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Darrell’s Great North Run 2019 race report

2011 was the first time I ran the GNR and thought wow, what an experience, I’m definitely doing this again. The less said about my time the better – 2:07:29. It wouldn’t be until 2016 I would return. 2016 – 1:33:34 2017 – 1:25:47 Each year I aim my training to the GNR to get that PB. In 2018 I ran with Rach with the aim to get her a PB after the hard training she had put in, 1:50:33 a new PB and both over the moon with her time. As we sat in Byron Burger after the race we book the hotel for 2019… how would this one go?

I’ve always knew what Triathlons included and the amount of dedication the athletes put into training but I’d never done it. When I mentioned to a good friend, Craig Scott that I was getting bored of running he mentioned about doing a triathlon and introduced me to Steve at Off That Couch Fitness. So, all of this is Craig’s fault, cheers mate!

This time last year I made contact with Steve regarding a training plan for Brigg Sprint with the aim of completing Leeds Triathlon. I mentioned to him that I always like competing in the Great North Run to finish my season so training was also focused on that.

Back in December 2018 I was out on a training ride when I decided to play with wet road markings. There was only one winner and it wasn’t me, my body or my bike! I knew there was something wrong as I couldn’t put any pressure on my knee whilst riding back.

This was the first injury I’ve had, a couple of niggles but nothing like this. All the thoughts go through your head. I can’t continue with my football refereeing, I’m going to struggle to do Leeds and I won’t be able to get a decent time at Great North Run. Is there actually any point?

Being an amateur athlete is all about having good, down to earth people around you. Those people that support you and not just turn up to a training session and leave you are the people that you need round you. The OTCF family is the best and most supportive group of athletes I’ve been around. Along with their support, Steve’s advice and my knee consultant Mr Pacheco I wouldn’t be sat here writing this report on the 2019 Great North Run.

When I booked the hotel after the 2018 race I knew that I wanted to go for a PB (sub 1:25) but after this injury i decided to look at sub 1:30. After receiving brilliant treatment from Mr Pacheco and listening to Steve with the training he’d put in place I knew I was going to be in good shape for race day. I knew training was going well because I was enjoying it and was looking forward to going out there and training. This was a different mind set to a couple of months ago.

Unfortunately Rach didn’t get a place through the GNR ballot so we started looking for charity place for her. A charity that stood out to us both and has is close to me and my family was Pancreatic Cancer UK. This is close to my heart as this is what my Grandad passed away from some 25 years ago! Let the fundraising commence.

Race weekend: We rock up to Newcastle and walk into our hotel, Great Run banners everywhere. What’s all this about? As we checked in I asked the receptionist why they was there, it’s the hub for the weekend which includes the pro’s and celebrities. Ah right… Two people from Scunthorpe, we’re out of our comfort zone here Rach!

After checking in and dropping our bags in the room we went down to the restaurant to have some food. As we was looking out the window to admire the view of the Tyne Bridge and Newcastle Paula Radcliffe appears and sits on the table next to us… this is strange!

Saturday is the day of the 5k around the Quayside but we had 2 miles on our plan to loosen the legs off. I said to Rach that we’d go for our run then use the spa in the hotel to relax and save the legs – this was well needed. A nice relaxed day before going for tea and get carbo loading!

I enjoy stopping in Newcastle because it’s a short walk to the start and you don’t have to get up as early. A 7:30am wake up, breakfast, shower and a passing ‘Morning’ to Mo Farah and his wife as we was getting out of the lift and they was getting in. It wasn’t until we passed and realised that it was them. We had our pre race selfie on the balcony with the Tyne Bridge in the background and off we go to the start. We was asked to attend the Monument to have a photo with all the Pancreatic Cancer team who was raising valuable funds for the charity. Whilst we was there a double decker bus passed with all the SADAC crew on the top deck with a passing wave from a very good friend, Glyn Sparks.

10:38am – this is when the nerves kick in and excitement starts to go! As Mo gets introduced to the crowd the buzz heightens. I say good luck to all the friends around me and give Rach a good luck kiss and then we’re off. I had in my head that I wanted sub 1:30, this was around 6:45 min/mi – I said to myself that this was doable.

1st mile – 6:10. Gone off too fast, this always happens. (Need to stop getting so excited and think I’m going to win) 2nd & 3rd mile – 6:25’s. Start to settle in and get the goosebumps as I cross Tyne Bridge. 4th, 5th & 6th mile – 7:00’s I got in a group with a few others at similar pace and work with them as I know I’ve gone off too fast and need to save something. Halfway: 45 minutes (on target) 7 to 11 miles – this is hard work, legs feel heavy, can tell I haven’t put as much miles in the legs and it’s undulating, try and hang on in the group. 11 to 12 – 7:04. Get some speed back and drive up the incline before the drop onto the seafront. This is where i see local photographer, John and his partner. This gives you confidence as you know there’s not too far back! I was also on target. 12 onwards. Down the decline onto the seafront, the crowds at this point are amazing. I tell a lad next to me to take his earphones out and take it all in! I look at my watch, 1:21 ish, keep going, you’ll get your sub 1:30! CRAMP in my right calf, this is not what I needed, grit teeth and keep moving it’ll wear off!

800m to go, 2 laps of the track, 400m to go – go for it you’re on for smashing 1:30.

Finish – 1:28:39. Wow… that was tough but amazing.

I walk to get a bottle of water and come back. 1:35 on the board, I say to myself that Rach will be back in 10 minutes ish. 1:41 ticks over and next thing I see Rach waft her hair back, smile on her face and bounding towards me. The first thing I say “WOW, I’m so proud of you, a great time. Did you get bus here? I wasn’t expecting you back for another few minutes” a very happy & proud moment!

The things I take away from my GNR experience is don’t worry about having knock backs, stick to the training plan and listen to your coach – he knows what he’s on about! Enjoy every minute of your race. You get out from what you put in! A massive thanks also needs to go to Mr Pacheco for his advice and help with my knee injury.

Time to think about 2020….

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