Words of wisdom from Anne Wilson, a Great North Run veteran of 34 years who says she "had hardly even run for a bus" before the first GNR in 1981.
Anne is one of only four women to have completed every Great North Run and after a few years of 'proper' running discovered fancy dress, which she says brought a whole new dimension to the event.
Running as Minnie Mouse, she's raised money for charity each year and who better to impart advice to those who may be running in the world's most popular marathon for the first time...
What's your top piece of advice?
Most important - enjoy it. There will be very few (if any) half marathons in the world that have the support you will find in the GNR – whether that be thousands of enthusiastic spectators lining the route, the bands, charity cheering points and your fellow runners.
Arrive in good time
You need to get bags on buses to the finish and so on but the main objective beforehand is to soak up the atmosphere. Even if your starting position is near the back, try to just stand on the bridge near the start for a minute or two to view the most amazing sight along the motorway and allow yourself to be proud that you are part of it.
Also there’s no toilet without a queue so don’t under-estimate how long that could take.
Lining up at the start
If you don’t want to have to dodge around ‘oldies’ like me, stick to the right hand carriageway – although that one does go over the flyover whereas the left goes under. Or, keep to the right of the left one!
Along the route:
View mile markers positively as “just x miles to go”, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re down to single figures.
Walk if you need to – nobody minds and it gives you a chance to talk to others doing the same thing. Smile nicely at the spectators telling you to get a move on!
In addition to the official watering stations, hundreds of kindly folk will offer refreshments along the route. Ice pops are usually good – especially the blue ones – as are orange segments, but avoid the crisps and the beer (seriously folks, I’ve been offered both!).
At the 10 mile 'Boost Zone' watch out for jelly babies on the road as it can be slippery.
If the kids on the roadside are squirting people with water (from the bottles they’ve picked up) and you DON’T want to get wet, I find putting a hand up and saying “please don’t” usually works. On the odd occasion it doesn’t – take pleasure in using your water bottle for the same purpose and get them back!
Look out for Dame Tanni Grey Thompson. She’s usually in her wheelchair at the water station near the eight-mile mark, helping to give out water. Lovely lady!
Don’t be upset when you think you’re doing really well and suddenly you’re passed by an emu or fairy or other such creature. You are doing well.
Consider fancy dress – it brings a smile to people's faces and, when you pass runners in proper kit, it makes you feel good!
Towards the finish:
If using your mobile to keep in touch with people meeting you at the finish remember that the networks get rather busy so make sure you’ve made other arrangements just in case.
Stan Long (Brendan Foster’s former coach) once said that South Shields has the only uphill seafront in Britain. I’m sure it hasn’t but that last mile can seem never-ending. However you’ve already completed 12 so one to go is a doddle.
At the finish:
Be prepared for more queues - in the finishing funnels, collecting goody bags, getting bags off buses, queuing for buses, metro or ferry, sitting in traffic in your car...just chill & remember what you have achieved.
If you are running for one of the 99 charities represented in the charity village remember to pop along to see them. They will be delighted to see you, but be careful going down the grassy bank to get to the marquees – it can play havoc with wobbly legs.
Finally, back to the beginning – enjoy the Run - the camaraderie, the sights, sounds and smells (if you are a fan of liniment / muscle rub etc!), the euphoria, the fun, the people, in fact the whole experience.
Even after all these years the Great North Run has never lost its appeal. Good luck to you all.
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