Race Recap: North Tyneside 10k 2024

The final B race of the spring marathon training block!

This was my first 10k race since Leeds Abbey Dash last October, and my parkrun times have improved by a few minutes since then – so I expected a PB, even though I’m not in ideal 10k shape at the moment given all the marathon training miles in my legs. The hope was that I would knock two or three minutes off my Leeds time (which was 54:23), giving me a good benchmark for going into my summer 10k races and hopefully getting a sub-50 time by July.

As is generally the case at the moment, the logistics were almost more anxiety-inducing than the actual race – especially given that the clocks were going forward the night before – and so I didn’t sleep well. I arrived at the Metro station early, which was for the best, given that the train was also eight minutes earlier than advertised! I’d have had to wait another half hour if I hadn’t caught it, which would have made it very tight to get to the bag drop in time.

As it happened, though, I had plenty of time, and after dropping my bag was able to find all my TMBR clubmates and chat for a while before the start.

North Tyneside 10k
In the sports centre before the race. Photo from Izzy at TMBR.

We got a bit split up heading to the start, but Ed and I were able to get fairly close to the front, meaning we were over the start line about half a minute after the gun – though there was still a lot of weaving to be done for the first couple of miles. I focused on feel, trying only to look at my watch on mile splits. The pace was quick but comfortable to settle into, and I overtook Ed about two miles in, after which I concentrated on trying to keep up with people in front. I’d run the North Tyneside route on a couple of long slow marathon training runs recently, and so it was fresh in my mind, though of course racing it feels very different to plodding it!

North Tyneside 10k
My form is a little better than it used to be. Photo from Coastal Portraits by John Fatkin.

Ed then overtook me again at around the five-mile mark, and so I focused on keeping up with him for the last mile. It was getting hard and so it was good to have someone to chase! I kept up right until the final turn onto the finish straight at the lighthouse, then I sprinted – or tried to, anyway, I didn’t have much energy left! On the finish line I was amazed to find that my watch read 49:35 (49:34 official chip time). I’d managed the sub-50 that I hadn’t expected until later in the year! Ed was just a second behind me to the line (we got the same chip time) so it was nice to finish another race together after the ultra a fortnight ago. We got our bags and waited for the others to finish so that we could have the traditional celebration photos.

North Tyneside 10k
T-shirts are a very bright spring colour again! Photo from Chelsea at TMBR.

I couldn’t have asked for more from this race. I’m absolutely floored to have got my 2024 target 10k time already, and now I don’t really know what to aim for when I’m specifically targeting 10k races in the late spring/early summer… just keep trying to chip away at the PB, I suppose!

This race has also been a real measure of how far I’ve come in the last couple of years. When I first did it in October 2021 (the version originally scheduled for Easter 2020 and postponed three times), I had a bad day with my spondylitis and dragged a dead, painful leg round in 1:20:18. My second attempt in April 2023 was a good day with no symptoms, but that was still purely down to luck (it was the following month that I would start on the medication that has rid me of the chronic pain and has finally allowed me to train properly for the last ten and a half months). I finished the 2023 race in 1:05:07 and was thrilled – it was my second fastest 10k race to date at that time – but the fact that I’ve been able to take more than 15 minutes off my course time in the space of less than a year is mindblowing.

Onto the final couple of weeks before the marathon, then. All my excuses for avoiding thinking about it yet are well and truly gone, and the first nerves are starting to hit. Onwards we go.

Race Recap: Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra 2024

An all-day adventure!

I was up at 4:20am for this one (couldn’t sleep) and was parked at the race start soon after 6am, mainly because I was more nervous about getting a parking space than about the run itself. I’m glad I went so early because it meant I had an hour or two in the car to decompress with a magazine.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Milling about at the start. Photo from Greener Miles Running Facebook page.

