Great North Run

Newcastle

I came to Newcastle to participate in the biggest half marathon in the world. I didn’t really know anything about Newcastle so I decided not to spend too much time there. Friday night was really busy. The reputation of a party city definitely was correct as guys and girls crowded the city center while I tried to find my hostel.

I spent the day after going to Hadrian’s wall. While it goes through Newcastle, the sections in Newcastle has long been torn down and used for other buildings, leaving only a ruin of a Roman fort left, it’s a bit more pronounced in the countryside where it’s still going on at around waist length in some places. I took a train to Hexham, then the special AD122 bus (AD 122 is the year Hadrian visited the place and decided to have a wall built) to Housesteads Roman fort. This was extremely impressive with some well-excavated ruins that showed how surprisingly small the fort really is (considering a cohort of around 800 men would have manned it). After Housesteads, I went to Chesters Roman Fort which is named after its excavator, Chester, who inherited the farm that the ruins were at and then spent the rest of his life excavating the ruins and preserving Hadrian’s wall. Compared to Housesteads, this was very disappointing and I would recommend going to Housesteads instead of Chester and then combining with some of the other Roman sites around.

I spent the afternoon back in Newcastle, wandering around a bit in the extremely small but beautiful city center.

Race information

Goals

  • Finish – Completed

Pictures

Splits

  • 5K – 00:31:07
  • 10K – 01:06:25
  • 15K – 01:41:16
  • 21.1K – 02:25:10

Training

I was doing a bit of interval training and threshold running to improve my speed but had to cut it short due to feeling a bit injured in my right hip.

Pre-race

I had an awful night’s sleep before the race. I slept maybe for five hours and woke up at 3 AM and just couldn’t go back to sleep so it was resting until it was 9 AM where I then hurried out the door and onto the start line. I took a caffeine gel 40 minutes before and another regular gel at 20 minutes before the race. The start line was enormously crowded so I was happy to have used the restroom back at the hostel. Luggage check was fast as well and then it was just to walk down to my starting corral. Except that it was the longest walk ever as 57.000 people all tried to get into their corrals. I ended up walking a long time and was then shepherded into my corral which I could feel that I wouldn’t be able to keep pace with.

Race

Due to the size of the race, it actually took me 20 minutes from the first starters and until I actually crossed the start line.

The first few kilometers went fine. I set off in a relaxed pace which I foolishly thought to abandon later on and speed up. Except that never happened. The atmosphere was amazing at the beginning with so many people in the Newcastle city centre. Running past the Tyne river was amazing, the many bridges and the Red Arrows doing the flyby was very impressive.

After that, it went downhill. Not literally, I’m pretty sure it went uphill, but in terms of my conditioning I could feel the lack of power and slowed down immensely. This was also a really long stretch of highway with very little to see so I was struggling on in an uninspired territory. The crowd was still amazing and it was some of the strongest support I’ve seen in my days of running.

Near the end of the race, it picked up again with the coast visible, the crowds more numerous and the Red Arrows doing an aerobatic show helping everyone, including me, to finish strong. The finish was markedly bigger than the route and people were funneled around for safety purposes but it opened up enough for a little sprint in the end.

Post-race

I went a bit slower than expected so I had to go to the airport ASAP! Got the medal, the selfie and the t-shirt and after picking up my luggage I was headed to the metro to the airport. The road was a bit long to the metro, not ideal after a race and there was long queues at the metro but it ran often enough so that the waiting time wasn’t too much. People were definitely tired in the train. People were sleeping standing up or needed to sit down as they were completely drained. I couldn’t allow myself to relax before making sure that I was at the airport, but I didn’t have any problems getting there and catching my flight.

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