Winding from Newcastle to South Shields, the Great North Run is the greatest, northerniest half marathon in the world. First staged in 1981 as a humble local fun run, it’s since grown exponentially to become the most popular 13.1-mile race on the planet.
A staggering (sometimes literally) 57,000 runners participated in 2014, with Tracey Cramond of Darlington being crowned the landmark one millionth finisher since ’81.
Taking part this year? Whether it’s your first time or your fifth, you can always do with a few pointers from an expert, and they don’t come much more expert-y than Steven Medd of legendary local running and athletics club Gateshead Harriers.
Steven has completed the Great North Run no less than 16 times, so yeah, it’s fair to say he knows what he’s talking about.
Hi Steven. So, are there any things first-time Great North Runners should be aware of before this Sunday?
“Well, early on you’ll possibly find yourself doing a fair bit of weaving about, as you may find yourself surrounded by slower people. But I’d advise reining that in, and not getting too excited and charged up about it, because you can find that by Tyne Bridge some people have blown themselves out that way.
You do need to keep something in the tank for those last five miles
“Tyne Bridge is one of the major points of the race, probably the most iconic section, with tonnes of spectators, and the Red Arrows overhead and so on. From there you’re onto the Felling By-pass, at which point the course becomes quite undulating, so you do need to keep something in the tank for those last five miles. It’s not that any of the hills are massive, it’s just that they arrive in the later part of the race.
“The hill leading down to the seafront is long and fairly steep though, so you get it all back. Just don’t get too excited early on.”
And for returning Great North Runners who are looking to improve their previous time?
“You should have a reasonable idea of what time you can achieve, so I’d recommend sticking to as even a pace as possible – remembering that some sections are trickier than others.
There are race predictors online that calculate what time you can expect
“Take those last five miles into account, and be realistic: if you ran it in 2hrs 30mins last time, you’re not going to do it in 1hr 30mins. If you’ve never run a half marathon before, but you’ve done a 5k or a 10k or whatever, there are race predictors online that can calculate what kind of time you can expect.”
With 57,000 runners, things are obviously going to get a bit clogged up in places. Do you have any particular tips for dealing with the pace-slowing crowds?
A little bit of patience is your best bet
“A little bit of patience is your best bet. Once you reach the Felling By-pass you can actually run on both sides of the road, and going to the right hand-side at that point will allow you to overtake slower runners, and things do start to spread out at that point anyway.
“And there are plenty of opportunities to make up time during a 13.1-mile race.”
The journey back to Newcastle from the finish line in South Shields can sometimes be a bit of a pain, right?
“It depends when you finish. If you come in early, the buses may not even be ready – that’s happened to me for the past few years! But if you’re keen to get off, as soon as you get your bag, go get on the bus.
If you come in early, the buses may not even be ready
“The busiest point is usually between the finishing times of two and three hours. The bus queues can get quite big around then. If you’ve got it in you, there’s another Metro station about a mile away in Chi – that’s what we locals call Chichester. Alternatively there’s a Metro station in South Shields centre, also about a mile away, plus plenty of pubs and bars, if you’re looking to just wait the crowds out…”
LUCOZADE SPORT’S FIVE TIPS TO RULE YOUR NEXT HALF MARATHON
1) Get some carbohydrate in at breakfast
Priming the body with carbohydrates at breakfast – porridge, toast, cereal, bagels and fruit juice – is one way to ensure that your performance doesn’t suffer.
2) Take on fuel during the run
Carbohydrate stores in your body deplete during your run. Consuming a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution can help maintain endurance performance. Aim to consume between 30g-60g of carbohydrate per hour. This is equivalent to 1-2 Lucozade Sports each hour of the run.
3) Drink little and often
During your run drink little and often to avoid dehydration, but avoid drinking large volumes in one go.
4) Don’t forget to rehydrate and recover after your run
Once you cross the finish line your focus will shift to recovery. Consuming a carbohydrate electrolyte solution in the hours after exercise will help rehydration and replace those depleted carbohydrate stores.
5) Recover with some protein
It’s not just carbohydrate that’s important after your run. Combine with some high-quality protein, around 20g of meat, fish or dairy being the recommended options.
For more tips and advice from Lucozade Sport’s team of experts, visit: www.lucozadesport.com/sports/running