From last-minute race preparations to discovering culture on the Tyne, this is your step-by-step guide to ensuring your Bupa Great North Run 2012 experience is a weekend to remember for all the right reasons...
Before you leave home, make sure you’ve packed everything you might need for the weekend. Write a list and check off your kit as you pack – it’s the best way of making sure you don’t leave any essential items behind.
Check the weather forecast to get an idea of what conditions to expect, but bear in mind that the Bupa Great North Run has frequently turned out to be a late-summer scorcher, so it’s best to cater for all eventualities.
Start with your race number, timing chip, safety pins, charity vest (if applicable), race-day shoes and kit. Disposable clothing to keep you warm at the start is also a good idea, as are blister plasters, suncream and anti-chafing cream. And if you’ve practised with energy gels in training, make sure you pack a handful of these too.
If you’re planning to travel by train, check that you’ve got the tickets or the details you need to pick them up at the station the following morning. Don’t forget to check the National Rail website for details on up-to-date train times and disruptions to avoid any unforeseen delays on your journey too.
Get yourself to Newcastle in good time on Saturday to be able to prepare, relax and take in the city while you’re there. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, find out what time breakfast is – chances are that you’ll be one of many runners staying in the hotel and there may be a special race-morning arrangement.
Do a quick kit check now too – that way, if you’ve left any essentials at home or on the train, you’ll still have time to duck into town and pick up any last-minute items.
Everything in order? Then it’s time to relax and think about something else other than the race. Thankfully, there’s a full programme of family-friendly activities to keep you entertained throughout the weekend, kicking off with the Great Sport Dance in Baltic Square, Gateshead. Take care not to bust too many new moves though – you want to be saving your energy for the big day!
Back at Newcastle Quayside, the Mini North Runs (for children aged between three and eight) start at 10.30am. Get there early for a good spot and you’ll also catch some of the world’s best athletes tackle the Great North Sprints and the Great North Mile Races later in the day (11.30am, 1-2.15pm). Children aged between nine and 16 are also catered for in the Junior North Runs (3-4pm) .
Keeping your energy levels high should be a top priority, so don’t be tempted to miss meals or snack on junk food just because your routine has been broken. Make sure you eat a substantial midday meal and most importantly, don’t try anything new.
Head to the Metro Radio Arena (10am-4pm) for the Great North Sport & Fitness Show, and as well as a wide range of exhibitors and demonstrations, you can enjoy a free plate of pasta with other runners.
Time to relax and take it easy. Beer-fuelled Saturday evenings might be a Newcastle speciality, but we’d advise you forgo the brown ale until after the race. Instead, fuel up for a flyer the next day with a carbohydrate-rich meal, lay out your kit and pack your bags ready for the next day. And, don't forget: before your head hits the pillow – be sure to set your alarm clock.
Get up at least two hours before the race start (start is at 10.40am) so you have enough time to make sure you are fully prepared before you cross the starting line.
Keep to your usual routine, which should include taking on a good breakfast (porridge or toast) and topping up your fluid levels regularly with water, fruit juice or energy drink. A caffeine boost such as a coffee can help your performance, but only reach the cafetiere if you’ve tried this in training – race morning is not the time to find out that coffee doesn’t agree with you.
Check your kit bag for race essentials – and everyday items such as house keys, wallet and mobile phone – one last time before leaving, and make sure you check out of the hotel with plenty of time to spare. Thousands of others will be travelling in the same direction, so public transport links and road networks will be busy. Baggage buses are provided at the start for the safe storage of your belongings, which are then transported to the finish - these will leave promptly at 10.10am.
Whether you’ve run a PB or a race you’d rather forget, one thing still remains – you’ve got to get back home. With thousands of other runners leaving Newcastle, planning ahead is vital.
Additional services have been added for the Metro and South Shields ferry, but it’s still worth buying your tickets in advance to avoid interminable queues. If you are driving, look out for regular shuttle buses that will take you back towards the city centre.
No need to feel guilty about enjoying an indulgent meal after your race – it’s the perfect way for your body to recover and refuel. You might never want to see another bowl of pasta again but it’s still the best choice for your body to get back those calories you burned during the race. A celebratory drink, such as a beer, will mark your achievement, but don’t go crazy – save it for a few days’ time when you can really enjoy it and reflect on the weekend.
Finally, get your head down for an early night and dream happily – you’ve just successfully completed the Bupa Great North Run 2009!