Race Review: Great North Run 2021

It was so great to be back yesterday after last year’s virtual version!

It wasn’t a fully normal GNR. Due to various issues such as the Tyne and Wear Metro not wanting tens of thousands of people crowding onto the Metro in South Shields after the race, the course was changed so that instead of running to South Shields, we all turned back at the halfway point and returned to Newcastle. To avoid the usual crowding, we were also all set off in waves, with the elite wheelchair athletes setting off at 9:15am and the last of the mass runners not starting till after 1pm, so it really was a full-day event (especially for the spectators and volunteers, who all did brilliantly – the charity cheering points were still in full voice when I was going round between 11ish and 2ish!).

The expectation is that things will be fully back to normal next year. However, I am so glad that it was able to go ahead this year, even in an altered form, and in some ways there were a few advantages – due to Geth being allocated a slightly later wave than me, I was able to wave to him when he overtook me at three miles and again when I spotted him going the other way on the out-and-back at about five and a half miles, whereas we don’t see each other en route at all when it’s the normal course. It was also nice to be able to walk home from the finish on the Town Moor rather than having to queue for the Metro!

Red Arrows
It was amazing to see the Red Arrows again while waiting on the start line! They had to miss the 2019 race due to other commitments, so it’s been three years since we last saw them.

There were some tough uphills in the ‘unknown’ section (the last part of the run around central Gateshead and Newcastle), but I had expected that, knowing the area, and due to my slow plodding pace I didn’t really mind them (I’ve been doing a lot of hills in my marathon training so it was fine). I knew as soon as I saw them that Geth wouldn’t have liked them, though, which was confirmed by him complaining about them for the rest of the day!

I was about half an hour slower than my half marathon PB, but that’s just the way it is at the moment – marathon training has slowed my pace right down, and given that getting round London is my main goal for this season, it wasn’t the right time to race a half marathon properly. I’ll stick to spring marathons in the future so that I can tackle the GNR at full speed in future years! However, because of all the postponements from last year, races just had to fall where they fell this year rather than me planning out the season as I usually would. I’m just grateful to have them back at the moment.

Back to South Shields next year, which I’m sure will be just as much of a return party as yesterday was!

And in the meantime, for me, onwards to London…

‘Race’ Review: Great Run Solo 12 Runs Of Christmas Challenge 2020

This December challenge was the second (and last as of now) of the Great Run Solo accumulators that I’ve entered, following October’s Hallowe’en event.

It followed a fairly similar formula to the Hallowe’en version, this time requiring participants to complete twelve runs between the 1st and 25th of December. Usually you don’t get the medal until the following month, but on this occasion they sent them out early (before most people had even completed the challenge) so that we could all use the alternative ‘tree decoration’ ribbon to hang them on our Christmas trees!

There were three medals designed for this challenge, and it was a surprise as to which one you would be sent. Mine was a Santa medal, but I’d have been equally happy with a snowman or reindeer!

Great Run Solo 12 Days Of Christmas medal
A little bit of extra sparkle for my 2020 tree!

The basic challenge wasn’t really a challenge for me as I run every day anyway, so my main interest was in seeing how much mileage I could rack up. It wasn’t as much as I would have liked as I was still on a bit of a post-London slump, and so I only managed the lowest of the three certificate levels, but anything was a win in the first part of December.

Post-Christmas I was a bit more refreshed and was able to move onto slightly bigger challenges, which I’ll discuss in the next few weeks!

‘Race’ Review: Great Run Solo Hallowe’en Challenge 2020

I’ve mentioned before that, pre-pandemic, I was absolutely not a fan of the idea of virtual races. I miss real races a lot, and I’m fervently hoping that I’ll be able to race again later this year, even if it has to be in a COVID-secure manner.

However, I also miss medals, and doing virtual races and challenges means I still get medals during this strange time. Furthermore, it gives me extra running motivation, which can never be underestimated, especially in the colder months.

Since summer 2020, with all Great Run events cancelled or postponed, one of the things the Great Run company has been organising is a series of accumulator challenges, starting with the first Great Run Solo challenge over the summer and then monthly since October 2020. Accumulator challenges involve aiming to run (or sometimes walk / cycle / swim) a particular distance or number of runs over the course of a longer period, rather than all in one go.

October’s Great Run Solo accumulator was Hallowe’en-themed – and I LOVE Hallowe’en, so I thought I might as well give it a go, especially as it meant I would get a Hallowe’en medal at the end!

The option was there to log my runs on the Great Run website, but I found it much easier just to log them on Garmin Connect and Strava as usual and then confirm the total mileage / number of runs on the website at the end of the month. In order to finish the challenge, you had to complete fifteen runs, and if your mileage was over a certain amount then you could download a certificate. There were three levels of certificate to aim for, and I think I managed the middle one. Not bad considering I needed a break after the Virtual London Marathon!

I didn’t bother ordering the t-shirt as I have plenty, but I was really excited for the medal to arrive…

Great Run Solo Hallowe'en Challenge medal
I feel autumnal again just looking at it!

It glows in the dark (or bits of it do, anyway), which will be interesting when I finally finish putting up the medal display on our bedroom wall!

This challenge set the pattern for the Great Run company’s monthly accumulators. I’ve not been doing them every month, but the Hallowe’en one wasn’t the last. More on that next week!