Since returning from holiday there is a noticeable increase in the number of people out running on the streets, paths and trails. This seems to be a bi-annual phenomena in this area, Firstly at the end of May / beginning of June as the Blaydon Race approaches (the second largest race in the area in terms of entries) and now, as the worlds largest half marathon, The Great North Run, looms large on the horizon.
The 30th running of the Great North Run takes place in a couple of weeks on the 19th September, when 54,000 people will make their way from Newcastle to South Shields. The GNR has a mixed press among local club runners. I am among those who support the event, as it was the very first GNR, in 1981, that started me off running.
I ran to raise funds for Pendower School and had no intentions of carrying on running following the event. I remember the day well, it was very warm (the first run was held in June) and the crowds were massive. Mike McLoed, the winner is quoted as saying that he had to run in the middle of the road as the noise from the crowds on either side was so great. I ran steadily and was surprised to catch up with Kevin Keegan (before his Newcastle United days) with about a mile and a half to go.
Approaching the finish Keegan took off and I instinctively chased after him, catching and passing him just before the finish. As a result I must be the only person to make all the newspapers, both locally and nationally, for finishing 495th in a race.
This year will be the 26th time I have ran the GNR, with my all time best position being 22nd. I must admit though for the last 5 years and again this year I have not 'raced' the event but have accompanied one of the celebrity runners.
I have been one of those who accompany a celebrity over the last 5 years and its fun. A (slightly) easier (depending upon the celebrity) Sunday morning run with different and interesting company. I have accompanied in 2005, 2008 and 2009, Nell McAndrew in times of 1.39 (Nell was pregnant at the time and taking it easy), 1.29.30 and 1.27.58. In 2006 with actor Ben Price (1.36), and James Cracknell in 2007 with a time of 1.20 ( where I ran with a video camera to record possible footage for a documentary he was making about his race to Antartica - having since seen the documentary I can confirm that none of my camera work was used).
Photos courtesy of The Daily Telegraph, South Shields Gazette and Newcastle Journal