Great North Humanity

Until a couple of years ago, like Charlie Brooker, I would never have dreamed that I’d become a runner.

I’d watch the London Marathon on television and be full of admiration for those who took part but it was always in a separate box for me, not part of my life.

Ditto for the Great North Run.

Living in Newcastle, however, the difference with the latter was that I could hear it all going on outside my own bedroom window.

The loud tannoy, the cheering crowds and, of course, the Red Arrows.

As Sue Barker looked at me judgementally, I even photographed the GNR on television in 2006 as my contribution to Julian Germain’s Running Line.

Great North Run 2006, Sue Barker

Sue Barker judging me for watching in bed in 2006…

Finally, watching it from the comfort of my bed in 2011, I thought, “This is ridiculous. I’m reasonably fit. I need to get off my backside and give this a go!”

Great North Run 2006 for Julian Germain's Running Line

“Feel Better”, the banners read…

And, lo, it was decided. I trained wholeheartedly, ran my first Great North Run in 2012 and raised lots of money for the Lifeboats in the process.

Great…?

It was indeed great but very hard. This year I ran it for the second time and it was even better. So much better that I’m more bitten by the bug than ever.

So why is the Great North Run ‘great’?

For me, other than its obvious size, the run is so humbling and moving…

The humanity and endeavour is extraordinary. Folks of all ages and abilities running together for charity, for loved ones or simply for themselves.

When the going gets tough, you only have to glance over your shoulder and see a fellow runner who’s recently undergone cancer treatment to know it’s simply time to suck it up and get on with it!

The personal and collective achievement is astonishing.

Real Ale for Real Runners…

With 56,000 entrants, this is now the largest mass participation event in the UK (much bigger than the London Marathon) and the largest half marathon event in the world — it really does have to be seen to be believed.

Great North Run 2013, Runners on Central Motorway

My wife captured the throng as it passed the mile mark on the Central Motorway…

Even among so many peopIe, I’ve yet to hear a cross word come from the lips of anyone involved (not true of other ‘sporting’ fixtures I’ve attended with similar crowd sizes).

The same goes for the crowds who turn out to show their support, crowds that are practically unbroken on both sides of the road for 13.1 miles.

Then there are the sights and sounds:

…the children holding out their hands for high fives…

…the drumming bands pounding out their beats, tapping into our primeval nature…

…supporters handing out beer as “real ale for real runners”…

…Elvis singing for us, ever-present year after year around the eleven mile mark…

…not to mention the Red Arrows forming the customary heart in the sky over the sea.

Give it a Go!

If, like I did, you feel that the Great North Run ‘isn’t for you’, I urge you to reconsider and give it a go. It’ll likely enhance your life in so many ways.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the fundraising element and have nearly reached my £2000 target for the Tynemouth Lifeboat Station this year.

The Great North Run 2014 reminder service is now open, so how about it?

One Last Thing…

On finishing this year’s run, there was an extraordinary statistical coincidence — once the data from so many runners had settled, my finishing position and bib race number actually matched!

Great North Run 2013, Matching Position and Bib Numbers

I tend to get very excited about this kind of thing. The probability of this happening in an event with 56,000 entrants must be extremely slim.

Picture the scene:

  • I applied online to enter the Great North Run;
  • The ballot closed;
  • My running number was assigned to me based on my predicted time;
  • On race day, I made my way to the start line and stood in the designated zone;
  • I started the 13.1 miles and competed among the hustle and bustle;
  • 2 hours 12 minutes later, I crossed the finishing line in a position that matched my bib number!

What are the odds, I wonder, and how often does it happen?

It seems that I could even have placed a £1 bet on it and I wouldn’t have had to work another day in my life!

A mathematician friend of mine seems equally intrigued and is looking into it.

I’ll keep you posted…

By the way, if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here (donations of any size are much-appreciated).

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