I would like to continue from my previous post which I wrote before my planned 7pm bedtime so that I could get around 7 hours sleep before my 2am get up….
7:00pm ….That was until we realised that the neighbours decided to have a spontaneous house party – a party which involved many people, a DJ and disco lights etc. At first it was just a dull bass from next door trying to sleep through – until it went louder and louder and Ang went round (such a tough guy aren’t I) to tell them to turn it down. To be fair to them I wouldn’t have heard it if we were downstairs watching a film but we didn’t tell them we were going to bed at 7pm and they never told us they were having a house party so we were both to blame. They did turn it down enough for us to drift off eventually around 8:30pm
1:00am Was woken up at 1am by drunken shouting from them outside. Oh Well!
2:00am My alarm went off, I got downstairs giving Ang and Seb a bit of extra time in bed until my moving about actually woke up Seb so Ang got up anyway with him. I had my porridge berry special as usual and got my gear out for a photo and to double check I had everything.
3:00am It was the start of a very long day ahead where I was going to see two moons in the same day – something I realised when packing the car. We got Seb into his seat with his cover and a pillow and at 3:20am we set off to South Shields, 156 miles, 2 hours 40 mins drive.
6:00am The drive went very quickly and it was very easy in cruise control pretty much from start to finish with no traffic on the roads. I wanted to make sure we got a parking space as I was warned to get there before 7 to be guaranteed one. We arrived at South Shields bang on 6:00am…. and we were the only blooming car on the car park!!
But wow what a view when we arrived PLUS the beach was beautiful and Ang was made up knowing whilst I was away running there would be lots of nice things for her and Seb to enjoy in the day. Seb woke up in his car seat still in his dressing gown, I wrapped his blanket around him and pulled him outside to look at the beach and sea – there was a very cool sea breeze but Seb was warm and we had a lovely cuddle looking at the beach with Seb saying “WOW!!!!!”.
7:30am: I got on the bus, left Ang & Seb and headed off towards the start line in Newcastle to meet up with the Great North Run Beer Tent Group.
8:00am: When I arrived I was quite chilled and realised I was an hour early for the group meeting so I went into a nearby cafe, had a cup of tea and starting affixing my running labels to my vest. At this point after a bit of research I discovered that there were no changing areas near the starting area so I decided to get ready in the cafe’s men’s toilets. I also realised that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to tape up my leg with the KT tape I invested in – but I thought my legs were feeling OK so I decided not to tape my legs.
9:00am: I met up with the Great North Run Beer Tent Group which was strange as I never met any of these people before – only having talked to them in the past for advice on the Facebook page where the group actually exists. I didn’t really feel part of the group being honest, no one came to say hello and I did try to speak to three people who were really difficult to talk to – making a good effort to begin conversation and then not to be spoken back to – Southerners! I just got unlucky ha!
9:30am: I headed off towards the start area and I was amazed with the mass of people! Wherever you looked there were thousands of runners. I also realised that it was starting to get really warm from the weather. Who would have known a blue sky summer’s day for our run! I hoped that this didn’t slow me down.
I decided to go for a quick wee which involved queuing up at the toilets for 10 minutes – and then afterwards something crazy happened! After my toilet visit, considering there were 55,000 runners there PLUS friends/families I heard a “Paul?”…. no way that was meant for me and I heard it again “Paul?” and I turned around and saw a guy I didn’t recognise…. and he said “Hi Paul, I’m Andy, Jonathon Turnbull’s mate – the guy who Johnny was talking to you about staying in Durham”. On Saturday when I met up with Johnny he said he had a friend who was doing the GNR and was going to check if there was any availability at his hotel – which there wasn’t. He was telling me that he also is doing IronMan next year with him – and I flipping bumped into him regardless of the tens of thousands of people who were there! MADNESS! So we chatted and relaxed and talked about the run. Andy was in the Orange group which is for flipping FAST runners so I had a lot of respect for the really lovely top bloke I had the pleasure of speaking with.
10:15am: I went into my Greens starting area and took this selfie – picture does not do it justice of how many thousands of people there were.
This picture does it better…… taken HALF WAY DOWN!
10:20am: We started our warmups but I decided to do my own. I know how to warm up properly and prefer to do my own stretches.
10:30am: Warm up finished and now we had to wait for 10 minutes for the start to begin. I just stood there and starting feeling my left calf feeling a little tender when I stopped so I kept moving on it. I hoped that this would not cause me problems during the run and that it would die down. The big screen shows Mo Farah on the start line probably about 500 meters in front of me – I’ll give him a head start and I’ll catch him.
