I ran the Great North Run for the first time and experienced the North East like never before

For someone with just under a year of genuine running experience and a taped up ankle, it was always going to be an interesting first time!

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Growing up away from the North East and a huge fan of sport, the Great North Run was the only chance I had to see the full extent of what the region had to offer away from the Tyne-Wear Derby, and with no horse in the race of North East football, the half marathon between Newcastle and South Shields became a huge part of my understanding of the region.

I watched the race on TV, as I always had done, in 2016 knowing I would be heading north for university just a week later, and in 2017 I watched Mo Farah cross the Tyne Bridge, knowing a half marathon was out of my reach due the student lifestyle of late nights, bad diet and alcohol I had developed.

Before and after my first Great North RunBefore and after my first Great North Run
Before and after my first Great North Run

So when a good friend of mine completed the race in 2022 it was the kick I wanted to finally get in the mindset of thinking I could complete the Great North Run.

At the time of writing it has been 363 days since my first run as part of my push for the Great North Run in 2023, having signed up through the membership programme, which would give me the years of guaranteed entry. And the 122 runs following that took me to one of the most memorable and fulfilling days of my life over the weekend.

An ankle injury which I had picked up from overtraining had nearly wiped out any hopes of reaching the start line, but the thumbs up from A&E four weeks ahead of the race left me with plenty of recovery time, albeit not enough to get back to my regular training.

Three runs in two weeks leading up to the event wasn’t amazing preparation, nor was knowing I’d need some form of painkillers and the guilty joint wrapped up well before I left the Town Moor on race day, not that the pain was any major part of my day once I passed Eddie Howe, the race’s official starter, and got on my way.

What all the hard work was forWhat all the hard work was for
What all the hard work was for

Everyone has their own Great North Run story and path to that famous start line and I feel as though I don’t need to go through the cliches of how supportive and loud the crowds were – as much as it is all true – or how tumbling down the steep bank to the coast and seeing the North Sea open up will leave you speechless – it did, as did the Red Arrows which were mid-display as I reached the final mile – but as someone who is lucky enough to choose to call the North East home, the 13.1 miles felt like a homecoming I never expected.

Each face in the crowds lining the course looked familiar, as though you would regularly see them on the Metro, every turn felt like part of a pilgrimage – a trip I had seen many thousands make on my screen growing up and every step felt as though the entire region was urging you on, whether it be with water pistols to cool you down, high fives offers of anything with sugar.

Weather warnings for both heat and thunderstorms couldn’t dampen the mood and the course flew by in a daze. Constant hydration, helped by hoses throughout the first half and finishing before the heavens opened to bring a wet close to the afternoon helped, but a full circle moment was completed regardless.

From a childhood where the Great North Run was my only eye into the North East away from football to completing the largest half marathon in the world a short drive from where I now call home, and a half marathon less than a year after a struggled my way to a first Parkrun, it has been an experience I’ll never forget.

All I could think about at the finish line was wanting to do it all over again and with that in mind, I’ll see you all next year, crowds of the North East!