BUPA Great North run 2011 – Run report.

25 Sep

2011 BUPA Great North run - Scrib happy to have finished in front of charity Village

WOW! Its done! And it took me 1:43:45!

My first, and not last, half MarathonThe BUPA Great North run is completed! It certainly was an ‘experience’ and one I’d hope to do again.

Its been a full week since the event so its been a good time to reflect. Last week the original plan was to travel up to Newcastle on the Sunday morning. This would have meant at least a 05:30 get up, followed by a 2 to 3+ hour drive, depending of traffic. Rumour had it that traffic was a nightmare, like it is at most large events I guess.

The Friday before we decided that this was ‘doable’, but a bit crazy when considering we were travelling home after the event, and not forgetting that being rested before a 13.2 mile run is always a good start. So we managed to make a last minute booking into a hotel just off the M6 at Carlise, about a 70 minute drive away  from Newcastle upon Tyne and the start line. This knocked a good 80 minutes off the journey and allowed a ‘sleep in’ until at least 6am. As it turned out we could have slept in longer!

We left the hotel bang on 7am, after getting up, eating a large bowl cold porridge (first mistake) with honey, raisins, milk and OJ, and then heading east to Newcastle. The weather looked promising, with little cloud, and the sun coming up. It was certainly better than the past few days of torrential rain and strong winds. My wife was driving and I remember looking at what I was wearing (running vest, shorts, sock & trainers) and then glancing at the external temperature readout on the dashboard, 5 °C!

The road was clear and we had been told by many, many people of the extreme traffic jams leading up the the Great North run start line, and also when leaving at the end of the run at South Shields. At the moment the road was clear and, on a normal day, it would take us 70 minutes from the hotel at Carlise to Newcastle.

The previous night I had calculated we’d be hitting heavy traffic, all trying to get to the start line, at about 7:50am. Assuming the worst case scenario, an hour delay stuck in traffic (again, going from what I had read and been told) I figured I’d be dropped off at around 9:30 – 9:45am (worst case) which gave me plenty of time to get to my starting zone ready for the 10:40 start.

‘Should be a little warmer by 09:30’ I though, so I didn’t get too worried about the temperature outside. As sods law would have it we’d (OK, I’d) drastically over estimated the travel time and traffic conditions. We hit ZERO traffic and before we knew it we were at a red traffic light right beside the start area. I was hurriedly ejected from the car, between traffic light changes, and dumped at the side of the road at a chilling 8:15am! It was still cold!

A had a plastic bag with me, containing a bag of nuts, water, energy drink and a poncho. I quickly put the poncho on to try and retain some heat and wondered off towards the starting zones.

2011 BUPA Great North run - Waiting at start zone. Over an hour to go.

The zones run from ‘A’ through ‘K’, ‘A’ being the Elite Athletes. My zone was ‘C’,so I found a nice spot on the grass verge, beside the road,  and settled down for a 2+ hour wait. As soon as I had sat down the sun came out from behind a cloud and things started to warm up nicely. I sat there  listening to the DJ interviewing runners who were taking part. There were some really heart clenching stories of runners who were running for depart loved ones. It really puts things in perspective!

Its often said ‘its a small world’, and on that day I had to agree. After being dropped off, whilst walking to the zones area, I bumped into a neighbour. We had no idea that the other was taking part. We wished each other luck and went our separate ways.

Then whilst sitting on the grass verge, warming myself in the morning sun, I saw fitlesley, a friend of mine from Runkeeper. I’d never actually met Lesley before and we’d only spoken over Runkeeper, our blogs and Facebook, so it was great to meet at last! We joked at the fact that Lesley spotted me in a crowd of 50,000 people. Small world indeed, or just good eyesight!

Eventually, around 10:15am, I made my way into my starting Zone, dumped my plastic bag in the central reservation along with thousands of other bags, clothes, ponchos, thermal blankets, etc and started my warm up. It was a little cramped and it felt a bit awkward doing lunges and stretches in such closer quarters. Everyone seems to have their own warm up routine and I picked up a few new ideas to add to my own. It was interesting to watch what routines people had and how they differed.

10:30: Warm up complete. The zone gate is now closed, meaning anyone not in their allocated zone would have to go right to the back behind zone ‘K’.

10:35: Poncho now joins plastic bag in central reservation.

10:38: Runkeeper started on my iPhone, iPhone put in zip lock bag (in case of showers later on), finger ready on ‘Start Activity’ button.

10:40: The starting gun fires! We start walking forward, and I can see from the mass of bobbing heads in front that we’ll be speeding up to a slow jog within a minute or so as we cross the start line. ‘Start Activity’ pressed and Runkeeper announces ‘Activity Started’. iPhone screen lock pressed and iPhone put into armband, just as the crowd breaks into a run. And we’re off!

As you’d expect there was a LOT of noise, what with air horns going off, music playing, the DJ shouting out encouragement – pretty awesome! Within a few minutes the speed had increased, but was still at a slower pace than felt comfortable, so I joined with some of the other runners in weaving through the slower competitors. A trick I leaned on the Keswick to Barrow was to find a runner who is ploughing through the crowd and stay on their heals. They’ll do all the hard work for you and clear the way. A few minutes into the run and we go though a tunnel. Suddenly the noise levels increase from the runners as they take advantage of the echo’s from the tunnel walls. A few ‘Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!’ chants start up, and you can’t help with the reply of ‘Oi! Oi! Oi!’. Everyone is excited and full of adrenalin!

