RW Race Report - Bupa Great North Run 2011

Question: How do you fit 54,000 runners, nearly double the London Marathon, into half the space?
Answer: Big roads and a whole lot of love.


Posted: 19 September 2011
by James Barnard

Bupa Great North Run 2011
38 seconds in...

Where Newcastle-upon-Tyne
When September 18, 2011
First Man Martin Mathathi 58:56
First Woman Lucy Kabuu 1:07:06
Last Finisher 4:26:18
No. of Finishers 37482

It was a chilly start to the 31st Bupa Great North run and with a forecast for a light drizzle later on, the conditions looked perfect for quick times out on the course.

After a swoop over the start line from the grieving Red Arrows, Mo Farah fired the starting pistol and began an epic 40-minute high-fiving session with the runners. Thanks in part to RW's recent interview, many runners were aware of Mo's Arsenal obsession and the local Toon fans ribbed him after their defeat at Blackburn the day before.

The road splits in two early on and starts the first of the course's many undulations, before rejoining for the crossing of the Tyne Bridge. Throughout the 13.1 miles, there are a number of very gradual but lengthy ascents and descents; the largest starts just past 5K and climbs for about 2 miles.

The high volume of runners causes a degree of congestion during the race, and because celebs and VIPs start first, quicker runners will struggle to worm their way through. This is alleviated by the width of the road (the route is largely along a dual carriageway). Unfortunately, this means that the only real points of interest along the course are crossing the Tyne Bridge before mile 2 and starting the long finish straight along the coast at mile 12.

But the support from the locals completely makes up for the distinct lack of scenery. Lucky runners can expect to be offered orange slices, jelly babies, booze, ice pops and even a quick shower from onlookers brandishing hosepipes. There were cheering sections on the remotest sections of the A184 and even the cheeky kids squirting people with water bottles or deliberately missing high-fives were appreciated. The rain falling during my last mile couldn't dissipate the Geordies, while a chap being helped over the last 100 metres by two other runners sent the crowd into an utter frenzy of support and adulation.

It's a very busy race, but organized incredibly well and lined with drinks stations (water and sports drink), live music (at almost every mile) and even a Bupa Boost Zone providing sports massages, Vaseline and jelly beans. And the Red Arrows display is a fitting reward for your hard work after the race. All in all, it's a very emotionally-charged, monster of an event.

Sign up to the reminder service for the 2012 Bupa Great North Run here.


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Not particularly chilly at the start.  The sun did shine at one point.   I have now completed 28 GNRs and the atmosphere is always electric.   The musicians along the route add a lot to the atmosphere - particularly the drumming and of course ELVIS singing all alone in his gazebo at 11 miles.  All alon, but I have never heard him sing 'Are you lonesome tonight'.  A splendid run for all abilities and ages and so well organised.  
Posted: 21/09/2011 at 18:50

My 2nd GNR and they get better every year, the magic point is crossing the Tyne Bridge as the Red Arrows fly over, being in the Orange B start group we always cross the bridge before they come over.

The support of all the people along the route are fantastic, the kids and parents handing out ornages and jelly babies, drinks and hoses along the way, Elvis at Mile 11 is a real treat along with the tent between 11-12 organised by the North East Drinking Club for those with a Running Problem.

The finish is a real gut buster, a straight 1.1 miles that never seems to end and you run harder and faster for that line that seems to keep moving further towards North Shields every year.

The only disappointment is the organisation of buses from South Shileds to the start line, ques were mismanaged and bus drivers were turning runners away because there were no seats left, - Bus Drivers, if we're going to run 13.1 miles we don't mind standing to get to the start of the race, we just want to get there.

Another great day out with the people of Tyneside


Posted: 21/09/2011 at 19:47

My 10th GNR and I'm hooked! I couldn't cope being in the North East on the day and not being part of it! It's a great day, great atmosphere and proud to a local!!
Posted: 22/09/2011 at 07:12

My 1st GNR & it won't be my last, I loved it. I started in Green section & the Red Arrows came over us twice before we'd even crossed the start line but it didn't matter, I saw them 3 times that day.

The crowds were fantastic, the rain came around 6 miles for me (just as the winners were finishing) & stopped just as I reach the peak of the hill in South Sheilds before the drop to the sea front.........then the sun came out.

