RIGHT NOW, thousands of people are attending the Opening Ceremony of Bupa’s Great North Run not sixteen miles from where I type these words. This year, the Great North Run will celebrate it’s one millionth finisher, and to mark the occasion, Sting has come up North to entertain us all. Except me, cos I’m here and not there.
It’s two years since I first ran the Great North Run, and it was a landmark race for me: it was my first race in my new home, and my first half marathon. In the days leading up to the race, I started to get those exam butterflies: have I done enough training? What will the weather do? What should I wear? Will I finish? What’s a good time? HOW WILL IT GO????
I know a few people who are running the Great North Run for the first time this year, and who are probably starting to feel the same anxiety and excitement that I had two years ago. 13.1 miles is not a stroll in the park, but there are some things that you can do to make life easier on the day. So here are my top tips to help you prepare for your first Great North Run, or even your first half marathon:
Before Race Day:
- Two days before, start increasing your carb intake, but there’s no need to go carbo-crazy. Just make sure there’s a good portion of carbs with your meals, which can come from unexpected sources like yoghurt rather than just scoffing bread (which is admittedly my favourite way to carb load). This article has some good advice for carb loading.
- Buy a jumper from your local charity shop to wear before hand. On race day, your bag will travel by double decker bus to the finish line about 45 minutes before the race starts, and you’ll need to keep warm. Usually all the clothes left by runners at the starting line are collected, and give them to charity shops, so it’s a nice karmic circle.
- The day before the race, make sure you hydrate well. Again, no need to go overboard, but make sure you’re drinking regularly. Downing three pints of water the morning of the race won’t help as much as keeping steadily hydrated the day before.
- The night before, pack your bag. My suggestions include a change of warm clothes, comfy shoes, clean socks, deodorant, face wipes, safety pins, your number, snacks, water, plasters, hair ties, ibuprofen, a waterproof, a plastic bag (for your dirty shoes/clothes) and bin liners. Put your race day clothes out so you don’t have to worry when you get up.
- Don’t worry if you don’t sleep well the night before! Excitement may keep you tossing and turning, but it won’t impact you too much.
- Optional extras: paint your nails to match your shirt (my fave thing to do), write your name on your running top so people can cheer you on – and they will!
On Race Day!!
- If you drink coffee, drink a cup when you get up. It will help … digestion. Trust me on this.
- Leave loads of time to get there. The trains are notoriously crowded for this event, and so make sure you have plenty of time to get to the starting line without stressing.
- Wear your charity shop jumper with pride. If you don’t get to a charity shop, bring a bin liner or two to wear. It’s my favourite pre-race look, I have to say.
- Bring bananas and a sports drink to the starting line! You’ll be waiting until the race starts, and once the gun has gone, it might be another 15 minutes until you’re crossing the starting line. You’ll need to quell that hunger in the meantime!
- When it gets to the final hour before the race starts, sip your drink slowly. Resist the urge to drink a lot, because you’ll need the loo 5 minutes after you start running!
- Start slow, warm up, and then work out your pace. Don’t let the adrenaline carry you off faster than you want!
- Don’t sweat the small things: there is a bin literally full of millions of safety pins. There is a help desk if you lose your number. There is a group warm up for when you’re in your starting pen and feeling nervous. There are so many volunteers to help with whatever you need, so don’t stress.
- Don’t be intimidated. You’ll be surrounded by thousands of runners on the day, you’ll see club vests, you’ll see different coloured number tags, you’ll see people who look like they will glide all the way to the finish line. But they, like you, are just as nervous and excited, and wondering how their race will go. No matter what speed you go at, you’re all completing a 13.1 mile run, and that puts you in a team of winners in my opinion.
And don’t forget to enjoy it!! I love seeing a whole street of double decker buses filled with runner’s bags, and looking down to see all the runners congregating in their pens. I love the cheesy warm ups projected over the big screen, and walking past the BBC tent to see who they’re speaking to.
And on the route itself, the public are amazing. They cheer you on, they call your name, they give you food and they do it whether come rain or shine. I love this race, and it was the best introduction to the North East and the North East running community that I could have hoped for.
When you finish, you’ll be by the sea. Which is amazing considering you were in the centre of Newcastle a short while ago. Volunteers will hand you a goody bag with a snack or two, a t-shirt, water, and most importantly, your medal. I advise you to put the medal on immediately and don’t take it off until you go to sleep. Maybe not even then. And then hang it somewhere that you can see it every day to make you smile.
So whatever your goal – to finish without stopping, to get a particular time, to finish at all, or to walk and get all the free food that’s handed out – I wish you the best of luck! I am feeling all nervous and excited for you, and more than a little jealous. And if you’re not running the Great North Run this year, I would definitely recommend it goes in your diary next year. I heart it.
In other news, my sister-in-law and I went to dinner last night at the Chiltern Firehouse in London, and saw Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Gary Lineker. I mean, I know some of you don’t care about this, but for me, it was a Very Important Evening. It made up for the wine that we couldn’t afford: celebrity hang outs are expensive.