2015 will see me run the Great North Run for the 19th time having started out in 1986. But I’ve matured from a lithe 40 year old to a creaking 69 year-old and there are as few things I’d like to get off my running vest.
One - The GNR is getting longer
In 1986 I ran it with minimal training in 1hr 50m (I’ve never been a natural athlete). NOW I’m lucky to do it in 2hr 25m. That’s a 30% increase. Obviously they have added 30% on to the length … most of it on that final so-called ‘mile’ along the sea front - which every runner knows is at least three miles long. So unfair.
Two - The GNR hills are getting steeper
A straw poll among regular runners, as we struggle up miles 8 to 12, says South Tyneside council has made the hills much steeper than they were 10 years ago. Some civil servant in the Highways Department is a mountaineer and wants to increase the ‘challenge’. Anecdotal evidence, I know, but I’ve not found anyone to dispute it.
Three - The GNR TV experts aren’t ‘expert’ at all
Oh, they love to comment on the race and explain to the viewers the finer points of the run. But they are just guessing. They don’t actually DO the race … except Brendan Foster one year, an honourable exception. One commentator doubled up with laughter when I asked if he fancied doing the run. Another, I know, tucks into bacon butties while he sits at the Shields studio and analyses our performances. I will give £500 to the charity of choice to the first TV “expert” to do his/her commentary as they run the 13 miles. Expert? Bah, humbug!
Four - You don’t beat Mo Farah
He’s a national treasure. And he doesn’t like losing … which is why he’s a winner. The secret is to sit on his shoulder (not literally – you know what I mean). Then sprint past him in the last 100 metres before he has a chance to respond. That’s what I plan to do this year. However … if I fail to weave through 30,000 runners from my start point in the Green Zone … perhaps you, dear runner, can do it for me. Just remember who gave you the secret of success. Sit on Mo’s shoulder.
Five - There is more than one winner
Yes, I know. There’s a male winner, female winner, wheelchair winner. I don’t just mean them. I mean that, down the years, I’ve run with amazing human beings who have overcome impossible odds to complete the run. At least they appear impossible for a puny human like me. I see them battle through alongside me and I get a massive lump in my throat. They cover 13 miles when it must be hard for them to go 13 metres. When my legs start to ache these heroes and heroines remind me I have absolutely nothing to complain about. So don’t you believe that the first ones across the line are the only winners. There are thousands of winners. Maybe even 50,000 winners. See you at the finish. I’ll be running for Grace House Children’s Hospice in Sunderland.
© Terry Deary – Sunderland-born children’s author of over 260 books including the popular “Horrible Histories”