Sunday, 18 September 2016

Who knew the run could be fun!

We did it. We completed the Great North Run. And we crossed the finish line smiling! Something I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to say! It was a hot day and I had a few difficult training runs in recent weeks but I aimed to enjoy it as much as possible.       
I can’t believe a week has passed since I completed my second Great North Run. I’ve been out for two recovery runs this week, one 5k with club and one 5k just me and my boyfriend Tone. My legs ached a little the first day or two but I feel I am recovering well. So much so that I am doing Redcar Half Marathon with Tone next Sunday! (I know; for someone who considers myself ‘not a long distance runner’ this seem like a crazy thing to do!)
Great North Run day was hot but we got each other round the course. The nerves and excitement really began to kick in on the Saturday when we went to the Quayside to watch my niece, and cousins daughter run the junior Great North Run. This was a lovely afternoon out and we went to the pasta party too, to carb up ready for the big day on Sunday.

On Sunday morning after waking up early and having breakfast number one we met in Exhibition Park for a group photo before heading to Newcastle University so I could also join in with the group charity photo for NETA (North East Trust for Aphasia). It was at this point we ate our second breakfast (Nutella sandwiches) as I was determined not to start the run hungry like I did last time round.
Some of the NETA team
Walking to the baggage bus to drop off our bag made the reality that I was about to run from Newcastle to South Shields kick in. The walk to the pink pen felt quite long but the atmosphere was buzzing and I was enjoying soaking it all in. The sun was shining and I was trying not to think about what this could mean for the run. We bumped into some of the girls from club in the pink pen and took a pre-run selfie.

The red arrows flew overhead and I felt goose bumps all down my arms and excited butterflies in my tummy. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the start line but it didn’t feel this long. On crossing the start line we made a conscious effort not to start off too quickly to ensure we didn’t burn up our energy too soon.  We went ‘left and under’ and I really enjoyed taking part in the ‘Oggy’s!’
The atmosphere was amazing all the way around and once again I was overwhelmed by the general loveliness of all the spectators. We took up the generous offers of ice-pops, jelly babies and oranges! We also took water at each station, pouring almost as much on the back of our necks as we drank, in an effort to stay as cool as possible.
The showers and hose pipes were absolutely amazing and exactly what we needed to help cool us down. I looked at my Garmin and was surprised to see that we had been running for more than an hour. I was expecting it to say to 10 or 15 minutes but it was a lot longer…the time was really flying! We walked when we felt like we needed to walk and kept each other going every step of the way.
It made such a massive difference not running it alone and it was a lovely shared experience for Tone and me. Tone has ran the GNR more times than me but he has always ran it alone too so it was a much more enjoyable experience for us both.
There were a couple of moments I wasn’t sure I would make it to the finish because it was hot and difficult, but I tried to push this to the back of my mind and focused on the mile I was in. I saw a couple of people I knew spectating which kept me going. I knew my big sister Joanne was waiting at mile 10.5 with a hug and some jelly babies and I was so pleased to see her J Joanne then set off to beat us to the finish line (and meet Craig and Toni there). Knowing that they would be waiting for us at the finish made the last few miles feel more achievable.
I was excited when I could see the sea, though I know there was still more than a mile to go at this point.  By this point I was just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, taking in as much of the atmosphere as I could.
I could feel myself getting a little emotional once I could see the finish line and we ran hand in hand smiling as we crossed the line. By this point I couldn’t hold the tears back, it was so overwhelming; I had made it to the finish, hand in hand with my boyfriend.

It was so brilliant seeing Joanne, Craig and Toni at the water station at the end. They looked equally excited to see us! We then spent a couple of hours celebrating in the beer tent before Tone and I got the coach back with our running club.
I am still so incredibly proud that I gave the Great North Run a second attempt and that we crossed the finish line smiling. When Tone asked me if I wanted to do the Great North Run with him earlier in the year, I surprised myself when I said yes. I am so pleased as I did as overall it has been an enjoyable experience (and it is what brought Tone and me together).

Would I do it again? Absolutely! (Though definitely not alone!)
I am also proud that I’ve been able to raise some valuable funds for the North East Trust for Aphasia (thanks so much to everyone who has supported me in any way!) It's not too late to sponsor me if you haven't already - check out my page here.
By this time next week I will have completed my second half marathon in the space of a month…. That counts as a marathon right?!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

10 days and counting...

