800 metres to go ” Come on!”, 400 metres to go, holding back the tears. Crossing the line shouting ” Yes, get in! ” and the tears flow.
I knew the Great North Run was going to be emotional for me but even I was surprised how much it effected me. Why? Well, 6 years ago I had a big knee operation and the surgeon said “You’ll never run long distances, like a half marathon, again”.
After the surgery I suffered from spells of depression due to a few personal problems and did very little exercise for a couple of years. When I started to feel mentally better, I decided I needed to get fit and found running helped with my mental health. I eased myself back into regular running and exercise in 2016, managing my knee running short distances a few times a week. At the end of the year I did a few 10ks as I was hoping to up my distances in 2017.
2017 started with me joining two running challenges, Team Totum and Destination Boro. I hoped this would give me more focus and motivation. Team Totum was a group of north east runners using a natural supplement to help with their training for May’s Sunderland 10k/Half Marathon. Destination Boro is a group of runners from the Middlesbrough area, virtually running back to Boro over 9 months from various places in Europe, raising funds for charity along the way.
Having the Sunderland 10k in May was a great way to kick start the training especially in the winter months. The Totum Sport people and the Team Totum runners were very supportive and motivational. The supplement was helping my running and recovery massively and I still take it now. I kept logging in the miles for the Destination Boro challenge, doing races, parkruns and training runs.
I wanted to do more 10k this year and hopefully a half marathon or two if I felt my knee could do it. The local Redcar Half Marathon on October 1st opened for entries and with the earlybird offer, entry was very cheap. So I thought I’d give it a go.
But I always fancied doing the Great North Run again, after doing it 3 times already in 2000, 2001 and 2004. But would I get a place? Over the past few years, I’ve supported male cancer charities and ‘Balls to Cancer’ announced on social media that they had places available. I signed up straight away and my journey back to the GNR start line began.
Training was going well. I completed my Destination Boro challenge well ahead of schedule, I was doing plenty of races, regularly training, loving running and enjoying meeting my running buddies.
So GNR day arrived. An early start to meet the coach and travel up to Newcastle with some of the Destination Boro runners. After a cuppa and a pre race chat we headed up to the start line area. I’d arranged to meet some of the Team Totum runners before the race and went off to meet them. It’s been great that some of the team have kept in contact and meet up at races and parkruns.
Waiting nervously for the start time to come round in my pen and I tried to find space to do some stretching and a warm up. I was hoping to do a sub 2 hours time, but decided to just to run at a pace I was comfortable with and see what happened. Not once did I look at my watch during the run.
The run was great. I loved the atmosphere. The cheering of the crowds lining the street, high-fiving the kids, having a laugh with fellow runners and chasing Bananaman!
About 10 miles in and I started to feel it now, my legs were struggling. But I was nearly there, come on dig in. Just a parkrun to go I thought. Running down the hill to the coast and massive “oggy, oggy oggy” rang out, pumping up the runners around me and the people on the road side. It was the lift I needed for the final push.
After holding back the tears at 400 metres to go, I was punching the air and shouting “Get in, yes yes!” as I crossed the line. 2:04:02, I was happy with that. Then it hit me. I’d done it. What was that doc?! Never run a half marathon again, hey?! Tears of joy were streaming down my face and I could hardly breath.
I thought I’d composed myself by the time I got to the medals but waiting in the line I started crying again. The lovely woman hanging the medal round my neck congratulated me and gave me the hug I needed.
I made my way to the charity tents village and as the Destination Boro runners came into their charity tent, we chatted about the run over a much needed cuppa. The support and motivation from the DB runners has been great and it’s a pleasure to be part of this running group.
I popped round to the RNIB charity tent to see Michael Briggs (https://arunnersramble.com), the 1st Team Totum runner I met back in January. We recently did his RNIB blind run challenge together which was an amazing and interesting challenge (https://arunnersramble.com/2017/09/13/running-blind-my-greatest-challenge/). We’ve shared some great times together since meeting and this was another one, even if I was a bit emotional.
That evening I sat in my finisher’s tee with the medal round my neck, watching the BBC footage of the Great North Run that my wife had recorded for me. I sat there thinking back to how far I’ve come. From the surgeon’s table through depression, to pounding the streets getting quicker and running further. Then crossing the finishline in South Shields with a massive sense of pride and achievement. I did it. I proved them wrong. I don’t know how long my knee will last, even the surgeon wasn’t sure. But I’m going to continuing running and with a smile on my face.