10:40am: The start of the Elite Men’s race and front groups start…. little did I know that it would still be around 30 minutes when we would be getting underway. We started walking slowly, edging towards the start line. I got chatting to a lady in her 50s who was nice and was in her second GNR in around 8 years. The Red Arrows flew over our heads which was cool!
11:11am / Mile 0: WE GO and I wish my new lady friend all the best and off we went. It’s pretty manic with people pushing to get ahead already.
Mile 1: I’m still running alongside my new lady friend until we went our separate ways. Just before we did I said to her louder than I should have “I Can’t Believe That There Are People Walking Already!” and then realised there was a woman walking nearby and she gave me a dirty look – oops!
Miles 2-4: So the calf was sore but it was OK, I finally knew what it felt like to run with thousands of other people…. pretty much like a standard run the roads at home – which didn’t feel any different – apart from there being thousands of people around you and THE CROWDS cheering you on – the kids high-fiving you – incredible stuff. We ran over the Tyne Bridge and got a huge reception from the crowds and it was pretty cool when we went through road tunnels and people were shouting the iconic “Oggy Oggy Oggy Oi Oi Oi!!!“. The water stop was good – I emptied a full bottle of water over my head and grabbed another which I took a couple of swigs out of. At this point I started thinking that I really needed the toilet. I had to hold it in for now!
Miles 5-7: So I hit the half way mark and my 10K split time was 60 minutes which was around my normal running pace of 6.5mph so I was pretty chuffed. My running wasn’t at all too bad and at this point I started thinking maybe I could achieve a 2 hour or nick a sub 2 hour run? The support continued to be amazing – there were bands everywhere and people who came out of their houses offering ice lollies, oranges, skittles and bags of other sweets – I grabbed the lot as it gave me a psychological lift knowing it would help my energy levels. I took on way too much than I needed but it didn’t slow me down lol. There were also lots of people with hose pipes spraying the runners and there were white tents which you ran through and it sprayed you with ice cold water! LOVELY! The Lucazade drink stop was OK but the drink was very warm and I was already taking on fuel – plus I was really needing the toilet and it was starting to get to my psychologically and I tried to ignore it.
Miles 8-10: Oh dear! The left calf was getting very sore, I was feeling it on the hills and I started slowing down. People were overtaking me and I started to realise my 2 hour target is gone. I started to feel really down and I needed to lift myself mentally. This was not a problem when I saw a guy who was partially sighted linking and running with another guy. Also I saw elderly guys giving it their best, I saw people dressed up, and most amazingly people running for people who had died – ie “Dave died last year of cancer. I’m running to raise money for cancer and I know he’s running alongside me now” – it was so powerful and this helped me push on – thinking to myself “Don’t be so pathetic wanting to give up – these guys have it miles harder. DO NOT STOP“…. Although I still really needed the toilet and I planned to go in the next bushes I found that were discrete.
Miles 11-12: Each mile felt like 3 miles, the pain now so bad I was doing a limp-run – but I Didn’t Stop! I was overtaking a lot of people at this point who were walking – at times a whole wide line of walkers making it hard to overtake. At this point we approached the slight incline hill that went forever and GOD I felt it in my calf. Here I thought there was no point going to the toilet and I will just go when I arrive at the finish line. I’m pretty fed up to be honest at this point – I thought I would feel jubilant, alive, being part of such a fantastic event but I was just done in with the amount of pain I had to deal with and I couldn’t think of anything else…. that and my need for a wee lol.
Mile 13: The final stint – it felt like forever. I just wanted it to end although the last mile had hundreds of people hugging the roads at least 20 people deep all the way to the finish – people shouting “You’re nearly there” – and it was great but it didn’t help much for me. At this stage my fitness wasn’t done in – it wasn’t a test in the end for my fitness but my mental grit of putting up with this injury for so long. We came down the hill to see the sea – I have to admit that bit was pretty awesome! Then the 800m to finish, 400m to finish, 200m to finish signs kept coming and coming and I honestly thought that it would never come. I actually thought I would be finishing around 2 hours 10 mins… until I realised that it would be longer… then after 2 hours 15 mins I started feeling really low, fed up and just wanted to finish.
