Shepherding nerve-wracked loved ones to the start, finding the best views, and above all, enjoying the big day - this is the guide for everyone heading to Newcastle on September 16 to cheer on friends, family, and complete strangers...
The Day Before
Chances are your runner will experience a full mix of emotions as race day approaches, ranging from excitement and anticipation, to sheer and utter terror. Make sure you’re on hand with a reassuring word and calming mug of tea, and try to focus their energy on practical preparations.
Help them organise all their race-day essentials the night before - so as to avoid a last-minute panic in the morning - and print out two RW pace bands (one for your runner, one for yourself). Trying to spot a familiar face in the 55,000-strong field can be tricky, so this way you’ll have some idea of when to look out for them.
At The Start
If you’re intent on waving your runner off, it’s vital that you leave enough time to get to the start. With thousands of runners congregating on a narrow dual carriageway, abiding by the race guidelines (as set out in the GNR magazine) is essential. Don’t expect marshalls to make allowances if you roll up 10 minutes before the off – the baggage buses will leave at 10am sharp, and late arrivals won’t be allowed to move toward the front of the field, whatever their pen number.
OK, so you’ve helped your runner pack their race-day bag – now make sure you don’t leave home without the following:|
Essential for picking suitable viewpoints and working out how to get to and from the finish area.
Don’t underestimate the time spent on your feet. After five or six hours, you might regret choosing to wear your favourite pair of heels.
Layers of clothing
Be prepared for rain, wind and shine. The final mile along the coast can be quite exposed so bring suitable layers and if the forecast is bright, lots of suncream too.
If you’re going to be using public transport, get your tickets in advance from Traveline (0871 2002233). Alternatively, pop some loose change in your pocket – it’ll be handy for the ticket machines at the stations.
Make the most of the festive atmosphere by packing balloons, whistles, banners – anything loud or colourful to spur on the runners! But don't overdo it - a Nordic horn may draw unwanted attention to yourself...
Other than pay and display car parks in the city centre, there isn’t any parking near the start so if you’re planning to travel by car, be prepared to drop off your runner in a nearby side road. Don’t worry about them finding their way – there’ll be thousands of other runners heading in the same direction.
An alternative option is to park your car near the finish (North or South Shields) and take the Metro back to the city centre (Haymarket station) – it might mean an earlier start, but you’ll be spared the long, busy commute after the race. All the Metro stations will be swarming with runners and supporters so buy tickets in advance (Traveline - 0871 2002233) to avoid the queues.
Be prepared for a lot of standing around once you arrive. Other than toilet facilities, drink stations and a PA system pumping out loud music, there won’t be much in the way of entertainment for supporters, so you might want to consider bidding an early farewell to your runner and setting off to secure a good viewing position for the rest of the race.
Keeping up with a point-to-point course can be tricky for spectators, so planning ahead is vital. Arm yourself with a course map (pages 10-11 of the race magazine) and decide in advance where you will stand to cheer on the runners. Don’t be overambitious in your plans. It’s better to focus on one viewing location rather than several, as it’s unlikely you will be able to keep up with your runner more frequently than this.
Three popular spectator spots are Gateshead Stadium (mile 3), Heworth Roundabout (mile 4) and Coast Road Bank near the finish (mile 12). Gateshead Stadium and Heworth are easily accessible via the Metro, but the crowds here can grow to three or four people deep so aim to arrive as early as possible for a front-row seat.