I got myself set up and warmed up and found my friend Ed at the start, and soon we were off along the banks of the Tyne. It was fairly busy for the first few miles of the run, and it mostly seemed to be locals – lots of people using it as a training run for The Wall ultra in the summer. The first few miles ticked along fairly quickly, and I was glad I knew this bit of the route from doing my recces during the last couple of months of marathon training. It didn’t feel like long before we reached the first checkpoint at Wylam, 11 miles in (though the race guide had listed this as 8 miles in – there were quite a few last-minute route changes!).

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Setting off! Photo from Greener Miles Running Facebook page.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Crossing the Scotswood Bridge… only to recross it on the other side almost immediately! Photo from Greener Miles Running Facebook page.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
The bridge just past checkpoint 1 at Wylam.

The next section felt a bit lonelier as people started to spread out, and Ed and I started taking the odd walk break as the route became trailier. I hadn’t done this bit in training, which meant that it felt longer as I didn’t really know where I was. The race guide was slightly off in distance again for the halfway checkpoint at Stocksfield – advertised as 16 miles but it was 17.5 miles in. It felt like it took a while to get there! I was really grateful for the banana and cola on arrival, but we made sure to get going again quickly.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Halfway checkpoint selfie.

More wooded trail sections awaited us on the south side of the river for the next stretch, including a few muddy paths that were fairly unrunnable! Again, I didn’t know this section at all and had now adjusted my mental schedule so that the checkpoints were approximately a mile behind their advertised position and the total distance was 33 miles rather than the advertised 32. In addition to the checkpoints (where we had our ‘brevet cards’ stamped) there were also pieces of information we had to find along the route and note down. By this point these were about a mile behind schedule too. At the end of this section, we briefly crossed back to the north side of the river to visit the Wylam checkpoint a second time at 23 miles in.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
You can’t run this bit! Photo from Ed.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Still smiling at 23 miles!
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Emerging from checkpoint 3. Photo from Andy.

I knew that the east end of the Ryton golf course marked 9 miles to go, as I had recced that section on an out-and-back 18-miler a couple of weeks previously. It seemed like it took a long time to get there (the golf course is massive!) and by the time we did, it was clear that the total distance was going to be about 34 miles. I found this a bit of a challenge as I had mentally prepared for 32 – and you wouldn’t think 2 miles would make much of a difference for an ultra, but it really does in the mind. I just started counting down the miles instead of counting up, and I really appreciated having scoped out this bit of the course as I knew exactly how far it was back to the Quayside.

Ed and I did a lot of walking in the last few miles as it was getting very tiring! We picked it up again in the last couple of miles as we were approaching the Quayside bridges and knew we didn’t have far to go. Geth was waiting for us at the finish and filmed us as we came in – 34.2 miles, just over 8 hours. It had been a very long day but a good adventure, and I’m so proud that I did it and can call myself an ultra runner.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
The final few yards! Screenshot from video by Geth.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Finished! Screenshot from video by Geth.

While there were some very hard parts of the run, I know from experience never to say never again when it comes to running, and I expect I will do more ultras (and probably repeat this one next year!). However, there are a few things I’ll know for next time:

  • Ultra distances are not necessarily as advertised! In future, I’ll be mentally prepared to do a few more miles than expected.
  • I need to add walk breaks in from the start so that my overall pace can be a bit steadier. We weren’t deathmarching in the final sections – we were still doing a good walking pace – but I would have liked my run/walk splits to be a bit more even.
  • Next time, I’ll train specifically for the distance. I’ve been training for Manchester Marathon (my spring A race) and thought that adding in an extra weekly medium long run of 10 miles in addition to my weekly long run and other sessions would be enough for the ultra, especially as I’d got up to 20 miles on the long run and everyone says you don’t need to do anywhere near the actual race distance when training for an ultra. However, the extra miles felt like a lot (especially when it transpired during the run that the extra 12 were an extra 14!) and I think I would prefer to have at least run a recent marathon before tackling this distance again.

