I then headed to the barbecue, and joined the burger queue. As we were waiting, the prize giving was taking place. So while we cheered and clapped for the winners, I didn’t manage to take any pictures. Sorry! We were in the queue with Karen, one of our fellow SUPercisers, which was fab. We enjoyed our burgers in glorious sunshine, watching a seal play in the harbour, before heading home to Tarbert. On the walk back to the car we chatted with Gail from Campbeltown about running adventures, and I was struck once again as to how friendly and supportive runners are of each other. 

 Our stats: 1:17:17. My, my – slow, even by my slow standards! No matter, it was worth it.

 The Medal: Engraved, and it came with stickers to add your time to it. No, don’t think I’ll do that!

 Goody Bag: banana, bottle of water and an ace buff style scarf!

 T-shirt: None, but no problem with that

When I got home, I uploaded my run and was greeted with this milestone:

  
And right away, I reset my Nike Coach for the Great North Run training – nine weeks today! :O

I’d definitely do this run again. You’d never know it was an inaugural event as it was so well organised and supported. Roll on next year’s event!

Skipness Castle Walk

Skipness Castle Walk

After the TT10K yesterday, I have given my legs a wee rest- no run today. Instead, @TheWelshWookie and I went for a walk around Skipness Castle. Skipness is a small village, located a few miles south of Tarbert. Although it is nearby, it has been a while since we’d been there.

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I haven’t really tried out the camera feature on my Asus Iconia, and so we decided that a visit to Skipness Castle might put it through its paces.

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We were delighted to see that the Castle has had a lot of work done since we last visited, and you can now go inside part of the castle, where the interior rooms have been restored with floorboards, so that you can better imagine what it would have been like to live and work there.

You can even go onto the roof, which offers some pretty good views of the Isle of Arran. It’ll be spectacular on a sunny day!

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We walked up a track road, and found this lovely building, newly restored:

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And, of course, we stopped off at Stonefield Farm & Coffee Shop on the way home. @TheWelshWookie had cheesecake; I had Cranachan Sponge. Yum!

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Over the coming week, I’m busy on a couple of evenings, so I’ll be keeping my running light- ready to start my 10K training in earnest next week, preparing for the GSR 10K in October.