A Whitley Bay teacher is taking on the Great North Run Solo virtual running challenge to raise money for Barnardo's The BASE, after being inspired by a student who uses the local service.
Suzette Thompson, 42, a teacher at Monkseaton High School, admits that she lost her running mojo during lockdown and signed up to GNR Solo to give herself a ‘kick up the backside'.
Great North Run Solo was introduced to celebrate the 40th staging of the iconic half marathon after its cancellation due to the public health crisis caused by Coronavirus. It challenges runners to complete 40 runs from now until the 13 September, the day the 40th event was scheduled to take place.
Over 20,000 people have signed up so far and organisers are donating the profits to the NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Urgent Appeal.
Suzette said: “I decided that if I was going to do it, I should do it for charity, since so many are losing out this year, with events like the Great North Run being cancelled.
“The last few months have taught me how important community and neighbours are, and that's why I wanted to support a local, community based charity on my doorstep.
“When I was in school teaching key workers' children, one of them said how much she misses the BASE but that they had been wonderful keeping in touch, and how much this has helped her. The BASE also do a lot for us at school, all for free, so I wanted to give something back.”
Suzette has raised over £300 for Barnardo's The BASE, which provides support for young people aged 15-25. It offers a safe space to meet with peers and be part of a range of social activities on a weekly basis at the centre in Whitley Bay.
Although she wasn't entered into this year's Great North Run and the last time she completed the half marathon was 2014, Suzette was pleased that GNR Solo gave her an opportunity to get involved again.
“It has given me a sense of purpose and I was excited, but nervous to challenge myself,” she said.
“I have gone through phases with running and have a real love hate relationship with it.
“I started running after my daughter was born around 13 years ago. I'm not ‘a runner', but I do enjoy being able to just shove on a pair of trainers and do it when you want, and for how long you want, which is particularly handy when you have kids.
“I also have three friends doing it and we have a WhatsApp group to celebrate when we do a run, and help each other when we are struggling.
“I ran 5.5 miles on the first run, even though I planned to do 3 miles. I felt quite good about doing it so decided to keep going.
“I am so lucky to live at the coast and have some lovely routes to enjoy. My husband usually comes out with me and is a brilliant encourager.
“I am proud that I can still run and that I have managed to raise £300 for such a great cause.”
Great North Run Solo entries are open until 31st July. Those taking part can run any pace or distance they're comfortable with and everyone who completes the challenge will receive a special edition medal. The challenge costs £10 to join, and all profits will go to the NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. Organisers are also encouraging everyone who joins Great North Run Solo to fundraise for a charity who otherwise would miss out this year.