In 10 days I will completing the Great North Run. Back in April when Tone persuaded me to run it, I thought I had ages to train. I can’t believe how quickly the last few months have passed and that GNR is this month!
We packed our trainers for Amsterdam, keen to do some training runs while there. Staying in a hotel with an all-inclusive bar meant that we procrastinated running until the last morning. I didn’t drink any alcohol all day on the Saturday as I wanted to feel fresh to run on the Sunday. We set our alarm early and ate a banana before we left. We could see from the window that it was raining but we didn’t let this put us off. We knew we were heading to Vondelpark as we’d looked it up before we flew out to Amsterdam. It was about half a mile from our hotel and we walked there, as a warm up before running in the park. As we walked the rain was getting heavier and I began to feel cold. Once in the park we began to run and by this time the rain was torrential. It was bouncing back up from the puddles and had made my glasses so wet I could barely see anything. We followed the path round the park, trying to stay a little sheltered under some of the trees.
I think the park was pretty and picturesque but it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. It was still warm out for all it was raining and after running a mile or so I began to feel quite hot and my glasses were steaming up as well being covered in water. We tried to stay upbeat and chatted as we ran. We navigated our way round in a circle of the park which was approximately 3 miles. Our original plan was to do two laps but we decided a hot shower and breakfast was calling. We took some photos at the park gates after our run and proceeded to walk back to the hotel. The rain had almost stopped at this point and I felt mildly tempted by another lap… but the dry patch didn’t last long and we were soon walking back to the hotel being thoroughly drenched. I like running in the rain when it’s light and refreshing but this wasn’t light rain! An hour later after we’d both been showered and were sitting eating breakfast we had that post-run glow that made us wish we’d set our alarm earlier in the week so we could have ran in Amsterdam more than once. The rest of the week had been hot and sunny so in some ways I’m glad it rained on the day we chose to run.

After we ran
I went to running club and did a 5k the day after we got back and it felt good. I over indulged while I was away and needed to get back to running as soon as possible. I knew I needed to get out and do a longer run later in the week too, to get some bigger miles in. I wasn’t free the same time as Tony so I had to plan my own run. I thought I’d do about 7 miles on Friday morning. I saw my friend was looking for some company on her 18 mile marathon training run so I contacted her and I arranged to do some of her route with her as she passed through Ashington. I’d ran almost 2 miles when I met Karen and we ran about 4 miles together. This took me further from home than I’d originally planned but despite the heat, I was feeling relatively good, and had a lot of motivation. I left Karen at about 6 miles into my run and turned around to head home. I’d finished my bottle of water and ate my jelly sweets; I decided to call into a garage for a new bottle of water on my way home but I only had £1 and this wasn’t enough. I wasn’t brave enough to ask if they’d let me off with the pennies so I just kept running, safe in the knowledge that every step was a step closer to home.
When I was almost home I had done just over 9 miles and was very tired, achy and hot. I knew I would be annoyed with myself later in the day if I didn’t make it to double figures so I ran past home to make my run a little longer. I made it to 10.05miles. I was so proud of myself as I really hadn’t intended to go that far and I did a fair part of it on my own. I really enjoyed Karen’s company and I think I ran slightly faster than my usual long run pace during the 4 miles I ran with her. This makes me even more sure that I can complete the half marathon distance next weekend. When I got home I had a cold bath which made my legs feel much better. It was almost enjoyable as I had been so hot outside! Almost. Not quite. But it certainly made my legs feel very refreshed when I got out!

Running with Karen
Tonight is my last long run before the big day. Today I am resting in the house, drinking plenty water and eating healthy. When Tone finishes work we are going to head out for a long run and I am quite looking forward to it. I didn’t think I would ever get to a point in running where a long run doesn’t fill me dread, but hard work and determination has got me there. And having lovely company definitely helps! I haven't ran since my long run last week as I've been away to Liverpool for a hen weekend followed immediately my a trip to Leeds to catch up with friends while I am still off for the summer.
I feel more mentally prepared for the Great North Run this time round, though I am certainly not complacent about the distance I will be covering. I’ve worked hard and I am looking forward to creating some wonderful memories along the route J
I signed up for the Great North Run to raise awareness of and funds for the North East Trust for Aphasia. NETA supports people with acquired communication difficulties following a stroke or other brain injury. It’s a fantastic charity based right here in the north east and every penny raised makes a huge difference. If you would like to show your support then please do so on my fundraising page here. Thanks so much for all your support, every word of encouragement has really made a difference. I know some of my friends and family are still in disbelief that I am running it again after my ‘never EVER again’ comments 2 years ago. Until this year I was still convinced that I wouldn’t but look at me now... 10 days to go!