Geth asked me the minute I finished the race whether I’d do it next year. I gave a lot of ‘ifs’ similar to the above list, but I didn’t say no, so I think the likelihood is that I will.

In the meantime, though, I’ll be glad to be able to give Manchester my full attention for the next four weeks! I managed a marathon PB within the ultra (my existing marathon PB is 6:26:47 from London 2021, and I hit marathon distance in under 6 hours yesterday) but I have much bigger plans for that PB as my training has been so good lately. Fingers crossed.

Race Recap: Leeds Abbey Dash 2023

I am extremely late with this race recap. The autumn got away from me a bit. Never mind – at least I’m getting it posted now before my 2024 race season begins.

Geth and I both wanted one final crack at the 10k distance in 2023 after the Great North Run was out of the way. I hadn’t yet broken sub-hour and I was sure I could, while Geth hadn’t yet properly tackled a 10k race in 2023 due to his spring injury. We settled on Leeds Abbey Dash because it was said to be fast and because we both always enjoy a trip to Leeds – one of our favourite cities.

Leeds Abbey Dash
Start line selfie!

Following a nice Saturday evening in Leeds and a good night’s sleep at our favourite city centre hotel, we made our way to the start line. It was fairly cold now that we were well into October, especially as I have now made the decision to brave races in shorts and vest all year round.

As such, I felt a bit frozen solid when I started! But I soon warmed up and de-stiffened, and quickly caught the one-hour pacers, which was a good sign. The course is largely an out and back, which meant that once I was a couple of miles in and the leaders were coming back the other way, I had lots of people to focus on as I ran, and I was able to look out for Geth.

I felt really strong at the turnaround and after that it was just a case of hanging onto the pace, especially as I was mostly overtaking people rather than the other way round. I had to talk to myself quite hard during the last couple of miles, but I did manage to stay focused, and in the end I crossed the line in 54:23. Not just the sub-hour I’d been chasing for eight years, but also a sub-55!

I wasn’t really able to find the words at the time (part of the reason I’ve taken so long to get round to this blog), and even three months later my self-perception still hasn’t caught up with the paces I’ve been doing, especially as I’m still improving. I still find it a bit hard to believe that I was able to take such a big chunk off my 10k PB (previously 1:01:21) as I had had a few good cracks at it in the late spring and early summer. Three and a half months made such a difference!

I’m not really thinking about 10ks at the moment as I’m in the depths of marathon training. But I do have a few booked in 2024 so it’d be lovely to continue along this trajectory 🙂

Race Review: Great North Run 2023

A long one. Be warned.

I feel like I start all my race reviews at the moment with ‘I’m not even sure where to start’. This year has been momentous for me, and I’ve been able to improve so quickly that my brain hasn’t really been able to keep up and so I’m finding it all a bit difficult to process. But with the GNR in particular, there’s been so much going on behind it and so much riding on it. Despite everything that’s happened over the last few months, I was still doubting myself right up until race morning.

My half marathon graph over the last three years has been a sort of horrible slide into doom:

  • Inverness March 2020: set a new PB of 2:23:42 as I was in really good shape training for the London Marathon in April 2020… which didn’t happen.
  • Virtual GNR September 2020: ran this one with the proto-TMBR group, with whom I’d been training on Sundays. The group’s pace ended up being too fast for me, and so I ran an at-the-time 10k PB in the first half, died a death in the second, staggered in at 2:25:29 (on the race app) / 2:32ish (across the finish line) feeling the complete opposite way to how I had felt at the end of Inverness, and didn’t run with TMBR again for nearly two years (as I felt I was too slow).
  • Virtual EMF Half May 2021: planned a lapped route for me and Geth to do this one after it went virtual, but could not plan for the weather, which switched from winter to summer about three days before the event. Hot uncomfortable plod that took me 2:56:52.
  • GNR September 2021: the year when we all ran halfway to South Shields and then back again. I was using it as a training run for the London Marathon, but would still have liked to have done a lot better than 2:51:14.
  • Sheffield March 2022: due to injuries and the beginning of my really bad spondylitis spell, this was a really painful one with lots of low points, meaning that just getting sub-3 (2:58:44) was a victory.
  • GNR September 2022: one of the two big races of 2022 that were both completely ruined by spondylitis flare-ups. A horrible 3:30:26 (my slowest since my first GNR in 2016) that I’d rather forget.
  • Winter Warmer Half February 2023: another awful spondylitis-ridden experience where I started slow, was quickly left behind by the small field, and had to walk from about three miles in. My 3:27:51 finish was barely any better than the previous year’s GNR, and was the catalyst for deferring my spring marathon and going back to the hospital consultants to seek better treatment for my condition.

