Sunday Race Memories: Great North 10k 2016

Ah, the Great North 10k 2016. Known in my world as ‘the one where I came last out of thousands of people’, and also ‘the one where that was actually a good thing because being last in a race of that magnitude turns out to be a special experience in itself’.

Great North 10k 2016
Out on my own at the back of the race. Photo by Ian Harman Photography.

I finished this race in 1:40:38; this was within the cutoff time so I avoided the ignominy of the sweeper bus, though it came perilously close at times. I realised as soon as I set out from the start line, with everybody else zooming off at a much faster pace than me, that I was going to be among the last finishers, but I didn’t expect the course to look so empty so quickly. By about 1k in, there were only about five other runners in sight. ‘That’s what happens to the hare!’ joked one of them as we passed a dead rabbit. We were most definitely the tortoises on that day.

Another kilometre in, and I had lost sight of the remaining runners in front of me; those behind me never reappeared, so they must have dropped out. However, the majority of the Great North 10k route is an out-and-back, so there were plenty of runners coming back the other way, many of whom gave me encouragement as I struggled along the first half of the course. I even got a high five from local fundraising hero Big Pink Dress! As I approached the turnaround point, though, the crowd quickly thinned out and it became apparent that I was a long way behind everyone else. I kept glancing around to see how much space was between me and the sweeper bus, and started to get a bit nervous.

For the rest of the race, I was accompanied by the back markers on their bikes, so it wasn’t a totally lonely experience. I had to take quite a lot of walk breaks as my hip was really hurting (I had a lot of problems with it before I lost weight), but eventually I made it to Gateshead Stadium, where the finish line was waiting for me on the track. As I staggered into the stadium, I heard my name announced, then the opening bars of ‘Chariots Of Fire’ sounded over the speaker system… and I found that somehow, I did have a sprint finish in me after all, haring down the track towards the finish line to the sound of the Vangelis classic. Nobody was more surprised than the back markers who’d been patiently watching me trundle along for the last hour or so!

I don’t think I’ll ever be last in a race again (or I hope not at least – I have improved quite a lot since those days, even if I am still pretty slow!). However, I’m really glad that I was, once. It’s a special experience that most runners won’t have.

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