Great North Run: My Top Tips….


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????


The Tyne Bridge, Great North Run 2013

The Tyne Bridge, Great North Run 2013

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.
Rocking the bin liner look

Rocking the bin liner

  • 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.

Starting pen for Great North Run 2013

  • 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.


Smiles a-plenty at the end of Great North Run 2012, my first :)

Smiles a-plenty posing with my medal at the end of Great North Run 2012, my first :)

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.


My running wall in my office…

Keeps me smiling when I’m at work…it was kind of dark when I took this…

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.


Spur of the moment fun this week.

Spur of the moment fun this week.

Run well!!!!!!!


Ellie B

JP Morgan Challenge 2014

Every year our office enters a team into the JP Morgan challenge – a 5.6k race around Battersea Park to raise money for Water Aid. over 29,000 people ran the distance over two evenings this week, and eight intrepid runners from our office joined in.


The people in my office aren’t softies. In one month, a big group did Tough Mudder, and then two weeks later another group (including many of the same people) did the Three Peaks Challenge for charity. So…. yeah. No one needs to drink a cup of cement where I work.


Until the JP Morgan challenge that is. In the lead up to the race, the banter flows as freely as cheap Sauvignon Blanc on a Friday night.  People compare fitness tips, and talk times. At least, that’s what I imagine based on last year. This year I wasn’t in the office in the lead up (maybe thankfully!). Easily the most exciting element about the whole event is the sartorial: what colour t-shirts should we get to stand out in the crowd? And what will the free t-shirts at the end look like?


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For a race that’s barely over 3 miles, an awful lot of bananas, pasta and bread were eaten on the day. When we got there, we put more effort in stretching and warming up than we’d put into the run, and felt more nervous about this than we would a 10 mile run. What is it about this event that made us feel like we kids about to jump off the tall diving board?


Well I’ll tell you: pride. Yep. You put a load of sales people (and one HR person) together, and competition is what you’ll get, irrespective of the task. Running 5.6k? Gonna get a great time. Fancy dress in the office? All costumes will be outstanding. Karaoke on a Friday night? Just you try to wrestle that microphone from the clutches of someone else. It’s definitely all in good fun, but times are noted, analysed and filed away, and you don’t want to be the one who talks the talk but can’t run the run.


So. How did we do? Swimmingly!! We jumped off that diving board and plunged head first, chucking in a couple of somersaults on the way. Everyone got under 30 minutes, which was soooo good considering that not everyone loves running so much that they want to write a blog about it, unlike some other people. The fastest time was 24.20, and I came third at 25:32, taking a minute off my time last year (which was 26:24). :)



The route itself is very picturesque, taking you through the leafy park, and along the Thames. It’s also tough mentally as there’s a lot of out-and-back, and a nasty false finish. You can see the finish line, you turn the corner and see there’s another 0.6k to run through a field, and you wave goodbye to the end  the end as you run into the field. But this year I knew it was coming, and so it wasn’t too bad. The route is quite congested as there are a lot of runners for such a narrow route, but the fact that it’s a corporate event kind of gives it an ‘everyone’s in this together’ feel rather than everyone taking it too seriously and competing for amazing times.


I really, really like this event. It’s friendly and fun, and the distance makes it accessible for lots of people. And then afterwards we de-camped to the pub where, over a glass or more of Rose, I learned the best celebrity spotting techniques from one of my colleagues, who has theatre friends and so is an authority in this regard. London celebs watch out: I’ll be brunching with you in no time.


Ellie B