1 Mile: Runkeeper announces the first mile and there is a bit of relief that I managed to start the activity recording successfully, considering everything that was going on at the start.

2 Miles: We’re now well into our stride. The crowd has thinned out slightly, but only slightly, and its still shoulder to shoulder. We make our way across the famous Tyne bridge and soon hit the 2 mile mark, its about that time that I release something is not right.

Scrib running acorss the Tyne bridge on the BUPA Great North run

Yes I am in this picture.

If you don’t want to play ‘wheres Scrib’ then I’m on the left hand side, about seven people from the left, about eight people back.

I’m not relaxing into the run as I normally would at the two mile mark. I’ve been running for a few years now and I’ve also noticed (for me) that it takes a couple of miles for my body to kick into life and go into ‘running mode’. This wasn’t happening and I didn’t feel ‘right’. Was it nerves? Had I eaten too much? Was it that cold porridge? Did I drink too much energy drink, What was wrong?

I knew from doing other events that nerves wasn’t really a problem and I had a sneaking suspicion that I had too much swilling around in my stomach, which was making my uncomfortable and stopping me entering my ‘zone’. I’d had my breakfast, at the hotel, some 3 -4 hours eariler, but I had also been snacking on nuts, water and half a bottle of isotonic drink (that I don’t usually touch). Nothing I can do about it now, grit teach and keep going!

4 Miles: I was in trouble. My mind was not on my run at all and I was starting to panic. I did the classic mistake of worrying about when the next mile marker was, how far it was, ‘surly it can’t be this far to the next marker!’. A classic mistake and I knew it! I kept getting bottles of water at the water stations and making sure I kept hydrated and cool, but also ensuring I wasn’t taking too much in.

Was it the hills? Normally, when I run at home there are a lot of steep hills. You can’t go far without running (pardon the pun) into one. But I have also noticed that if I run, on the flat, for any distance I struggle more than if I throw in a couple of hills into the route. I’m not sure why this is and I always surmised that the hills kick your body into a higher gear so the straights are less of a challenge. The Great North run has hills, but they are very slight gradients. Perhaps this was the problem?

7 Miles: I started to finally relax! I got into my stride and stared to finally enjoy the run. Th crowd had thinned out a little more and I remember how impressed I was at the people who had dressed up in fancy dress. I was hot running in my running gear, god knows how they felt!

10 Miles: Watching the 10 mile marker go by was great. I  knew the worst was behind and I tried to pick up my speed. The road was getting fairly steep so I pushed on trying to maintain my pace. At this point the heavens opened and it started to rain. One of my favourite things about running is running in the elements and the rain was a welcomed cool off.

12 Miles: What goes up, must come down! The road has already plateaued and now there was a steep drop to the coast road and the final stretch. I had something left in the tank so I picked up the pace down the hill, remembering to keep light on my feet.

Scribs crossing the finish line at the 2011 BUPA Great North run

Final stretch: The final stretch was very flat as the road meets the ‘Coast road’ which, as its name implies, runs along the coast. I can’t see the finish because of the crowds, but its close.

I push forward figuring I’d try and burn up the last of my reserves in a final burst. It wasn’t that easy as there was still a large amount of people on the road, but I managed to do a fair job of reaching the finish line in a good time.

Once across the line I stopped Runkeeper and made my way to the Charity village to meet my wife. The rain was falling still but it didn’t matter!

Scribs Runkeeper activity for the 2011 BUPA Great North run

I completed the BUPA Great North run in 1:43:45, which you can see here.

Am I pleased with that time? Yes of course! When signed up for the event and gave my expected time (they use this to figure out your starting zone) of 1:40, which I didn’t actually expect to achieve and would have been happy with 1:50 – 2:00. So 1:43:45 was a great result!

But to be honest I’m wondering if I would have done better if I hadn’t had a sloppy first half. Its funny when you do an event, sometimes afterwards you think of things you did wrong or things you could have improved upon. With experience you get better and this is certainly true for running.

Maybe that’s just me? But in every event I’ve finished I’m always thinking ‘I could have done better than that!’ or ‘I should have done this’ or ‘I shouldn’t have done that!’.

Its a good way of driving yourself on. Accepting you did an OK job, but then trying to improve on it, never accepting you did your best and there is room for improvement, always thinking you can do better. But now and again giving yourself a pat on the back and a well done! All the training paid off, you did it!

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4 Responses to “BUPA Great North run 2011 – Run report.”

  1. The Scribbler September 26, 2011 at 14:53 #

    Great running and a great read. Congratulations on completing your first half marathon in such an impressive time. The Great North Run is not traditionally a PB race as it can me crowded and the rises come at just the moments you don’t want them to. It’s a tricky one to get right and I know plenty of runners who have gone off too fast only to blow up around mile 10-11. It sounds like you paced it just right, but I know, we always think ‘could I have gone faster?’ Be proud of your run and set your sights on the next one.

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