You might be encouraged to push the pace on the race's downhill start, but it's important to stick to your pacing strategy at this early stage in the race.
“The most popular and usually the most successful pacing strategy for distance running is to run at a constant speed throughout,” says Simon Fairthorne, Bupa sports physiotherapist at the Bupa Barbican Centre. “At the start of the race, the crowd can make it slow going, but be patient, save your energy, and wait until the crowd thins out before settling into your natural race pace.”
It takes a while for the 50,000+ runners to cross the start line – but since your chip time only starts when you cross the start line, resist the temptation to rush to the front.
After crossing the Tyne Bridge, you'll face the first uphill of the race. Here's how to run up and over the ascent with ease.
“Running up hill is like driving uphill,” explains Fairthorne. “Shift to a lower gear and keep the pace nice and even. This may mean you feel you’re working a little harder. When you come to the top of the hill, don't slow down, stride out and maintain your effort level. You should then be able to power through the next mile.”
As you pass one of the 15 official 'Bands on the Run' lining the course, take a moment to check your running rhythm. “Use the beat of the music to time your strides, or simply hum along, allowing the mind to drift off,” says Faithorne. “This will help you pass through this mile, and before you know it, there will only be 10 miles to go.”
Music can be a great motivator when you’re taking on a new challenge. Create your own inspiring playlist or download a Runner’s World playlist here.
Make sure you glance left at this point in the race to check out legendary Gateshead International Stadium. Race organiser Brendan Foster broke the 3,000m world record here back in 1974. We caught up with Brendan to find out what the Great North Run means to him.
“As we look back on the London Olympics, what a special year it is to be staging Britain’s biggest ever mass participation sporting event," he says. "The Bupa Great North Run will be a special post-Olympic party live on the BBC, with Olympic athletes joining the real stars of the show: the 55,000 runners."
It's a good idea to grab a sports drink as you pass the race's first isotonic drinks station.
“Don't take on too much water or sports drinks at any one time,” warns Fairthorne. “Small sips are all that you require - top up regularly at the many drink stations throughout the run.
Try drinking Powerade - the sports drink on offer at the Great North Run - in training to make sure it agrees with you.
After running under Black Bull junction, you'll have conquered the highest point on the course. Make the most of the next two miles of downhill by taking long, relaxed strides.
“Downhill running can be difficult, especially if you have been running for some time,” says Fairthorne. “Attempting to slow yourself down too much consumes energy but run too fast and your heart rate is likely to peak and you may become out of breath.
"Try to run like a snowball - allowing yourself to speed up gradually as you descend the hill and then using this speed at the bottom to keep the momentum going.”
As you whizz downhill, check out the charity cheering zone on this stretch of the course. There are 13 cheering zones along the race route designed to motivate you and support runners' charities.
If you're running for charity, give yourself a mental pat on the back and focus on how your efforts will help others in the future.
Celebrate passing the half-way point in the race with a quick systems check. "If you do pick up cramp, it may be possible to run through it,” says Fairthorne, “but if it isn’t settling down, it’s best to stop and try to slowly stretch out the muscle.
"The curb at the side of the road is great for stretching out calf and hamstring muscles - simply drop the heel over the edge of the curb and stretch out the cramp until it disappears. When you start again, go slowly, but seek help if the cramp doesn't settle.”
Consistent training in the run up to a race can also help to prevent cramp. "Stronger and fitter muscles are more resilient to fatigue and cramp so work on strength and fitness," says nutritionist and ASICS PRO Team member Ruth McKean. "Be careful when changing speed and/or intensity, particularly during the latter stages of a race, as fatigued muscles take longer to adapt to increased intensity."
If you’re really struggling, plan to stop at the Bupa Boost Zone at Mile 10 where there are sports physiotherapists and massage therapists waiting to help you.
This mile is packed with distractions.
If you're overheating, cool down at the first shower station on the course, then grab some water at the Aquapura drinks station and take a well-earned swig.
Band on the Run stations and charity cheering zones will keep you going as the course heads uphill again.
This flat mile features the race's first Bupa Boost Zone, designed to create a wall of sound to power you past the 10-mile mark.
You can also grab an isotonic drink to top up your energy levels.
For many beginners in the race, this might be the furthest you've ever run. Every runner experiences highs and lows in a race.
“As long as you’re not injured, keep focused and keep moving forward,” says Fairthorne. “Walk if you have to, but don't stop as you’ll find it difficult to get going again. Focus on how you’ll feel when you cross the finish line or think about what motivated you to enter the race in the first place.
"Make friends with someone running at your speed and support each other - sometimes a smile or a nod is all it takes.”
You're into the final mile before the race route sweeps left onto the South Shields sea front.
You have 12 miles behind you as you approach the downhill finish of one of the world's greatest road races," says running coach and ASICS PRO Team member Bud Baldaro. "Focus on relaxed, economical running and holding your form.
"Get all you can out of yourself and fly the downhill final mile. Remind yourself just how hard you have worked to get to this point and envisage one of your favourite loops or efforts at home where you always run well. Go for it and maximise the great support from the fabulous crowd."
Enjoy the amazing crowds lining the sea front as you cruise towards the finish line to collect your medal.
And for more info on what to expect at the world's biggest half-marathon, visit our Great North Run Index 2012. We've covered everything from how to survive the race to a Geordie's review of last year's amazing run.
For more expert tips on preparing for race day and taking on the Great North Run, check out @buparunning on Twitter or visit Facebook.com/buparunning