what’s your number?

It’s here! The most exciting moment in the weeks leading up to a running event is the arrival of the race pack through your letterbox. I love ripping open the envelope to take that first look at your race number – suddenly the reality of what you’re training for is there in your hands. For my first Great North Run I have been allocated 23484, in the comfortably mid-table white wave. If you’ve never competed in a big race before, the idea of the wave system is that you will be surrounded by similarly capable running peers as you line up at the start, so that in theory you won’t be impeded by slower runners getting in your way. Of course, this is all based on the estimated finish time you provide when you register so it largely depends on how optimistic people were before they started training.
Receiving the race pack and all the info inside was the first time I had actually studied the route in any great detail. It’s a really long way! It’s well over a mile from the start on Newcastle’s Central Motorway to the Tyne Bridge, taking us south of the river, and about 3 miles to reach Gateshead Stadium where I finished the Great North 10k back in June. It almost hadn’t occurred to me that we would basically be running through the entirety of South Tyneside from Gateshead through to South Shields, and even then there’s a good mile to go along the coast before crossing the finish. It would probably take about 45 minutes in the car in heavy traffic, never mind on foot. Training on the mile circuit around my house had never really made me think about just how far from home we would be running. At least we can get the Metro back afterwards!
I’m only slightly concerned at this point that I haven’t put in quite as many training miles as other people probably have. Life has had the inconvenient habit of getting in the way of running in recent weeks – what with decorating our house, weekends away visiting family, starting a new job, and the general malaise caused by the ongoing warm weather, I’ve only been managing to squeeze in one long run a week for the last month, and have still only gone as far as 8 miles. The saving grace is that I found it a comfortable 8 miles, and over the next two weeks I plan to ratchet it up to 10, maybe 11 if I’m feeling particularly adventurous, before winding it back down in time for race day.
I’m hoping that I’ve actually done myself a favour by not doing 30 miles a week. I’ve got no niggling injuries, my legs feel strong instead of fatigued, and crucially, I haven’t got bored of running. At the moment I’m excited, nervous, enthusiastic, optimistic and completely oblivious as to how hard it will actually be. It’s probably better that way.

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