Steve’s Race Report – Great North Run – 12th September 2021
Twelve months after it was originally planned the 40th Great North Run finally took place on Sunday 12th September 2021. I was at the very first one as a 12-year-old spectator in 1981 watching Kevin Keegan et al running down to South Shields and therefore to be on the start line of race No. 40, and one of the first mass participation events post COVID was, to say the least, special.
Due to COVID this wasn’t the iconic Newcastle – South Shields route but rather an out and back starting and finishing in Newcastle and barely an inch of flat road in-between. But it was the Great North Run after all so all in 😊
Actually, one of the upsides to the “wave” start procedure on the day was the rather relaxing journey into Toon, for once no crammed Metros and hordes of participants making their way to the start line. It helped I was starting in Wave 1, but it certainly meant I arrived on the Central Motorway chilled and ready for the off. COVID restrictions also meant no pre-race warm up but you can’t have it all 😊
As the Great North Run is part of the training schedule for October’s Manchester Marathon, I really wasn’t certain what shape I was in or what time to expect. Pre-race chatting with mates I had though a long 1:30 or low 1:40 was on the cards. Richard had suggested running at around 166 HR but what would that bring.
10:00am and the gun goes and, for once, being in Wave 1, it was a clean start and across the line quickly, not dodging other runners. For those that don’t know the GNR the first few miles out across the Tyne Bridge are basically downhill and thus the first 5k came and went in a heartbeat (20:55) and the heart rate and power were pretty much in the zone and certainly maintainable – so far so good. But what goes down must go up, and the next 5k drags past Gateshead International Stadium, Heworth Interchange and up to Whitemare Pool, the highest point on the course at the 10k mark (43:25).
Normally this is where runners head left to South Shields, but this year it was a U-Turn across the dual carriageway and back to the city with a gentle downhill through to 15k (1:05:46) and then the slog back to the finish. The last 5k really was punishing, and post-race it was great to hear the Elites explaining just how hard the finish was, not just me then. It is at this point where the hours of training and a positive mindset really kick in. it would be so easy to just to sit back, relax and cruise in, but by this point I knew I had a decent time in me.
As Jens Voigt used to say, “Shut Up Legs”, take the pain and push on through. The support over back over the Tyne Bridge helped, running through actual City Centre was cool and then finally the 20k mark was hit (1:29:04).
The final 1.1k is all a bit of a blur if I’m honest, the 800m, 400m, 200m to go signs all seemed to slip past so slowly and the finishing line seemed ever distant but dragging out the last little bits of energy I hit the timing matt and stopped the clock in 1:34:29. Somehow, on a difficult course, I had conjured up a PB – WOW. Everything went to plan, followed my HR (160 I think) and Power (282 watts) and the outcome was more than I could have hoped for. So happy!
So that was GNR #40. Different but excellent. As always, the North East support was fantastic, the organization superb in difficult circumstances and it was a pleasure to be back on the roads in an “actual” race. Roll on 2022.