Last month did see a big uptick to this graph. I managed half marathon distance at the Saturn event and finished in 2:38:12 at easy pace, which was extremely promising. But I was still anxious about being able to run properly in a dedicated half that I’d set as one of my goal races for the year. I was convinced the spondylitis was going to scupper me somehow, and was agonising over whether to take extra water for the heat, as a heavy running belt has sometimes contributed to my back issues in the past. (I eventually settled on filling my water bottles half full as I couldn’t risk not having water between stations, but this did cause a lot of extra anxiety.)

A couple of TMBR group shots before the start. Pictures from Ian at TMBR.

Geth and I gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the start so that we could get our bags on the buses and meet up with TMBR folks before heading to the pens. It was nice to be able to chat to people beforehand as it eased my anxiety a bit, and I actually also appreciated having some time to myself in the start pen (Geth had decided to start further up this year). I had not enjoyed being in the pen by myself in the past… but that was when I was back in the pink wave and stuck on the start line for over an hour after the elites had gone! I started at a respectable 11:35am this year, only 35 minutes after the gun. It would definitely be appreciated though if we could start a lot earlier in future, especially on a hot day like it was this year.

I definitely felt the heat, but I was determined it wouldn’t be the factor that broke my race. I’d trained really hard this summer (because it was the first summer I’d actually been able to train without pain), so I did not plan to take it easy in the hot weather like all the race communications were advising. My goal pace was 10:15 min miles and that’s what I tried to run. I set off a bit fast (fairly unavoidable at the GNR due to the downhill start) and then settled into a steady effort.

There were water stations every two miles (unusual – I think they laid on an extra one due to the weather). I had a Clif Shot Blok on the start line and then one just before every water station so that I could wash it down. The water bottles I grabbed at the stations were used for a roughly 50-50 ratio of drinking / pouring over head, and I didn’t need my carried water until the later stages of the race.

I was amazed by how fast the miles seemed to be ticking past. Of course it wasn’t comfortable, but it was manageable. I told myself to dig hard on every uphill, knowing that there would soon be a downhill to counteract it. I never once stopped or walked – just ran, just kept going.

My Nike Vaporflys did brilliantly. I knew beforehand it was a bit of a risk to wear them, as I’d only really tried them out on one fast parkrun, but they’d been so incredibly comfortable as well as fast that I felt they were the best option, even for a longer race. I’ve never run a half marathon without getting my usual foot pain before. It blows my mind that speedy carbon plate shoes might be the solution to something that has dogged me for years – something that none of my numerous pairs of super-cushioned wide-fit plod shoes have ever been able to fix – but I’ll happily take it.

I always find some extra speed on the last mile along the seafront, even in bad years. This was a good year. With 150 metres to go to the line, the Red Arrows flew over my head into South Shields to start their finish line display. I had never seen the finish line display before. I never thought I would, because I thought I would always be too slow.

I sprinted to finish in just under 2 hours and 15 minutes – 2:14:52. I watched the Red Arrows as I collected my water, medal and goody bag, decided not to queue for a membership photo this year as I was already cold (the clouds had arrived and I was soaking wet from having dumped so much water over myself during the race), and made the trek to the baggage buses to collect my bag. A sit down and a change into warm clothes later, the Red Arrows were still going. I can’t stress enough how special it was to see them.

