54000 Reasons Why We Are Great.
Last Sunday ( 18th Sept 2011) on a cool breezy morning, England smiled and cried with pride as the largest and best organised half marathon on the planet was ran, plodded, walked , drummed and sang from Newcastle to South Shields for the 31st Great North Run.
This was my forth and I can understand why many come back year after year. No other run like it feeds the spirit of generosity, hope, courage and achievement, for everywhere you turn there are banners, a T-shirt and a story of survival or others running for the memory of those who lost there battle against cancer or some other debilitating disease. Before the start through the giant speakers lined a long the mile long sea of runners the hymn ‘Abide with me’ is played dedicated to our causes. The crowds hush a little, some stand or sit in a moment of reflection and a few tears are shed. The poignancy of this year was brought to home when precisely at 1038 the Red Arrows in a missing man formation flew over our heads as we are reminded of the recent tragic loss of Flt Lt Jon Egging.
As the run starts with the pistol fired by the widow of the ‘fallen arrow’ Dr Emma Egging, Radio Metro continues to blast out names of charities, celebrities, characters all smiling to the cameras at the start line and some leaping up to high five our 5000 metre world champion Mo Farrar.
As we pass under each motorway bridge the traditional Geordie call form the runners of ‘ogy ogy ogy – oi, oi, oi, is echoed to the applause of thousands who stand on the Newcastle bridges to catch a glimpse at what must be one of the sporting wonders of the world.
At every point of the run there were cheers of encouragement ‘thank-you’, ‘we are proud of you’, ‘what an achievement’, and of course the occasional joker at the 5 mile marker – ‘well done – you are nearly there!’ From the children’s attempts to hand slap to the Geordies offering drinks, sweets and orange segments, from the double decker charity busses blasting out their support to the bands of drummers and musicians – this must be one of the best supported half marathons in the world.
As we run on towards the coast we are reminded of the seriousness of the challenge we all embrace as on several occasions the sea of runners part to allow an ambulance through to shouts of make way – blue light coming through – you might need them yourself one day – a few runners having to be pulled to the side as they are tuned into there own music, oblivious to the emergency behind them. I passed several fit looking people lying on the ground being attended to by paramedics – reminding us all – this is not a challenge to be taken lightly.
The finish is a majestic crescendo of expectation knowing you have made it and greeted by thousands of supporters with the welcome view of the
North Sea you turn into the final mile.
The day is celebrated in the sky as the red arrows show their impressive and daring acrobatic display appropriately signing off with a giant heart pierced with an arrow. A fitting end to a great day.
This was the highlight of my charity events this year. As a cancer survivor myself and running in the memory of loved ones taken so early in life I am running for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. So far I have completed the Great North 10k, the York Jane Tomlinson 10K and I am yet to do a 100K bike challenge and the Scarborough McCain 10K. Any support welcome on www.justgiving.com/Mike-Wash0