Wednesday 26 September 2012

World's Biggest Half Marathon Great North Run

It's just over a week since this year's Great North Run. This is the sixth time I have run the race and as usual it was an amazing day. For those of you who know little about the race the Great North Run is the world's best attended half marathon, with over 50,000 runners. The race is run in the north east of England - from Newcastle upon Tyne to South Shields as you can see from the route overview below.

BUPA Great North Run Route

The race is a major event in the UK and receives live coverage on BBC 1, one of the main public access TV channels (this is the only long distance run to achieve this apart from the London Marathon). It is a well established event that has grown from just a few thousand runners in 1981 to the mass participation event that it is now. The race is an urban road race with an elevation of 64 metres ascending and 79 metres descending (all though it feel like more!), the elevation profile recorded on my Garmin Watch can be seen below.

BUPA Great North Run Elevation Profile
I am lucky to live about the fifteen miles from the start and being such a great race it is one that I have participated in every year since I began running seriously. It also acts as a good practice to the autumn marathon I usually compete in. For this year's race the weather was pretty bad with heavy rain for all but the first and last ten minutes.

As the years have progressed and my times have got better I have managed to get a start in the orange zone just behind the elite runners. I remember the first year I ran and had to start from the back - it took me about half an hour just to cross the start line there are so many runners.

Incidentally after looking around at the start line it was interesting to see that quite a few runners had chosen to wear minimalist shoes for the race, a lot more than I seem to remember from previous years. I ran the race in my Nike Free 3 v3s.

The race started well for me and the field seem to thin out by about the third mile and I had a clear run from there. I managed to keep a relatively even pace throughout finishing in 1:39, my personal best being 1:31 in the previous years race. This was a reasonable time for me taking into account that my training has been severely disrupted this summer by a neck muscle strain that seemed to take an age to heal.

Nearly Finished!

One thing that always amazes me about the run is the support along the course, there are many thousands of spectators some of whom offer food, drinks and vaseline to the runners. There are plenty of official drink stations as well of course! The last mile of the race was something to behold as the level of support was amazing, even on a very wet day. The spectators were so loud that it made the hairs on the back of  my neck stand on end. Take a look at the picture below of part of the final mile to give you an idea.

All in all a great but very wet race, the Great North Run once again did not fail to disappoint. I will be back next year for my seventh attempt.