Red Arrows
Blurry shot but it meant so much.

I then went back up to the meeting point to find Geth, and we sat down for another half hour or so to rehydrate. After that, we began our journey back to Newcastle. Much has been shared online about the nightmare everyone had getting out of South Shields that afternoon, so I’ll summarise ours in list form (times approximate):

  • 3:05pm: joined long but rapidly moving bus queue
  • 3:25pm: ominous-looking large and extremely black cloud appeared above us, covering whole of South Shields
  • 3:30pm: heavens opened to release rain so utterly torrential our umbrellas were almost useless
  • 3:35pm: felt sick and threw up twice in queue
  • 3:40pm: queue started noticeably slowing down as buses became less and less frequent
  • 3:50pm: queue came to a grinding halt with no more buses appearing (we were nearly at the front by this point)
  • 4:40pm: we finally found out why (all the roads were flooded due to the storm and no buses or metro trains could get into South Shields)
  • 4:50pm: they decided to recruit the baggage bus drivers to get us back to Newcastle (thank you baggage bus drivers!)
  • 5:10pm: we finally got on a bus (a very slow bus due to the now-gridlocked roads but I was so happy to be sat down)
  • 6:50pm: bus arrived at Haymarket station after nearly two hours
  • 6:55pm: thankfully straightforward metro back to our local station (other than Geth now shivering so much he had to give me his bag so I could retrieve the now-damp metro tickets)
  • 7:05pm: soggy walk home
  • 7:25pm: home, nearly six hours after finishing the race

Not ideal, really. Hopefully we’ll never have those random extreme weather events on race day again.

Bus selfie
Possibly an even happier moment than crossing the finish line!

Some more positive stats about my finishing time (2:14:52)!

  • 8 minutes and 50 seconds off my previous half PB (2:23:42 at Inverness, March 2020)
  • 21 minutes and 40 seconds off my previous GNR course PB (2:36:32 in 2019)
  • first nonstop half (no stopping or walking) since Inverness, March 2020
  • 1 hour, 15 minutes and 34 seconds faster than GNR 2022 (what a difference a year makes…)

I’ve blogged before about how I was in my best running shape ever in spring 2020, training for the London Marathon, and then… pandemic. It’s been a long three-and-a-half-year journey to get back to that level of fitness, and there were a lot of times when I wasn’t sure I ever would. But perhaps I’m even surpassing that now, and I can finally look forward rather than back. I’m so excited to see what I can do.

Race Review: Saturn Time Turner and GNR Training Run 2023

Squeezing a review of my last event in before the big A race tomorrow!

I returned to the Saturn lapped event in Durham a couple of weeks ago, after first doing it in April for the ‘Nearly But Not Quite London Marathon’ run. I only managed two laps last time (nearly nine miles), so I hoped to do at least three (a half marathon) or preferably four this time round. A few TMBR folks were doing it too so we got the train together.

I’m in much better shape than in the spring due to my spondylitis treatment and a good summer of training, so it was a much easier experience physically – but it’s still a pretty tough course, with slightly rickety bridges and quite a few ups and downs and trail sections. It was also a warm morning (the downpour didn’t arrive until I had finished and was getting my medal) so not the easiest of conditions. As such, I decided the third lap would be my last – but that did mean I got my half marathon pin for my medal, which I’d missed out on last time!

Despite the fact that I was running at what is now easy pace and took a few walk breaks, it was my fastest half marathon in three years – 2:38:12. Promising for tomorrow’s GNR and for going forward.

Race Review: Great North 10k 2023

Another year, another Great North 10k route!