Three times through this final mile – I actually started choking, holding back the tears. Why? I don’t know – maybe it was that I was feeling proud of myself – maybe it was because of having to deal with this slight trauma for so long and it was nearly the end. But the choking seemed to come when I was thinking of hugging Angela and Seb. I WAS PROUD! Yes definitely I DIDN’T STOP ONCE and I bloody earned the donations!
FINISH: And the end came at last – how did I feel – thank god that’s over. I was gutted that THAT was my actual general feeling. After the Great North Swim, Tough Mudder and arriving at each coast during the Coast To Coast I felt AMAZING and ELATED! Here, I felt down, in pain – my mind was battered and I was so tired mentally not just physically. I could finally walk and at this point I could actually feel how bad my calf was. I knew now even at this point that I couldn’t even start running now even if I wanted to.
I checked my phone to see where Ang was but her text made no sense. I wanted to find her and Seb for HUGE cuddles – more sympathetic than celebratory really! I tried texting her saying I will meet her at the family reunion area but the mobile network was rammed with everyone trying to use it.
A text came through – my automatic text to tell me my time of 2:21:35…. I didn’t know what to feel. I don’t think I cared about the time – I think it was just a realisation that ultimately this race was a matter of either stopping or keeping going and I kept going and I was pleased with that.
I carried on towards the family reunion area, to the C area and just before I get there I get a text from Angela saying she is there waiting. A HUGE HUG, Angela was amazing in making me feel better about myself. What an amazing wife! She opened up my goody bag for me which I couldn’t wait to open after the Great North Swim. She was cheering me up with things such as “Ooo look your medal… oooo and your T-Shirt you will have to wear this now… oh and these snacks…” and opening them and feeding me. Top Top lady! After 20 minutes of chilling on the grass, Sebastian who was asleep in his buggy when I arrived woke up and was smiley and really nice saying “HI DADDY”.
We got up and I made my way to the toilets which I realised I wasn’t dying for anymore – must have been just the running. The walk around was slow – OUCH! – using Seb’s buggy to hold my weight off my left calf. We then located the National Autistic Society tent and I had a chat with one of the organisers about why I chose the charity and why they were amazing and she was grateful – It made me feel a bit better about my run – it was all for them and those who would benefit from the donations. The donations at this point was just under my £300 target but I knew there was more to come so I was made up with this!
I was going to join the Great North Run Beer Tent Group at this stage but I decided not to – I never really felt part of the group in the first place. I wore the wristband thinking I was part of this awesome running group but at the end of the day it was just a forum for advice.
We decided to stay in the area for a while so that we didn’t queue up in traffic. We made our way to the pub for a pint and then we headed off to the steam train in the local park which Seb and I went for a ride in – he absolutely loved it! After this he went on some fairground rides and we headed back to the car.
Ang said she was OK to drive but I realised that I was on my final and THIRD phone battery, with this one at around 20% battery level. So I knew if I left this turned on with Sat Nav even if it was plugged into the car it would still drain the battery flat. So I knew I couldn’t sleep on the journey home and had to keep turning off the phone to charge in between each junction.
30 minutes into the drive I felt the tyre going over the white lines and cat eyes in the road…. I looked at Ang and her eyes were almost closing! I said immediately “Ang are you OK?” and she answered…. with a couple seconds of a delay …..”Ermmm Yeah!” – “RIGHT” I said “Pull over the next junction – I might not be able to drive as well as normal and I’m shattered but I’m still the safer drive of us both lol”. Ang was glad to be able to go to sleep and the drive back felt like an age lol.
I’ve done nothing but moan in this post haven’t I? That wasn’t my intentions it’s just that this event has been a bit of a disappointment. This was supposed to be the icing on the cake of the five challenges. Put in a good time, enjoy the day and have a huge smile on your face. This wasn’t the case at all – it was mentally torturing around the course. AGAIN though I am SO PROUD of having completed it considering the state my leg was in!
There is a happy ending though! We got a Chinese takeaway when we got back which was amazing and I had a beer before we retired early for bed.
Summary: Maybe the KT tape might have helped me but probably not much. I am proud that I managed to complete it and that I didn’t walk it once through the course. Would I do this again? Probably not unless one of my friends or family members did it and wanted my support.
I can honestly say that for each of the five challenges I gave it my all! I have also raised a hell of a lot of money for one person which I will reveal in another post. I am currently making a video which will have the best bits of the Fierce Five Challenges and it should look awesome 🙂
Thanks for reading