All of those reps, those early weekend long runs, the weight sessions and even the diet – it all came down to this.
48 hours prior to me running the Great North Run, I enjoyed a relaxing Friday and Saturday, enjoying the pasta party and live street athletics, which was a fantastic distraction, watching Andy Turner’s last ever race was something I didn’t want to miss.
Of course, like so many, I hardly slept a wink that night. So many thoughts were going through my mind like “what I if get injured?”, “what if I can’t find anyone when I finish?” and “I’ve not ran 13 miles in training, will I be okay?!” Those kind of silly little thoughts kept me from getting much sleep – its part and parcel I would imagine.
The morning of the run came, and never have I experienced nerves like I did then. I kept to my routine like I had done for three months: peanut butter, jam and banana spread on toast with a glass of orange juice and water, no way did I want to change anything, not now!
A quick loosening session on my foam roller and a blast of music via a upbeat playlist and I was ready to go…no turning back now!
Getting there was easier than I thought. The Metros were busy, naturally, and the atmosphere was starting to crank up with each minute. Emma met me outside Haymarket and she was my motivator and rock until I had to head to the start on my own, a quick kiss and reminder that I would see her and her family at the three mile mark – I felt like a kid starting in a new school after she’d gone. No familiar faces, a big crowd, all of it was so strange to me, already I was in awe and I didn’t know where to look.
A brief but vigorous warm up to make sure nothing bad would happen injury-wise, “nothing daft Briggs, nothing daft” was what I kept telling myself as I made sure that I was warm and mobilised.
Something rang a bell and 10:30am stood out like a sore thumb, I couldn’t think what…anyway, I needed the toilet and no chance was I going to stand in a queue for a Portaloo, the bushes would suffice.
“Why is 10:30 ringing a bell, I’m sure something has to happen then…AH BALLS!” suddenly realising that I had to get to my pen before it ‘closed’ I decided to treat the run there as a perfect solution to keep warm, without sprinting and panicking. Luckily, by the time I got there, they were still open but because I didn’t get there early enough, I was forced to queue from outside the pen.
Before I knew it, the Elite men were off and that signalled the start of the Great North Run, Security then decided to close the pen and tell us to head to the back, no chance, me and the rest of Group F jumped the fence and start our walk to the start.
By the time I did get to the start, the entire occasion got to me and I was in a state of panic. I forgot to start my watch almost, my head was in five different places, “I’m actually running this, what the hell is going on?!” I had to switch on and remember my training and the advice I got of my Uncle Bob, “Keep it steady on the first 5k!”
From then until the last mile was a complete blur, only certain aspects of the run stand out, other than the heat, I felt great, amazing in fact, but my time looked to be miles off the two hours that I set myself. These are the points that did stick out…
Definitely bottled it. My arse had dropped (not literally), I clocked myself at nine minutes, two minutes from my average mile per minute when i trained, and I should have stepped it up. I passed Tony The Fridge and gave him a pat on the back of support and joined in with the traditional Oggy’s.
All my focus was to get to mile three to see Emma and when I did, a whole wave of adrenaline coursed through me, I waved to her and her family to let them know I was fine. I felt good, nothing was hurting or niggling I came into my 5k checkpoint in 28:29 minutes, “COME ON, MAN!” I keep telling myself, it should have been 25/26 at least.
I was becoming more and more frustrated, my 10k split read 57:09, if I really wanted to get under two hours, I had to work hard…now! I couldn’t open up my stride and spent most of my time going from side to side looking for gaps. I eventually took to the path and also seen my sports masseuse Stephen while I did this, another boost to keep me going.
Here I lost my concentration. I was frantically looking for my Dad (Kevin) and my Aunty Judith too, both of them made sure they got down early enough to see me and the rest of the family running but I couldn’t see them, I thought about shouting for them but I was in two minds, should I just stop and look for them or keep going? I chose the latter, I’ll see them after, I needed to finish this and I was so close I couldn’t stop now.
1:50 was displayed on my watch, “hurry up, Briggs, and put your foot DOWN!” So, I did. I seen loads of my family at Blackberry Hills, Ian, Emma, Lilly, Joanne, Zoe and apparently my Mam (Christine) was there also ha!
1:57 showed and I had 800m to go, it was going to be tight, very, very tight! Gaps closed and I had to force my way through the crowds, I had a goal to achieve and no way was I letting anyone stop me.
200m and 1:59 had just clocked up – cue my sprint finish. For weeks I always tried to end a running session with a strong finish, I knew I may need it and boy did it pay off! I ran so fast that I couldn’t feel my legs, arms or any part of my body, then, just like you see in films or inspirational montages, everything slowed down. I have no idea what happened here but time stopped for 10-15 seconds to me, it was like the world around me went into super slow-mo.
Was I about to hit the wall? Surely, not now, not this close. Still, I felt further away from the line and strangely, I heard Steve Cram rattling off commentary in my head, “…only meters away, he’s had to dig deep – watch the clock!” everything then sped up and I crossed the line…did I do it, did I make it?!
1:59.51, YES! I DID IT! Cutting it fine of course, but I did it! My first ever Bupa Great North Run and I ran it in under two hours!
I don’t really remember a lot after that moment, I met up with Emma and her family and went immediately to my Sponsor’s tent of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity to enjoy a cup of tea and snacks. Eventually my mother found my tent and I gave her the biggest hug, I was physically and emotional exhausted and I think she could sense that.
It’s always been a burning ambition to do the Great North Run, from a young age, ever since I seen my mother run it, I’ve wanted to do it and now I have. I’m proud to have done it and came through in one piece, it’s made me realise that distance running is my new call in life, something that I can enjoy now and I’m looking to take up 10k road races in the near future.
So far I’ve raised £367.85 for Great Ormond Street Hospital, so thank you to EVERYONE who donated and came out to cheer me on – apologies that I didn’t see you or I missed you!
See you next year Bupa Great North Run, as for now, I’m about to enter a new chapter in my sporting world and I can’t wait!