The Great North 10k used to be entirely in Gateshead, starting just outside Gateshead Stadium, heading out for an out-and-back along the Quayside, and finishing on the track inside it. I didn’t do it last year but I’m aware the route was changed so that it crossed one or two of the bridges and went along the Newcastle side of the Quayside for a bit, very similarly to the RunThrough Gateshead 10k that now takes place at the end of April (which I did for the first time this year). This year, they changed the route again, making it similar to the special 2021 route for the Great North Run where we all ran out halfway and then turned back. The difference was that as it was just a 10k, we turned back as soon as we got to the end of the Tyne Bridge – so we did pop into Gateshead, but only for a few seconds!

Still chasing that sub-hour 10k, I did some proper training for it this time with a couple of months of speedwork and higher mileage. Geth also offered to pace me as he was still recovering from his injury and wasn’t planning to race fast himself.

Collecting Benchies at the start! Photo from Clare at TMBR.

We set off too fast due to the downhill start. As with the GNR, this is hard to avoid. The bulk of the race after the Tyne Bridge out-and-back is a lot of twisting and turning in central Newcastle and I did start finding it a bit difficult to keep to pace at this point, especially when we went through what looked like the midway timing mats (quite a bit after 5k on my watch) in 30:08 and I knew I wouldn’t be able to match my first half. I kept up as best as I could up the hill to the Great North Road and the very tough final section along the gravel paths of the Town Moor to the finish line.

Geth paced it well but sub-hour still eludes me. I finished in 1:01:21, which was a 1 min 20 sec PB following my 1:02:41 at Sunderland in May. Getting closer. But not there yet.

Things that slowed me down on the day:

  • A less than easy course including the Town Moor’s notoriously tough gravel
  • Very strong winds, which in particular made the exposed Moor even tougher
  • The course measuring long on my watch (about 6.3 miles) – I know you have to allow for these things but the watch reckons I did 10k in 1:00:37! Swings and roundabouts…

As such, I know I can do it someday. Just need to find that golden combination of a fast course and good conditions.

It was lovely to be at the race with so many Benchies and to go for a pub lunch afterwards!

Post-race pub lunch
Post-race Benchie pub lunch! Photo from Jack at TMBR.

I’ve arranged one final crack at this distance for 2023. Geth and I are running the Leeds Abbey Dash in October. It doesn’t appear to be that flat (Yorkshire flat perhaps), so not the fastest of courses, but I am determined to give sub-hour another go.

Race Review: Blaydon Race 2023

I’ve always had a bit of a ‘mare at the Blaydon Race in the past (see my 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022 posts), largely due to not being an evening runner. Evening running has traditionally given me a stitch. However, I’ve been practising over the last ten months or so by regularly going to the Monday night TMBR run, so I hoped this would be less of an issue this time.

I’d also never managed sub-hour at the race, even in years when the course was shorter due to aforementioned stitch issues and other things. It was meant to be the same route as last year (which had been about 6.1 miles on my watch) and I’m still two or three minutes away from a sub-hour 10k, so I thought it’d be a close thing (but was hopeful).

I had pasta for breakfast in order to try and rejig my stomach clock appropriately (as the race was due to start at 7:15pm) and nothing else during the day except a small breakfast-type snack late afternoon. I then left for the race with plenty of time to spare so that I could use the baggage bus and hang around with TMBR folks before the start.

It was the usual great atmosphere at the start area, and I was able to chat to plenty of folks I knew from various running groups. Bit of a nervous wait for the start, and I was a bit confused about where the start line was as everyone started running early (so I started my watch about 12 seconds before the actual timing mat!), but once we got going it was a nice fast race and I had to be really careful not to sprint off. This is a real advantage of the new Quayside start – it avoids all the bottlenecks we used to have in the centre of town, although it is a shame it doesn’t quite match the song as well these days!

I managed to hold a slightly faster and steadier pace than I’ve been doing in my 10ks recently – 9:40 min mile average, slowing from about 9:20 min miles at the start to just under 10 min miles by the end. I don’t think this would quite have got me in under the hour if it had been a full 10k, but thankfully the course turned out to be only 5.8 miles by my watch this year (no idea why, it was the same route as last year!) and I finished in 56:24! Finally a sub-hour by some margin, and a 4 min 11 sec Blaydon PB!

