Running Around The Toon

There's a notable shift in Newcastle at this time of year; a tangible realisation in the air that something is coming. I'm referring, of course, to the Great North Run, which brings tens of thousands of people out in their trainers every year to tackle the 13.1 miles to North Shields. This year, the event takes place on Sunday 8th September, but for those taking part it begins much earlier, and today, with the sun shining, the runners were out in force across Gosforth and Jesmond. I was no exception and, although I nearly talked myself into staying on the sofa, I trotted my way through 9 miles of sunny Newcastle scenery.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm relatively new to running. I began just two years ago and completed my first Great North Run last year. On the day, it was hot and it was hilly (no one adequately warns you about the hills) and I was 3 minutes over my 2 hour target. This year, I'm attacking it with a sense of personal vengeance. That sub 2 hour will be mine!

Running in the city makes you see it at all kinds of different angles and I often find myself adventuring to places that I otherwise would never pass by. My favourite running spots include the Town Moor (especially in the summer months, when the cows lazily watch as you dart by), Jesmond Dene, Rising Sun parkrun on a Saturday morning, the paths around Gosforth Golf Club and the Quayside. On sunny days like today, the city seems to sparkle and there is nothing I like more than lacing up and getting out to enjoy the sunshine.

My iPhone reliably informed me it was around 14 degrees when I set off this morning, but it soon felt much higher as I forced myself up the hills and across the moor with no shelter. The weather had brought out droves of people; other runners, parents pushing strollers, cyclists and lots and lots of very good dogs. There were also thousands of greenfly, which seem determined to hinder runners by flying repeatedly into your mouth, nose and eyes. It's usually after I've pushed through the first couple of miles that I start to settle into it and enjoy myself, taking in the scenery and reminding myself that I really am lucky to live in this place that has everything; the bustle of the city centre surrounded by so much fantastic nature and green spaces. Where else could you run from the main shopping street to a huge stretch of field, passing two universities on the way, within ten minutes?

Here's hoping that the summer brings lots more of today's ideal running weather, as people both locally and across the UK prepare themselves for the nation's favourite half marathon. I've managed to persuade a host of others to join me at the start line this year, so I'm already looking ahead to where in the toon I'm going to take them all for a well deserved dinner after it's all over. I have everything crossed that the day is a little less warm than last year and that the crowds lining the streets are every bit as supportive and generous. Good luck to all training and running this year (and if running isn't for you, think about having a gentle stroll instead!)


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