The Great North Run isn’t your ordinary race; it is the largest half marathon in the world. It’s a test of resilience and great platform for meaningful causes with thousands of pounds raised for charities. With the event broadcast on television screens across the nation, it has become a household name that even non-runners have heard of and admire.
This year, I had the privilege of participating alongside Aqua Pura, the official water sponsor. With the promise of a fantastic atmosphere and the highly anticipated Red Arrows display – it’s safe to say I was looking forward to this run!
This year 60,000 runners were taking part in the hottest edition of the Great North Run ever recorded. At the starting line, there was a mix of excitement and determination. The pens were bustling with excitement, as the relentless sun bore down. Volunteers distributed water and sunscreen to participants as they awaited the race getting underway. It took me around 30-35 minutes to get over the start line, the commentator did a great job keeping everyone upbeat.
The point-to-point race begins in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, right by the iconic Tyne Bridge. It’s billed as ‘undulating’, or in my words – ‘There’s nothing too much to worry about until around mile 11 where you encounter a substantial incline’.
Due to the scorching heat and the sheer number of participants, maintaining my previous years’ pace felt like a distant memory. My goal was to run the whole thing without walking (especially since that mile 11 incline got me last time).
It was hard to navigate through the crowd, with runners suddenly stopping in my path or darting across for water and I quickly discovered I am about elbow height for tall men. There were a few bottlenecks during the race and with people cutting you up mid-run it became a true test of patience. I wish people were honest about their anticipated finish time, rather than inflating it to secure a start position closer to the front.
I maintained a steady pace, and just focussed on reaching the coastline. The race led us through a relatively steep downhill section before descending to the seafront. This stretch of the course was packed with spectators, with their encouragement providing a much-needed boost for that final mile. Or one ‘Mo’ mile as it was this year as it was Mo Farah’s final race. I felt energised by the crowd as I ran along the seafront.
Just as I approached the finish line, the Red Arrows made an appearance. Soaring overhead, treating runners and spectators to their aerial display. Smoke trails transformed the sky into a canvas of red, white, and blue.
The challenges continued after the race. With extensive queues for photos and the event village looking rather busy, I opted for the nearest bus back to Newcastle. After boarding, torrential rain flooded South Shields, leaving many stranded. This severe weather disrupted public transport, temporarily shutting down the metro. In a single day, we went from scorching heat to trudging waterlogged streets, a reminder of the UK’s unpredictable weather. It showed the resilience of everyone involved, especially the staff and volunteers who were amazing.
The Great North Run 2023 is undoubtedly a race worth considering. With its iconic course and amazing atmosphere, this event is a memorable experience for runners of all abilities. The cheers and high-fives from spectators along the course make you feel like a superstar. It’s more than a race; it’s a celebration of people coming together to enjoy running. Despite the congestion, the event was exceptionally well-organised and the volunteers were incredible, ensuring things ran as smoothly as possible.
Thank you once again to Aqua Pura for gifting my race bib. Photos courtesy of the Great North Run Facebook page.