I still have a lot of running demons left to slay but Blaydon was a pretty big one. I’ve been trying since 2017 and I finally had a good race.

Of course I’ll be back again next year though – the unique race atmosphere is too good to pass up, especially now I’m finally able to enjoy it properly!

Benchies at Blaydon
TMBR group pic at the finish. Thanks to Rach from TMBR for the photo.

Race Review: Sunderland 10k 2023

A few moments of déjà vu between Sunday’s race and the weekend before!

Just like the previous week, I got on the Metro to meet folks from TMBR en route to the race (thankfully half an hour later than the week before due to a later start time). We had plenty of time in Sunderland to drop bags and get ready, which also meant plenty of time to be nervous. I said last week that I’d like to shave a few seconds off the big PB I set at Gateshead, as Sunderland is the fastest 10k course I know. However, I wasn’t sure I could do it two weeks running. It felt like a big ask.

I went off far too fast. No pacers to judge by this time and my first couple of miles were closer to nine minute mile pace than ten. It was fairly congested at the start and quite difficult not to be swept along with the crowd. I settled a bit by mile three but was through the 5k marker in about 29 and a half minutes – something I really wish I could replicate at parkrun at the moment!

I did suffer for it a bit in the second half but just about managed to cling on, though I did get overtaken by the legendary Deano, who runs these things with a wheelie bin strapped to his back, with about a mile and a half to go. One day I’ll be faster than the bin! But not yet. The last mile did feel like a long one and it was a bit touch and go, but I finished in 1:02:41 – a 16-second PB following the previous week’s 1:02:57, and a 2-minute course PB exactly. My watch didn’t think it was quite as fast a 10k though – I think Gateshead measures a bit longer than Sunderland!

Sunderland 10k
While I was last out of the four Benchies present, it was only by less than a minute. I am so grateful not to be finishing ages after everyone else anymore.

After three Sundays racing on the bounce I am ready for a break (and possibly the odd weekend lie-in), but I am so, so happy with the way the last few 10ks have gone. The next target is 59:59 at the Great North 10k in July. I’ve wanted a sub-hour 10k for the whole eight years I’ve been running but it’s never really felt feasible until now. Geth is going to pace me. I am hopeful.

Race Review: Gateshead 10k 2023

It’s taken me a few days to process this one!

The Gateshead Half Marathon and 10k has been going for two or three years now, I believe. Slightly confusingly, people round here often used to refer to the Great North 10k as the ‘Gateshead 10k’ – and the RunThrough-organised Gateshead 10k does follow a fairly similar route to the old Great North 10k route, starting and ending in Gateshead Stadium. It’s two laps and an extra bit for the half, but as I’m doing a lot of races on the bounce at the moment, I decided one lap was more than enough for me!

There were quite a few TMBR clubmates doing the half, so I was able to meet up with people en route to the race and hang out in the stadium beforehand. Braving the rain, we were off, along the track and out onto the road.

I wanted a PB. My existing PB was 1:04:41, set at the Sunderland 10k in 2021. I had come close with a 1:05:07 at the North Tyneside 10k three weeks ago, and that’s a tougher course by all accounts so I was hopeful. The strategy was to semi-chase the one-hour pacer for a while and then just try to hang onto the pace.

The elevation was roughly one mile downhill, four miles flattish, one mile uphill. I did manage to keep the pacer in sight for some time, and was also able to try and keep up with some half marathoning friends every now and again. The worst bit was actually when we crossed into Newcastle for an out-and-back that felt like it lasted forever! Back on the Gateshead side, around about mile five, there were some more TMBR folks (Benchies) out supporting as part of their Sunday social, which was a huge mental boost.

