The Pasta Party & City Games
The traditional visit to the Pasta Party is an essential part of the build up to the Great North Run as well as watching the Great City Games but the weather wasn’t exactly ideal to stand and watch some of the world’s best athletes take to the streets.I hit the venue with Emma and her mother, purely to get some pasta, freebies and, mainly, stretch my legs rather than sit in all day and get stiff and tight.
I wasn’t in the tent for very long to be honest, I there wasn’t a lot going on to keep me hanging on like last year. maybe it was because I knew what to expect? Probably, but I was happy to get my bowl of pasta and watch a race or two of the City Games – I ended up watching the entire thing and getting a wet backside!
Back home, I started up my chicken pasta back, the last meal before I run 13.1 miles in less the 24 hours, the nerves were kicking in and a little bit of fear too – part and parcel of the build up and I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one feeling like this.
After watching TV for a bit and completing the penultimate foam roll, my body indicated to me that it was time to get some shut eye and rest. Normally, before a big event, I struggle to sleep or I over think the race or go over what to do and where – this time I slept like a log and hardly tossed and turned, I was relaxed it was safe to say.
The Great North Run
At 7am, my alarm went off. I crawled out of bed, visited the loo and put the TV, looking for anything to take my mind off things – turns out that was BBC Breakfast! Not one mention of the GNR apart from the one occasion of the weather (which I’ll get to later!), I was happy about this.
At 8:15am, my stomach was going mental, rumbling, I needed my breakfast and eating it then was bang on time ahead of starting the race at 10:40am. The traditional jam, peanut butter and banana on toast went down a treat, as I tried furiously to arrange a meet up with friends ahead of the start, but unlike last year, the Metro system was experiencing a hiccup.
I knew the Metro carriages would be jam packed, it was the same in 2014, but I managed to get on first time. This time however, as more trains went past the more packed they were. There were folk in the platform that has seen up to six or more trains go past with not even a sniff of a look in! One even told me not to bother as he decided to walk to the start line. I hesitated but took the chance and waited for a Metro – two trains later, I was on.
As soon as I got to Haymarket, I hit my Garmin and started a tiny trot as part of a warm up, running to my start point to get the blood flowing and in the correct mindset. Obviously, that didn’t go according to plan as I got caught in people traffic and decided to just stop the watch and take my time to get to my pen.
This year, I didn’t get caught up in occasion when I got to the start line. In fact, I was too busy focused on getting to my pen as quick as I could, to get a good spot and not be forced to join the back! Last year, during my warm up, I forgot my pen closed at 10:30 and was forced to queue outside then jump over the gates to get into the race! Not cool, I know!
Time flew from the time of me entering my pen until the race started. I warmed up, did my drills and kept in the shade as the sun refused to budge, “this is not good” I kept telling myself. 2014 seen the weather go completely against long distance runners and it looked like it was going to be a repeat.
Getting going is always the easiest, I shouted some motivation at myself and gave the legs a slap to wake them up, then I was off, “take the first mile easy, build at each mile, the weather is going to get worse, so take fluids and keep a bottle!” was going through my mind, thankfully, the first mile is mostly downhill and under shade so I was comfortable and registered bang on, eight minutes.
I seen Emma and her family as well as Alan and his partner Daisy at the walkover bridge near mile three and did a Daniel Bryan YES! gesture to keep my moral going and spirits high. The first water station was close, so I had to drift into the left to get a chance of grabbing a bottle and not break my stride.
Most of the water was splashed on me than consumed, as the temperature was picking up slowly but surely – I did have a few quick sips to keep me ticking over, avoiding a stitch was key, especially with the run still in the early miles.
Running though 10k was fine. I felt good, strong and felt consistent.
It wasn’t until mile seven and eight when the alarm bells in my body started going off. I was about an hour into the run and a heatwave rifled through the course. People were walking at this point and struggling – I was too.
My legs were starting to cease up and tellingly, almost stopped me running by the time I got to the start of the John Reid Road. I ran through the showers they had, took on water but there was nothing that was shifting this feeling of my legs slowly turning to lead, at some point, something was going to happen, whether it was cramp, forcing to walk or worse, I knew that my body was struggling with the heat and running.
I seen my Dad, Aunty and cousin at their usual point watching the run, covered in a mixture of water and sweat, I made my way over to them and gave them all a quick kiss and cuddle, followed by a photo – time was irrelevant now, I just wanted to get home safely.
I grabbed a few jellies, an orange slice and a Lucozade along the 10 mile point, I needed something to keep me going, I was hurting and tried so hard to keep going, but eventually, my body just said no and I had to stop right at the beginning of the Nook to catch my breath.
My legs just stopped working, my body, head, everything felt fried – the stop was to do a reboot basically, I was angry but I had to do it. Luckily, Sarah (a good friend of mine who i went to school with) and her family were right at the point where I stopped and gave me fruit and much needed support. I started again and felt good, “okay, forget the time, just plod on and overcome, you’re nearly home mate!” my mind told me, but again, my legs just didn’t want to know at the bank of the Nook, leading to the Marsden Inn bank.
I just let my legs turn as I went down the hill. I didn’t hold back, I must have been one of the quickest going down and just as I hit the bottom of the hill, I heard “Michaell! Michael!”, it was my Mam, the final boost I needed. In true mother fashion, she gestured that I get a move on, which I did, for about 50m and stopped again. I tried again, but stopped once more, then, I don’t know who they were, two lads from the crowd gave me the biggest kick up the arse I’ve had for a long, long time.
In the polite version, the told me to get my backside in gear and get a move on as the finish was 800m away. I really needed this. Each step I took, it hurt, but I had to finish it running. Cries of “come on, Michael, you can do it!” and “nearly there!” were amazing as I neared the ending.
As I hit the grass, I poured everything I had in the tank to get there quicker and finished! I looked at my watch – 1:55.27! I ran a PB! Happy days! I would have been easily lower but the weather wasn’t ideal, I was just happy to get through safe and sound.
I tried to find my bearings, gather my thoughts but my body was shredded, my head was in about 20 different places at once. I had to locate my charity tent to get some food, a drink but more importantly, a SEAT!
I stretched, ate and caught up with a couple of friends, who coincidently, were waiting for loved ones to finish too, that was nice to have company for a bit while I come down and relax a little.
Eventually, I mustered the strength to get off my seat and make the pilgrimage to my Mother’s house. The walk was perfect to wind down slightly and just make the transition of relaxing slightly.
I sat, what felt like, hours outside, wrapped in my foil blanket in front of the door then in the sun to capture the last of the heat. When she pulled up, I could barely move and immediately, when I did move, I hit the shower, refusing to budge for at least 15 minutes.
Hours passed before I was taken back home. This was purely so we would avoid traffic and allow the roads to open once more. En route home, the sun was slowly starting to set, I looked outside in the passenger seat and began to reflect.
2015 was a tough year. I had to deal with stress, anxiety and living on my own for the first time in my life, while trying to train at the same time. I had come so far and put myself through hell for 13.1 miles. Could have I ran better? Of course. What if I didn’t stop? I learned that you don’t live life with ifs and buts – I’ve done myself proud.
Roll on next year!