One short year ago we were watching the Great North Run on BBC. And it looked so much fun – the atmosphere, the weather, the happy runners. We immediately did some research and registered interest for the 2016 run. A few months later, we were both lucky enough to win ballot places. At the moment of registration, we hadn’t done any half marathon. When we got there, we already had two halfs and a full marathon in the bag. Such a difference a few months make!?
Although the running part was well taken care of, having trained all year, Newcastle is far far away so we needed accommodation and travel, which we had to sort out in advance because we knew another 30,000 people (if not more) would need the same. The Great North Run had 57,000 participants this year, from all corners of the world.
We booked Hotel Indigo for Saturday and Sunday night. Considering the date of the event is always known, the price difference between the two nights was noticeable (£350 compared to £150). Anyway, we had a feature room (corner room, 2 of the walls being just windows) and everything in the minibar was complimentary, and we had a complimentary bottle of Prosecco every day! And free breakfast. The hotel also had special meals for the runners, but we’re not pasta fans, so we passed. But we had a lovely stay, thank you Indigo!
We travelled with Virgin Trains for the very first time, and everything was smooth. There are free wifi and plugs to keep your phone charged, so we didn’t get bored on the 3h ride.
We fell in love with the city the moment we got there. Fresh air, Northern England look and feel, away from the London crowds and the Great North Run preparations that were happening everywhere. Everyone was ready for the event. Unfortunately, being such a small city, many restaurants were closing early on Saturday (and stayed closed for the rest of the weekend), and we even missed the City Tour Buses, the last one being at 3 pm. But no worries, we walked the entire city on Saturday.
We packed sandwiches and snacks from home, so all we ate in Newcastle were the two dinners – Saturday and Sunday night. Plus the two free breakfasts at the hotel. On Saturday we had dinner at a vegan & vegetarian restaurant called The Bohemian and on Sunday (after the race), vegan burgers and ale at the Fat Hippo Underground burger place.
And finally, the race
The race starts in Newcastle, goes out on the roads and finishes in South Shields on the seaside. Although there were more people than at the London Marathon, we crossed the start line much faster. The race was PERFECTLY organized, well done! There were so many people running, but also so many people cheering! During the whole time, there was not even a little place without people, the atmosphere was amazing. It was my only race when I didn’t wear headphones because I wanted to take it all in.
And of course, let’s talk about the hills. So many hills. But I think for Alin and I this was a big advantage because compared to other people that were struggling, we were flying past. A good amount of hills and strength training made this all possible.
There were showers on the course to cool down, but there were also kids splashing you with water and a few people with hoses. By the way, the temperature was perfect for running. There were 17 degrees when I reached the half point, and although the sun was shining, it didn’t bother me at all. Here are a few recorded moments:
When I had 4 miles left to go, my watch buzzed and I saw the preview of a message from Alin: “Chip time 1:28”. He had finished and was now waiting for me.
You know you’re close when you reach the steep downhill that takes you to the seafront. And then the signs – 800m to go, 400m, 200m and then a small right turn and there it is – the finish line. Just before crossing, the aviation show started, and a few planes flew above me.
I crossed the line, stopped my watch and realized that I also got a personal best. I met Alin, got our medals and enjoyed a couple of hours on the seaside.
After the race
We were unsure if to take the Metro or one of the buses available to take us back to Newcastle. We went for the buses and then quickly regretted it. All those people who came to South Shields wanted to go back to Newcastle, and there were thousands of them. Plus some of the roads were still closed. So to get back, it took us more time than to run there. So next time, take the Metro!
The following morning we took a walk on the Quayside, walked on a couple of bridges and then stretched our legs. We felt a few pains here and there, but nothing major. The recovery was quick, which made us think – could we have done more?? That’s for the next half marathon to find out.
If you’re a runner and have never done the Great North Run before, DO IT. It is, by far, our favourite run yet and the only one we’re thinking about doing again. And if you don’t run, visit Newcastle and South Shields, we had a great time!