The final mile uphill was really tough, and every corner felt like it should be the turn into the stadium but wasn’t yet! But finally I was back on the flat track. Between the rain and the crowds I couldn’t see exactly where the finish line was, and so I mistimed my sprint, but to be honest I didn’t have much of a sprint left in me. I finished in 1:02:57 – a 1 minute 44 second PB! I am gradually starting to believe that sub-hour is possible this year. I have another 10k this weekend, in Sunderland – and I’ve always found Sunderland to be a fast course so it’d be great if I could shave a few more seconds off. We’ll see!

PB bell
All bundled up against the cold post-race and looking a bit anxious about ringing the PB bell, which felt like it might topple over if you tugged it too hard! Thanks to Clare at TMBR for the photo.

I really loved Gateshead 10k – well organised, great post-race experience and I do like finishing in a stadium. I will 100% be back next year – especially as they’ve just announced an extra distance, the Newcastle-Gateshead Marathon, which will be three laps of an extended version of the course! I won’t be doing the marathon next year as I’ve already got Manchester booked, but I am thrilled we’re going to have a marathon taking place in the centre of town here and am really looking forward to the atmosphere already. I’ll probably sneak in for the 10k again seeing as I enjoyed it so much this year!

Race Review: The Nearly But Not Quite London Marathon 2023

Bit of a long story behind doing this event. After deciding to defer Manchester Marathon to 2024, Geth and I were looking around for a replacement spring event (as he was still planning on doing a full marathon). We selected the Saturn Running ‘Nearly But Not Quite London Marathon’ event in Durham, as it’s an eight-hour lapped event where you can do as many laps as you want. This meant that Geth could still run his marathon (six laps) and I could do as many as I was able to on the day, dependent on spondylitis flare-up level etc.

Following Geth’s injury and cessation of marathon training, it gradually became apparent that I’d be doing the event on my own (originally we’d thought that he might be able to plod round at my speed to keep me company, but it wasn’t to be). My strict rolling/stretching/S&C routine has largely kept my flare-ups away for the last month, so I was hopeful that I’d at least be able to do a slow half, even though I’d not done any long run training for the last month or two.

After a very early start to get to Durham, I was glad that bag drop was just a groundsheet at the start/finish area so I was able to keep my coat on until the last minute! It was still pretty chilly at that point. After the local junior parkrun had packed up and left the area, we were off, and I settled into practice marathon pace, which for me at the moment is a slow jog with a walk break once per mile.

The route was beautiful but not fast (a few traily/muddy sections, uneven bridges and gentle inclines) so it’s probably for the best that Geth didn’t end up attempting a sub-four marathon there – he’d have been disappointed I think. Despite the forecast rain, it ended up being a lovely sunny morning and a great day for a gentle run!

Unfortunately the spondylitis pain descended during lap two – a sharp, persistent ache in the small of my back and the gradual onset of stiffness around it. I really, really wanted to push on for a third lap to finish a half marathon, but I think I would have been crawling home and possibly risking not recovering in time for next week’s 10k. As such, I reluctantly called it after two laps and nine miles. No half marathon pin for my medal ribbon, but at least I still got the medal! You only need to do one lap to get it.

Post-race medal
Despite the disappointment I was a lot happier than I look in this post-race photo!

Geth is wondering, given that I haven’t had any problems during shorter faster efforts in recent weeks, whether my form when I’m doing plod pace is part of the problem (in terms of aggravating my spondylitis). I’m not even sure where to start with my form (as it’s pretty awful at all paces) but part of the ongoing strategy for this year is to build up long runs at a faster pace, so we’ll see if that makes a difference.

Silver linings for this run: no foot pain (due to wearing my comfiest shoes), no feeling sick (as the Clif Bloks are working better for me than gels) and plenty of energy (Clif Bloks again).

I really loved the event – pretty route, well organised, nice medal and lots of chocolate goodies to take away at the end. I will absolutely be back for another Saturn event in Durham – I want that half marathon pin next time!