This was my first half marathon & I finished in 2 hours, 5 mins & 30 seconds & caught my sister with 800 meters to go. She beat her pb too. The Red Arrows started their display just as we were wondering down to the bagagge buses.

We'll be back next year for the weekend as my son wants to do the kids stuff on the Saturday. I'll be in the White section next year as I have plenty of time to improve my time before the ballot.


Posted: 22/09/2011 at 07:46

How do you know which colour you will be in? is there a list of colour/ times?
Posted: 22/09/2011 at 09:11

This was my first GNR and I was running for a charity. Coming from NI we had arrived the day before and had very little sleep, plus our eating pattern was up the left!! We arrived at the start and soon discovered there weren't enough loos to go round so a quick clamber into the brambles had to do! We got into our pens and did the obligatory aerobic warm up which was great fun. When the starting pistol went we headed off - I checked my watch and realised I needed to slow down. Two miles in I developed a stitch in my left side which caused me to slow down to a walk A fellow Norn Iron runner came up behind me to help me and give advice before heading on himself. It subsided so I took off again only to develop another on the left side this time!! This continued up to 7-8 miles by which time I had given up on completing the run in my predicted time of 2:20 - I just wanted to finish at this stage. My legs had stiffened up and my toes (which I had smeared vaseline on following others' advice!!) were slipping inside my trainer liners causing my toes to hit the top of my trainers. I  finally crossed  the line in 3:09 - but that included a loo-stop of around 10-11 mins queueing.  I'll be back next year and hopefully will do it in my predicted - or better - time.  It was a brilliant atmosphere and a great learning experience. I know others have commented about the slower runners/walkers not keeping to the left. I did keep to the left when I had to slow down, but I noticed that faster runners insisted on running through the slower ones instead of heading to the middle or the right of the course, but apart from this I thought it was a brilliant race. The people of the north-east are really generous to those taking part - every time my name was called I looked over expecting to see someone from home!!
Posted: 23/09/2011 at 20:32

Funny - that Elvis sticks my mind too! Must be that his is much needed at that stage in the game. Thanks mate!!

This was my 11th GNR and loved (and hated!!) it as much as ever. Rain was most welcomed for a change rather than recent unseasonally hot ones. Thank you so much to the Geordies (and I guess Mackems towards the end!) who come out in force to support runners along year after year. Rather than whinge about road closures they seemed to embrace the event and it's nice to see old favourites along the way like the chap on top of the bus shelter near mile 8 with his hose pipe, the slightly ageing rockers at the start of the John Reid road, the ice pops, the jelly babies, the oranges, and of course Elvis and the incomparable red arrows.

Can't wait for next year! It will be sub 2 hrs next time.....


Posted: 23/09/2011 at 22:01

Hi Bryan - You don't know which colour you'll be in until you get your race pack, but they're allocated according to predicted finish times (or most recent HM finishing times when you submit your application) - so in theory, the faster runners will be towards the front so can get a better start and slightly clearer roads. All the fancy dress bods and first time runners / those unsure of times will be in the pink section towards the back. Orange is usually at the front of the main section (behind striped elites), then white, green & pink - I think, but the pack shows you exactly where your start area will be. If you've never done it, go for it, it's absolutely magic!
Posted: 24/09/2011 at 12:12

My first GNR and my first half marathon - totally hooked, fab event and well worth all the training..... Cannot wait until the entry is open for 2012. A must for any level of runner.
Posted: 25/09/2011 at 11:19

My first GNR and 1st Half Marathon. I had to take it slow de a knee problem in the last month of training and waking up with a cold the day before the race. BUT as a result my only aim was to finish which took the pressure off times etc. I ended up enjoying every minute and finished in 2hrs 16mins. Definitely doing it again. Would recommend it to anyone ))


Posted: 25/09/2011 at 12:50

Hi "Diane Guthrie 2" i believe i was the runner offering advice with your stitch at 2 miles....very swarthy Norn Iron chap....managed to finish in 1.54...

Fourth GNR and thoroughly enjoyed being part of such a collective effort by all. Humbling to have the health and strength which enabled me to share in what was a marvellous event...


Posted: 25/09/2011 at 15:34

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