They say if you’re from Newcastle you should run the Great North Run at least once in your lifetime, but I really can’t see it happening for me anytime soon (or in the future). If you’re like me and feel exhausted at the mere thought of just pulling trainers on, then you can still enjoy the day as a spectator. Over the years I’ve supported plenty of friends and family running it, and in true Geordie style the atmosphere on the day makes it a special event for the whole city year after year.
This year my sister and her boyfriend were both running, Caroline for Alzheimer’s on behalf of our two grandmas, and Martin for Make Some Noise charity who help local disadvantaged children, so I went up with the parents to support.
Town was heaving from early on, with runners making their way to the start on Great North Road, and spectators lining the route. We wanted a view of the Tyne Bridge and the RAF Red Arrows, so went down to the river and across the Tyne Bridge.
I can’t remember a time where I’ve ever crossed the Tyne Bridge on foot, and there were little anti-suicide notes tied up all the way along, as well as a sign from the Samaritans. That bridge is a symbol of home for Geordies, and seeing it gives you all the feels no matter how long you’ve been away for. It’s awful to think that for some it’s an escape, or a way out, and hopefully some of those notes will help people think twice.
We went along to the far end, so we could look back on the bridge and the Newcastle skyline, the castle keep, St James’ Park, the cathedral lantern tower, and the quayside. It was pretty busy even at 9am but we got a clear spot.
I went off on the hunt for coffee and found the Arch, tucked away behind the Hilton and next to the High Level Bridge. The woman in there said she had been there from 6am making coffees and croissants for the emergency services, volunteers and spectators, but it’s the only Sunday of the year that she doesn’t mind the early start.
The first of the runners to come through were the elite women, and the guided runners. If there is ever a sobering sight on a Sunday morning it’s the spirit and determination of some of those people, with little to no sight running with their guides.
The crowd were amazing cheering them on, and I was an emotional wreck. My dad spotted one of the guides and recognised him, from chatting on the metro on the way up. We had no idea at the time he was a guide for a blind man, he never even mentioned it. Aren’t there some amazing people out there?
Next to run over the Tyne Bridge were the elite men, led by Sir Mo Farrah. I mean blink and you’d miss him he was so fast, but as always he got a tremendous reception.
After the elite the masses came pouring over the bridge in their hundreds. Fancy dress costumes everywhere, including Spiderman, Fred Flintstone, a group of ‘Incredibles’ women and Where’s Wally to name a few.
There was a guy running with a bicycle on his back, and a guy from the armed forces running with what looked like an actual military bazooka on his back.
As the runners came across the bridge, the Red Arrows appeared once the grey storm cloud dispersed, and the cheers from the crowds were drowned out by them thundering through the sky with a trail of red white and blue behind them.
Just like the runners and Mo, they were gone almost as quickly as they came, to take their display over to the South Shields finish line.
The Great North Run app lets you track anyone you know running, so we had it set up for Caroline and Martin, who came bouncing along a few minutes after the Red Arrows passed. It’s hilarious how excited you get when you see someone you know, you literally go crazy for the ten seconds it takes them to pass you, trying to snap photos. I got a pretty good one before they were gone back into the crowd of runners and off to finish the race.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to run in a GNR, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to tell you that, but if you’re ever in the city on Great North Run day, or if anyone you know is running you should absolutely make the effort to go out and support them.
People were yelling out the names written across the shirts of the runners, and you could see it give them a physical lift as they heard their names being shouted. Towards the finish line the locals even come out with beer, red wine, cups of tea and cake.
All those people are each running for a different reason, a different personal story, and one thing that every participant says is that the support and cheers of the local crowd are what make the day so special and keeps them going. Well done to everyone who ran today, like Gaby Logan said on the BBC coverage you’re all local heroes.
Especially these two!
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