Running the Great North Run for NRAS

Blog by Geoff West

Great North Run Top Banner

*Record scratch* Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Growing up I had never been much of a runner. Despite being a keen footballer since the age of 6 and having a huge appetite for sports in general – University certainly took its toll on me. After graduating, landing my first ‘proper’ job and realising my beer belly had gotten out of hand, I decided to kick myself into gear and test myself by signing up for the Reading Half Marathon. Now some may call it ‘naivety’, I’d probably sway more toward ‘stupidity’ but the training started… then stopped. Then started again, a month before the event. The race itself? Well, you can probably guess how that went from the picture!

Fast forward to 2020. As I’m sure everyone is aware, this was a particularly tough time for all. Through a combination of mentally draining lockdowns, losing my job and an unhealthy obsession to Call Of Duty, I knew I needed to make a change. Like many I took up daily walks to fill my time. Walking turned to running and before I knew it, I was doing 5K circuits a couple of times a week and in the best shape of my life.

So when I started working at NRAS last year, the opportunity to do the Great North Run for a great cause was too good to pass up. Being a life long Newcastle United fan, I’ve always had an affinity to the North East. Growing up I remember the long drives up the M1 to visit family, running in between the pillars at Grey Street and dodging the Quayside seagulls on the way to St. James’ Park. With the failure of my previous attempt still looming in my mind and the thought of turning 30 this year, I knew preparation would be key.

First, I setup a Strava account. While tracking your runs can be a little daunting and the first couple might not go as planned, I personally have found seeing my progression to be a real confidence boost. You will be surprised at how quickly your general fitness improves, especially in the first couple of months!

This brings me nicely onto the next step, setting up my donation page on Enthuse. As the official partner for all of the ‘Great Runs’, it’s super simple to create your page and you can also link up your Strava, so donators can keep an eye on your progress during your training.

Finally, I grabbed a handy app called Run With Hal. This creates a personalised training plan for whatever the event. Be it a 5K, 10K or a full marathon. This works for absolute beginners and advanced runners too, so if you are considering challenging yourself in a similar way, this is a great place to start!

The ground work was done – cue the training montage!

My next few months consisted of ‘base level fitness’ runs of 3-5K, before moving onto the long 12 week training plan. This was predominantly 3 midweek runs and 1 longer weekend dash, slowly ramping up the mileage to race distance – before tapering off to save my legs closer to the event itself. Now I won’t lie and say it was easy, especially in the 40ºC heatwave during July, but September was quickly upon us.

I was accompanied by two of my friends who woke me up by banging on my door, after I spent the night before at the NRAS Gala Dinner. A quick snooze, a couple of pit stops and some questionable music choices later, we were blazing past the Angel of the North and heading into Newcastle. Luckily, I had managed to secure a lovely Airbnb right along the Quayside – however I recommend you checking very early if you are planning on doing the run, as there was not many places available by the time I had booked!

So the day was here, I smashed down some porridge for some slow releasing carbs and made my way over to the race. Unbeknownst to me, my friends had sneakily created a 3 foot sign of me running hobbling my previous half marathon attempt, which was revealed to me just before I headed to the start line – well played, Josh!

Geoff Great North Run Sign

The race started north of the city centre, alongside Exhibition Park. Once I was in the melee of runners things got very real. After a few tweaks to the playlist and a lot of shuffling forward with the crowd, the queues to the start line started to open up and in a flash, we were off. The atmosphere was great, making our way through the city centre with every underpass met by shouts of, “Oggy, oggy, oggy!” from runners and spectators alike.

Around the 4K mark I passed my friends, who were holding up the infamous sign and peppering me with words of encouragement – then onto the most iconic part of the race, the Tyne Bridge. This was one the most surreal moments of my life. Running across such an iconic landmark in the North East, alongside thousands of people, as local lad Sam Fender blared out on the speakers – I’ve never felt such pride in being tied to the city.

Great North Run Tyne Bridge

Into Gateshead we went, every step getting slightly harder. This is where I could really feel I was running alongside 60,000 other people as there was definitely a build up of runners! However the local support was incredible, offering out countless sweets, snacks and other goodies to keep us all going.

As we headed into South Tyneside, I was really feeling it. Fighting off battles with cramp and banter from Sunderland fans, who had obviously noticed my Newcastle shorts. I made my way to Marsden Beach and along the coast toward South Shields – the home straight. The locals really showed up in force here, with bleacher-style benches and stages along the last kilometre of the route filled with people cheering you on up to the finish line. Crossing the line with a time of 2:46, I was done! Successfully raising £828 for NRAS, which was only possible because of donations from family, friends and colleagues. So thank you, you’re all absolute legends!

Would I do another half marathon? Probably not. But at least the finish line picture was better this time!

Great North Run Finish Geoff

Feeling inspired and want to join team NRAS on your next challenge? Check out our events page and sign up for our upcoming runs, challenges and events. Alternatively, let us know of any of your own fundraising events on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and follow us for all things RA.