Completing or watching the Great North Run for the first time this Sunday?
Persistent plodder Gavin Ledwith has run 22 of the races. Here are his tips to make the day run smoothly.
1) KEEP WARM: Dig out an old sweatshirt to wear en route to the start line. Don’t fear it’s going to waste. Most are collected by race staff, washed and donated to charity. Alternatively, you can always create your own designer bin bag.
2) STAY CENTRAL: Runners using the packed Metro trains tend to alight at Haymarket to be near the start line.
But if you or your family need the toilet then there’s a wider range of facilities in and around the Central Station. The 20-minute walk uphill to the race area will also nicely stretch your legs.
3) MAKE A SEATING PLAN: Spectators heading from Newcastle to South Shields by train don’t have it easy either. Everyone wants to make the same trip at the same time after watching the start so be prepared for long queues and an uncomfortable journey standing up.
If you or someone in your party desperately needs a seat then consider heading first to Jesmond in the opposite direction before crossing platforms to double back towards Shields. The trains shouldn’t be as crammed at this point.
4) PACE YOURSELF: Running alongside 56,000 others can be a daunting experience. Don’t feel inadequate if someone out of shape zooms past you carrying their pension book. Just keep to your own pace and there’s a good chance you’ll overtake the same runner at the business end of the race.
5) SING LESS: And you thought the event’s official concert was after the run at the Metro Radio Arena. The inevitable strains of “oggy, oggy, oggy” echo as you pass under every fly-over. Join in once to tick off another race tradition before conserving your energy for the slog ahead.
6) BEWARE SNIPERS: The GNR is perhaps the only day of the year when Sunderland fans can proudly wear their colours through the streets of Newcastle without fear of reprisal.
That said, watch out for younger spectators carrying water pistols. They have a tendency to target red and white shirts while loudly questioning the wearers’ parentage.
7) GET THE CROWD ON YOUR SIDE: The last uphill stretch along Centenary Avenue, around the 11-mile mark, can be torturous. But it’s also where the crowds start to re-appear in numbers and their applause is the nearest us mere mortals get to being cheered on in a major sporting event.
Use it as inspiration and watch out for the Elvis Presley impersonator near the Marsden Lane roundabout. He’s normally singing Jailhouse Rock when Mo Farah and co go flying past. When I trundle along, he’s usually demolishing that fateful last burger.
8) KEEP MOVING: The race marshals may seem a trifle harsh when they firmly urge you to keep moving after you cross the finish line. “What do they know about what I’ve just endured?”
What they know is that if you suddenly halt then there’s a good chance you are going to trigger a concertina collision with runners immediately behind you. Believe me. It’s another race box I’ve unfortunately ticked.
9) DON’T RELY ON YOUR MOBILE: Another common sight at the finish is agitated runners struggling to get through to their families. While improved technology has reduced airwave congestion in recent years, there’s no guarantee you will make contact. Solution? Agree in advance where to meet.
My suggestion? That’s one secret I probably best keep to myself – otherwise I’ll never find my designated taxi driver.
10) TREAT YOURSELF: Unless you are one of those serious runners preoccupied with diet – in which case you’ll probably be running home along the coast - then why not reward yourself to an ice-cream or coffee while waiting for your family?
There are plenty of vendors on the sea front and it’s something to spur you on during those last painful miles. Just remember to safety-pin a fiver inside your shorts so you don’t have to worry about carrying coins for 13 miles.