My Great North Run 2018

I knew this year wasn’t going to be my year.

I had struggled since starting training in April to increase my fitness as my legs and feet suffered from injuries with even the shortest of runs!

Runner's knee held me back somewhat!

I started seeing physiotherapists every month, who gave me deep tissue massages and lots of stretches and exercises to help, but I'd had to take six weeks out with compartment syndrome - putting my training schedule well back.

About six weeks before the race I had a decision to make. Either sit it out and defer my place to next year, or just give it a go anyway.

I decided I might as well give it a go. Despite all the obstacles, I’d been training for months and I didn’t want to waste all my hard work. So on September 7, with a bunch of sponsorship under my belt, some cute pink compression socks and a matching manicure (because that was going to help me run!) it was time for the journey to Newcastle.

You could say I was nervous heading up to Newcastle!

The Saturday before the race me and Phil headed into the city centre to have a look around, because despite doing the race before I’d never actually been in the centre!

We both loved the city, it was so vibrant and buzzing, we loved the mix of old buildings and brand new shops.

However, the obstacle that faced me during my race became clear as I walked around. Whenever I had to walk up a hill (and there were many in the city centre!) I felt a strain in my right calf. I’d only had them massaged on Monday, but nonetheless my legs were now tired and heavy.

I had run 10 miles in two hours on Sunday, which I was so pleased with, but come a short 4k run on Wednesday night I realised Sunday's 10-miler had been a bad idea.

I only got 1k into my run before I felt the painful stabs of compartment syndrome in the sides of my calves and had to hobble home.

So Sunday morning arrived, the day of the big race.

I’d got my nutrition right, had some sleep, and had foam rolled and stretched twice a day since Wednesday to try and ease my legs.

We were staying in Seaburn, a small town in Sunderland about 20 mins metro ride away, but it soon became clear the metro would not be taking 20 mins that day.

After 45 mins stood up on a cramped train, we finally get to the start line about 9.30am - and the toilet queues were insane!

After queuing about 45 minutes with a full bladder and being nowhere near the front of the queue, I gave up my dignity and headed to the bushes to do my business - with only a hoodie to cover up my modesty - not the best start!

After a quick pre-race photo and leaving my tracksuit with Phil I headed to the start line - missing the warm up. By the time I found the green wave the gate was shut - leaving me to climb over the barrier!

Obligatory pre-race photo!
I got into my wave at 10.38am - just two minutes before the start of the race.

After 25 minutes getting through the staggered start I crossed the start line and was so excited to get going.

All my hard work stretching and foam rolling had paid off and my legs felt ok for the first 5k. The first 5k is so much fun. I ran underneath the motorway flyover bridge, where everybody cheers each other on with shouts of ‘oggy oggy oggy!’ 'oi oi oi!' echoing around the underpass.

The crowds shout your name as you go past and kids give you high fives and it’s so inspiring seeing who everyone is running for. It’s also wonderful running over the Tyne Bridge, the atmosphere is just electric.

Me and 57,000 others lining up to start!
I started to struggle around mile four, there is a steady incline and my legs stiffened up. I was bursting for a wee again too - but also needed some hydration!

I stopped for a wee at the 8k mark (luckily in a portaloo this time!) and wasted a good ten minutes queuing and my legs felt really heavy after I got going again.

Luckily the halfway point of the race sees the incline take a more downward direction, so I started running some more, but it was still so busy with walkers I was using so much energy just trying to dodge through people. My legs were still painful and I just had to try my best.

By mile eight I was pretty tired and my plan to power up the hills until mile 11.75, where I’d planned to finish strong by running down the seafront, went out the window.

I tried to power walk but my body just hurt! By now most of my fellow competitors were walking anyway so I decided just to bed in - forget about how long it was going to take me - and to simply enjoy the experience.

Those last few miles the crowds are amazing. Everyone comes out with jelly babies and haribo and everyone cheers you on! The fact it’s three hours since the race began and people are still out cheering is amazing. The people of Newcastle really are the best!

The sea ahead! By this point there were a lot of walkers... Including me!

When I saw the hill down to the sea about mile 11.5 I was so ecstatic! I knew I was going to finish the race. I could almost feel that medal around my neck! I ran down the hill, and started running towards mile 12 on the flat road, but my legs killed. I tried to power walk but my whole body killed. I was struggling and badly. I had to tell myself to slow down, breathe, not to panic, and that I’d be over the finish line in quarter of an hour tops.

At this point, out of nowhere, this guy in the crowd pipes up: “Come on Charis! You can do it! Keep going you are so close!” And all his friends started cheering me. It made me laugh and honestly helped so much.

Just 200m from the finish line Phil was waiting for me and when I saw him I started to cry. I was so overcome with emotion! Seeing everyone finish is as good as getting over the finish line yourself. It’s such an amazing achievement for everyone, and seeing people - young and old, fat and thin, fit and unfit - complete this challenge for charity - it just makes you so inspired.

After giving Phil a teary hug I managed to pull it together and finished strong with a jog through the finish line for the photographers!

I was so proud to get this around my neck!
So despite the setbacks - the shin splints, the runners knee, the compartment syndrome and the plantar fasciitis - I managed it.

And I decided I may well come back next year - more prepared - and see what I can do! I have a time of 3.10.49 to beat (my gosh I hope I do better than that next year!) and a total of £225 in fundraising to better as well.

Actual proof I actually did it!

If you’ve ever thought about doing the Great North Run or any half marathon, just give it a go. Seriously just do it.

You don’t have to be an athlete - and you may just surprise yourself by seeing exactly how much you can put into it. It’s an amazing experience and you’ll be left with a buzz for days after. I promise you’ll be glad you signed up!

This isn't the end for me though.

I think I've caught the running bug and can't wait to do some more races. Unfortunately I have a nasty case of plantar fasciitis to get over first - but once I'm all healed up there'll be no stopping me! I can't wait to get going again.


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