Up around 6 and the question asked, “Rain or shine?” wonderful when I heard the word shine! Quick porridge, coffee then in the car and Uncle Pete took us to the start of my 13th consecutive Great North Run. Now around 7.50 and our first port of call the burger van! A sausage bap and coffee, not the perfect nutrition for a half marathon but with two hours to wait, why not! The atmosphere was already building, the PA system is being tested, as a blind person I don’t see the spectacle but around me are the sounds of police horses, announcements, other runners turning up and conversations merging everywhere. From when we got there hardly any one, suddenly it seems thousands turn up and once our kit bag is stowed on the buses it’s a bumpy walk to the start, the sense of excitement, adrenalin, nervous chatter, the smell of liniment, water, all kinds of energy drinks and food. The chatter gets more intense, the PA is now full of information and interviews with runners flooding in, for me it gives a great buzz and the atmosphere is simply electric.


My guides this year , no strangers to the North are Tony the Tip and Garry , better known as Donkey , they pull me, push me, tell of all the sights  and once again that bumpy walk eventually gets me to the start, with our normal statement, “ Can’t believe that twelve months has past so quickly”. But we’re on the start again, a year older, hopefully fit enough and ready to go!


The start line is always a hive of activity, celebs being interviewed, elite runners doing their warm up, helicopters flying up above, then the announcement that we’re live on the BBC but one nice thing is that all the blind and partially sighted runners get to start ahead of the masses, so many who do it every year have the annual catch up. For some reason this year there seemed quite a few more blind competitors, which is great, I was also told by the lads there were some lean, mean young runners and then reminded I am the old codger of the blind runners! Tony telling me that one of the lads guides had the time of 1.39 written on his arm with all the mile splits, that kind of time these days just a memory. The start is near, first go the wheelchair competitors at 10.10, followed at 10.15 by the elite women, then closely followed by the blind runners, that’s us and then like always a story unfolds!


At around half a mile sadly Garry had a problem and a decision had to be made and it was agreed that Tony and myself would have to go it alone. Now within the blind runners I think we all feel the same and there is kind of a blind race I’m guessing, all of us have the vision of coming in first, so Tony suggested we up the pace and try and sit behind the younger ones, so we did. We caught them by mile one, settled into our pace and then at around mile 3, the Tyne bridge, we were actually leading, the crowds at this point absolutely fantastic, the support is just incredible. We turned left off the Tyne bridge and Tony told me we had created quite a gap, so we kept going. Through mile 4, then 5 and Tony reminded me that another blind pairing were still behind us, hadn’t gained on us but we hadn’t pulled away any more either. We kept on going, through mile 6, then 7, onto 8 and the crowd’s noise seems to intensify, the support from spectators is just something you can’t explain! Just simply fantastic. Once again Tony told me they were still behind, the gap remaining the same, but we were looking good. It was at this point that Mo Farah passed us, he flashed by, just like we were standing still. Mile 9 came, we ran round the island and then onto the hill. At this point Tony reminded me that they were still there, the gap the same but if we could just lift our pace a little it would make their task of catching us harder. I stepped on the gas, we started up the hill and it was at this point Tony said we have a chance of winning this blind race. He told me that he had never won anything in his life and would I try and up the pace, his words hit me, “ Dave do this for me, pick the pace up it will mean everything to me to come in first!”, so I tried again.

Mile 10, mile 11 I was now pushing hard, heart pumping, legs going like two pistons and in my head a real guilty feeling, I repeatedly telling myself faster I can do this for Tony, so I ploughed on. Up and over, we hit mile 12, Tony telling me he could see the sea, they were still behind, the gap being the same but he guessed they would make their move soon. Over the past 12 months or so I had had issues with my knees and it hurt going downhill, but the pain would have to wait a while and I kept going. Tony now literally every breath telling me they were still there but as yet not closing the gap, 1000 metres he told me, just 5 more minutes of pain, come on was his words do it for me, I focussed. The crowds once again playing their part the noise was unbelievable, half a mile he shouted, if they are going to strike it will be now! At this point I was feeling all kinds of emotion, legs going like the clappers, heart pumping, felt guilty, don’t know why but I kept thinking I can’t loose him down now, the crowds were shouting, Tony still talking and I was willing that finish line to come, then Tony stopped us dead! For anyone who has never experienced the Great North run, there are two finish lines, one for the elite and one for the masses, Tony said, “Which finish do we run through?” It seemed like minutes we had stopped, but it was only seconds, but going through my mind, was the thought of the others, sprinting down the hill to the finish, at the last minute they would pass us and to be honest I couldn’t care which finish line we went through, just go through one, Tony said afterwards he could clearly read my mind at this point and knew exactly what I was thinking and in similar words too! In my head at this moment the others were now sprinting for the line and my worry was that I had to run from a standing start, we moved right onto the grass and headed for the mass finish line. To say at this point I would have given Husain Bolt a run for his money is an understatement, I simply sprinted and it felt wonderful when we crossed the mats of the finish and I said, “ Have we beat them?”, “Yes,”, he said, the relief I felt was fantastic, guilt, pain, tiredness all leaving my body, it was then I asked the question, “How far were they behind us?”, it was then I got the answer I didn’t expect! “I don’t know, the last time I saw them was around mile 5, I’ve been winding you up!” I’m guessing that my face was a picture! And the next couple of minute’s worth of words is certainly not printable, but the smile that appeared from ear to ear said it all! A 13th finish line, this old codger and a time of 1.40 plus seconds, well 1.41 was worth all the winding up, what an end to a perfect run, cheers Tony, I owe you big style!