Thursday, 8 May 2014

My first bit of bling!

It’s 4 days since I completed the Sunderland 10k and I still can’t stop grinning. You may think this is because it was easy or just a walk in the park…but this is not the case! The main reason I can’t stop grinning is because I still find it hard to believe that I actually did it! I ran 6.2 miles. 10 whole kilometres. I think it’s only really just starting to sink in that I am a runner. I know I’ve been a runner for a while now, but this time last year I still thought my sister, Joanne, and best friend, Rachael were a bit mad for running!  And I’ve thought this about my brother-in-law for years! Now I think I may be just as mad as they are!
Saturday night was my Grandad’s surprise 90th birthday party. This meant no alcohol for me, ahead of the 10k on Sunday. Joanne, Craig and Rachael were also running so I wasn’t the only one not drinking. I spent quite a while debating what the best soft drink would be too. I had two cans of diet coke but felt this may keep me awake all night. So I spent the rest of the evening drinking orange squash! :-) How rock’n’roll!
Me, Rach and Joanne - (sober!) at Grandad's party
I was concerned that the late night would affect my running but there was little I could do about it. I was so excited after the party that it was well after 1am before I got to sleep. Now, usually I need lots of sleep in order to function properly and I had my alarm set for 7am! I feared this may be too little sleep for the run but decided I just had to try and enjoy it as best as could.
I had porridge with Nutella in for breakfast with a glass of water. I picked Rachael (and her boyfriend Karl) up at 8am and we went through to South Shields to Joanne and Craig’s house. Craig attached my chip to my trainer and Joanne pinned my bib onto my top. I’m sure I could have done this myself but felt I needed the expert support of those that have done this before!
Craig drove us all to Sunderland and we parked near the Stadium of Light. On our way to the stadium I ate a banana to keep my energy levels topped up. I was feeling very tired but I was pretty excited for my first race. We were all wearing black bin bags to keep us warm before we started running. I entertained them all greatly whilst trying to manoeuvre my way into the bag!
We were there in plenty time so Karl took some photos of us with Rachael’s camera (we took our bin bags off first!). Karl then said goodbye to us as we got ready to start and he went to take some photos. I began feeling tired and hungry (not a good combination before running) but there wasn’t anything I could do by this point. We saw Joanne’s friend Sam and stood with her waiting for the run to start.
Prior to Sunday, in my head I was aiming for about 1 hour 15 minutes. As I felt so tired and hungry before I started running I decided that I really didn’t mind how long it took me to finish as long as I did it (though I was still hoping for less than 1hour30). I started off nice and slow and tried to enjoy it. Just after the start, I saw Karl and waved.
It was quite a humid day and I was beginning to wish I’d put my vest on instead of my long sleeve top. I was glad of a drink of water from the drinks station but the pouches were somewhat challenging to get a drink from! Anyone else that ran on Sunday will know what I mean! I had a mouthful of water, but didn’t want to drink anymore (or indeed risk choking!) in case I got a stitch.
Further into the run, my legs were beginning to feel pretty heavy and my feet started to get numb (this hasn’t happened for a long time). It was advertised as a flat course, but it certainly wasn’t flat. I found this quite difficult but I was determined to keep going.
Some of the spectators and the marshals were absolutely brilliant, using my name (from my bib) to cheer me on and give me much needed motivation! Thank you to each and every one!
Just as I was feeling close to giving up I saw that some people were handing out ice pops next to a water station. I got a red one from a little girl and I never thought I would feel so grateful for someone giving me something so simple. The cool ice pop was just what I needed and it kept me going for the next km.
As I was running through Roker Park, with great difficulty, a child shouted “girl in the pink top, well done!” This really made me smile and kept me going that little bit further. Thank you to everyone who was supporting – you are all superstars!!!
There were a number of times during the last 3km that I felt close to tears. I was too hot, my legs were aching, my knee began to hurt and I couldn’t feel my feet. Every time someone smiled, cheered or said well done, it gave me the motivation to just keep going.  Near the end I saw Callum from the Great North Run Beer Tent Group, which spurred me on a bit more!
I kept thinking about the wonderful members of the North East Trust for Aphasia and how inspirational they are. The 10k is part of my GNR training and I am determined to do well and raise valuable funds for NETA. ( - if you can spare a pound or two it would be greatly appreciated). Thinking of why I am doing this made me determined to continue running and get to the end. I couldn’t wait to see Joanne, Craig and Rachael’s smiling faces.
I really struggled during the last 1.5km.  People around me were beginning to struggle too and we kept motivating each other. I saw the 800m to go sign and felt a bit happier that it wasn’t much further. That was the longest 800m of my life. I saw John Iley who I follow on twitter. I recognised him from his Heel and Toe Charity T-shirt. We were both struggling towards the end and helped motivate each other. I was so close to tears by this point that I needed to just focus on getting to the end.
I didn’t think I was ever going to find the finish. And then there was another hill. I ran. And I ran. And I ran. I crossed the finish line, and the relief almost made me cry. Then I spotted Karl with the camera so I smiled for a photo! If he hadn’t been there I do think I’d have been in tears, as I didn’t know if I’d ever get the feeling back in my feet! I congratulated John on finishing and told him I recognised him from twitter.
I couldn’t wait to see Joanne, Craig and Rachael, but I wasn’t entirely sure where they were. I just kept walking. I suddenly saw my sister’s face and she rushed to give me a hug. She asked me if I was ok and I quickly responded with ‘no’. I still felt really emotional but I was slowly beginning to get the feeling back in my feet. I hugged and congratulated Craig and Rach too and we made our way into the stadium so that I could get my t-shirt and medal. I was soon ok again, and the Lucozade and cereal bar helped me regain some energy!

I was absolutely delighted that I completed my first ever 10k in 1hour19 minutes! I am super impressed with myself that I actually ran all this time without stopping (for the first time ever!). We waited for Sam to finish, then cheered her fiancé Colin in the half marathon.
I was so proud wearing my t-shirt and medal and really felt a huge sense of achievement. Even though I’d been close to tears and found the route difficult I can’t wait to do it all again! I’m sure only fellow runners will understand what appears to be such a crazy thing to say.
Thank you so much to everyone who is supporting me during my Journey to the Great North Run. I didn’t imagine the running bug would ever catch me but it has. I still find running difficult but I am extremely proud of the improvement I’ve made over the last few months. My running coach, Steve has been brilliant with lots of advice and support, and I have lots of supportive friends and family.
Thank you to everyone who inspires me to run and if you made it this far, thanks for reading! Sorry it’s so long, if you haven’t already realised, I’m still feeling pretty excited and proud of myself for completing my first race! My next 10k is on 29th June at Lambton. This is advertised as challenging and there are a lot of hills so no doubt it will be even more difficult than Sunderland! I do love a challenge and I guess that’s the only way to improve!
Well done to everyone who took part in the Sunderland 10k and half marathon on Sunday. You’re all amazing!

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