It's not a marathon and it's not got Paula Radcliffe, but the Great North Run is one humdinger of an event.
This road race in Tyne and Wear attracts the kind of attention and numbers that many full marathons can only dream about. On October 1, when the starting gun fires on the 25th GNR, almost 50,000 runners will surge over that line – and millions of TV viewers will tune in to watch.
Now the world's biggest half marathon, the Great North Run is the brainchild of former Olympic 10,000-metre Bronze medallist Brendan Foster, who got the idea after running in New Zealand's Round the Bays race in 1979.
When the GNR made its debut in 1981, it took place in June and boasted a line-up of 12,000 runners – many of whom will be back this year, no doubt relieved that the event has long since shifted to the more forgiving climes of autumn.
Ready, set... GNR!
Among the gigantic field of runners (and more than a few walkers) will be scores of RW members who’ve turned this year’s GNR forum thread into a 5,000-message giant – and that's with three weeks still to go until race day.
The thread glitters with pearls of wisdom from RW members who've run the GNR before. There's also advice from runners who live in the Newcastle and Gateshead area, from others who have run half marathons more times than many of us have run baths – and even from Great Run staffers who've joined in the thread.
But, unless you’ve worked out a way to browse the thread while training, you won't have time to read all this sage advice. So allow us to fish out the best bits...
The Great North Run 2006: The mighty thread digested|
On the crowds, and forgetting about the PB...
- Catherine Charlton: Don't get too hung up on your time for it. Think of it as a tempo run where you get race experience.
- Hairy Airey: Get into an area where people are going that fast and stay with it, as it's very hard to go quicker than the group that surrounds you.
- Kevin Simmonds: The fundraising/publicity/charity aspect has become bigger than the race. Having said that, [fundraising] is what got me into GNR and back into running, so it can't all be bad. However, there are those who treat it as a stroll - and, as we've seen, it is demanding.
- XL-man: If it's your first half, just aim to finish it as steadily as you can. Then you'll be able to reflect on your achievement afterwards and start thinking about bettering your times. Unless you have the whole start marshalled very stringently (and think of the cost, which is high enough already) then it isn't going to be perfect. I get annoyed when I'm passing fairies walking arm in arm three abreast, but all the ranting and raving in the world isn't going to make those people suddenly realise how selfish they're being. So, strategy: look forward to a great day out, enjoy the occasion, have a good run and may you all achieve what you hope to.
- RhysEvans: Had an email from Great Run about the colour and number allocations. "It's the colour that determines your start area. Colours are allocated based on the estimated running time you gave on your application. Safety is our top priority, which is why we have introduced this system, with marshalls around the starting areas so that people will not be able to jump fences and overload each wave."
- Colin Hill: I work for Great Run. To clarify, the start is not a wave start like Manchester - it's only similar in that you line up in your coloured zone. Zones will be walked to the start line but there will be no gaps between zones.
- Johnny Blaze: If it's wet, take a black bin bag and poke a couple of holes in it for yer arms. That look is de rigeur in Paris these days. As for getting the Metro from South Shields station - never again!
- Vicki: Park in South Shields, where you can get to and from Gateshead throughout the day. You can get out via the A19 from the Tyne Tunnel or York Avenue in Jarrow, and the left-hand side of Leam Lane is open all day. Here's a map.
- EEyin: If you're at the tail end, put blue disposable shoe covers on before the gel station around nine miles, or you end up stuck like a fly in a spider's web. And line up early if the weather is good, 'cause the atmosphere is fantastic.
- XL-man: Make sure you're on the right-hand side of the starting pack. You spend more time in daylight than if you go to the left, where you end up going under flyovers.
- Plodding Hippo: I prefer the left-hand side, 'cause shouting "oggy" in the tunnels is great. Prepare to cry when they play Abide With Me.
On music to GNR to...
- geewok: Does everyone run with music? I can't think of anything worse. I love to let me mind drift onto irrelevant thoughts and enjoy the sounds of the park or canal or wherever I may be...
- XL-man: I'll attract howls of derision for this, but does anyone else think Frankie Goes to Hollywood's version of Born to Run is better than the original? If you haven't heard it, check it out before you yell at me. It's got far more 'umph' for running to.
- Shielsy: I have some stuff from Fatboy Slim, A Little Less Conversation, Lose Yourself (Eminem), American Idiot (Green Day), some stuff by The Jam, Block Rockin’ Beats (Chemical Brothers), I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor (Arctic Monkeys), Filthy/Gorgeous (Scissor Sisters) and some Jamiroquai. Oh, and Irish diddly diddly music... the Lord of the Dance soundtrack is good.
- Draught Horse: Walk this Way by Run DMC and Aerosmith, Run to the Hills by Thin Lizzy, and a trance version of the Braveheart music. Or I end up humming pipe band marches.
- andy sly: GNR special: Local Hero, Run for Home, Blaydon Races, Fog on the Tyne - just gets you in the mood. How about 500 Miles by The Proclaimers?
- Mandie R: For races, especially GNR, I dont use my MP3 player 'cause it blocks out all the atmosphere.
Odds and ends...
- XL-man: Some on here would have been very distracted to run with Dermot O'Leary last year... Shielsy: *Shielsy starts whistling innocently*
- Hairy Airey: When you go through the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel the boundary signs under the Tyne still say County Durham and Northumberland. Or at least they did the last time I looked.
- Blister Sister: Anyone up for a nice cool down in the sea after the run?!
Way Too Slow: I did that last year. Bought a Minchella's ice cream from the little kiosk by the stadium, and then went for a paddle. It was bl**dy freezing!