This is a race report for the 2015 Great North Run Half Marathon
Useful information about the race.
The Great North Run, Tyneside, UK.
All road half marathon. Probably one of the most famous half marathons in the world.
13th September 2015
Mid morning, 10:45 start.
Warming up as the morning went on, broken cloud.
Road was mostly dry; course profile was largely flat with gentle undulations where there were bridges, underpasses and so on. Only a couple of miles before the end presented any kind of real slope.
Details on taking part in the race.
A massive race from any aspect! The number of participants (greater than 50 k), the super organisation, huge crowds watching and so on.
Having heard about the crowded conditions and given the start position I was handed (well down the field), it was a case of trying to see if under 2 hours would be possible. Therefore the strategy was to put up with the congestion and run slowly at the start. Increase pace as the field thins out after a few miles.
Fight the crowds of runners and get round in less than 2 hours. That was it.
I got a lift up north with another club runner who had taken part in the event a couple of years before. His advice was to park up at the end, in South Shields, and get a metro or bus into Newcastle where the start was. We parked the car on a common right near where the end of the race would be and walked down towards the town centre. In the end we caught a specially laid on bus and that only took about half an hour to get into the city centre. Although the queue to get on the bus had been quite long, say 10 or 15 minutes, that paled into comparison when you heard stories of people waiting one hour or more just to get to the metro platform.
Getting into the start area was an interesting experience; by the time I got to my designated pen it was already overflowing and getting into it was quite a challenge. The gun duly went off at 10:45 after plenty of stading around trying to warm up with the masses; we didn't actually cross the start line until 22 minutes later.
By the time I was underway the weather was getting increasingly brighter and as a result the temperature was climbing. The early couple of miles through the city centre passed in a blur of underpasses and bridges and the crowds, both runners on the road and the superb support at the sidelines, did not lessen in intensity.
One thing that did surprise me was the number of people walking; those walking on the flat after a couple of miles, and the general number of people who seemed unwilling to run up even the gentlest of slopes. It only really hit me then that there was a huge number of new runners here. It simply never occurred to me the number of people taking part in this sort of event for the first time, or taking part on the back of very little training.
It was great fun reading people's T-shirts as I passed them; every one of them had a fascinating story to tell about why they were running, or who they were running for. Having never done this race before, I had a crazy notion that as the race progressed the density of the runners along the route would diminish as we went along. I am happy to report that this notion could not have been further from the truth. I spent the entire race trying to push on at least a little time wise and this meant pretty much constantly dodging left and right through gaps between people whenever possible.
Special mention has to go to fellow runner, club member and fireman Steve Critten, who was running the race with a friend; both of them in full breathing apparatus and fire service gear. I passed them at about mile three just as the weather was warming up and they were looking pretty toasted.
As I progressed the number of walkers increased. There were so many people running along that these walkers became a real hazard. You just wouldn't see them until the last second as two or three people in front of you parted to reveal a slow moving human being... brakes on and dodge!
As is very well known about this race, the support from the sidelines was incredible; the route was lined with spectators on almost its entire length. People offered sweets, encouragement and all the kids wanted high fives. There was even a chap serving half pints of bitter to runners from a beer barrel.
So the miles progressed, and the crowds on the course and on the sidelines were endless and the atmosphere was brilliant.
With three miles to go I had half an hour to get under 2 hours. Plenty of time I thought, but how wrong I was! We arrived in South Shields where the race ended. The last two miles or so consist of a very long gentle slope up followed be a steep drop to the sea and then along the sea front to the finish. The support was probably the best here with the folk of South Shields being rightly proud to bring the race to an end. These last two miles, especially the final slope up saw many runners struggle and fight on with the supporting crowds encouraging them all the way.
I pushed my way along the sea front to the finish and squeaked under the two hour mark by less than a minute. As I walked through the finish are to meet my club mates the Red Arrows made an appearance from over the sea; a fitting finale for such a great race experience.
Sideline support probably second to none in the world.
The success of the race can be measured in the size of the event. It is a truly enormous undertaking for the organisers, and a very interesting experience to have taken part in. It's not a race to try and get a good half marathon time in, unless you are at the front where the field is considerably thinner.
To organise such a large event and have it run like clockwork is a huge achievement. The sheer volume of participants and supporters make the numbers on the day mind boggling. A strong 4/5.
As I said earlier, this was not a race I was trying to go for a personal best time in as the numbers taking part, and my position in the field made things difficult. I just took part and enjoyed the experience.