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1000 Shades of Grey
Monday, October 11, 2004
 
Ode to Vaseline
As some of you may remember, I foolishly acquiesced to my wife's cunning plan to run the Great North Run this year. After some rigorous (and some not so rigorous) training, we both found ourselves stood on the Newcastle Central Motorway at 8:45 am on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago.

2 hours of standing around looking resplendent in bin bags, listening to local "celebrity" Alan Robson later and we were both ready to sprint all the way to London, such was our desire to get away from the idiot. Being local, I've known about Robson for a while, and always thought him something of a smug tosser, however exposure to him was a totally new experience for the Mrs, who was somewhat underwhelmed by his attempts to gee up the crowd. Suffice to say that by the end of his warm up, we were both hopeful that Kelly Holmes had shot him with the gun used to start the race. No such luck.

As I mentioned, Kelly Holmes started us running. Well, technically she started the serious athletes running, as it was 17 minutes later that I managed to cross the start line and begin the longest journey I have ever undertaken on foot. By this stage I'd already become separated from my wife, having agreed to run our own races it was inevitable we’d separate at some point, so better to get it over with early I suppose.

Off I set, resplendent in the bright red vest the nice people at British Heart Foundation had sent me to run in. How did they know I'd always wanted to look like a giant tomato?

Along the motorway I ran, sidestepping the hundreds of people who had cunningly thought that by standing nearer the front than technically they should have done that they wouldn't have caused any anger or frustration to build up inside those runners behind them. Alas, how wrong they were, as I cursed every one of the buggers who were already walking before the end of mile 1.

Along the road we surged, each of us charged by the adrenaline of running in large numbers, through the first couple of miles without even a hint of stitch or cramp, across the Tyne Bridge and up into Gateshead, and towards the start of mile 3.

Miles 3 to 5 appeared to be slightly uphill from the handy profile of the course that I had been sent, but I laughed at such a thought. After all, hadn't I trained for such eventualities by running up some short steep hills in my training programme? Somehow I had failed to appreciate that running uphill continuously for two miles takes quite a lot of effort, but by the top of the hill I still felt in reasonable shape, and had even successfully acquired a bottle of water from the first drinks station.

For those of you who have never had to attempt such a feat, imagine yourself in a packed pub on a Friday night at about 1 minute to eleven, as the entire bar tries to get served, then once you've got your drink, attempting to consume it whilst running to get into the queue for a nightclub. I think I probably managed to ingest as much water through my nose as my mouth, and in the end discarded my half empty bottle to the vagaries of the roadside.

The next few miles passed steadily enough, with people along the roadside clapping their families, and loads of local charvers holding out their hands for High-5's from runners. Handily there were also a number of St John's Ambulance staff standing with handfuls of Vaseline, which I availed myself of in an attempt to prevent my nipples from chaffing. Nipples greased, I was left with sticky hands, which I considered wiping on the local youths, but decided against it, what with me having already run 7 miles I thought they might catch me if they had a grievance.

By mile 9 I was starting to feel the cold wind on my sweaty back, and was reaching the point at which my training had taken me, and entering the brave new world that was 10 miles. Unfortunately, some bright spark who designed the course (I'm guessing Brendan Foster) decided it'd be a top plan to put in another steady two mile climb at this point. This nearly killed me, and it was a nearly broken man who ran into South Shields.

Then the fabled second wind kicked in, the hill reached it's long drawn out climax, and like all men following such a peak it was downhill quickly from there, and I hit the seafront with a new found resolve. I wanted to get this thing finished, and now knew I could do it. Onwards I charged, seconds ticking away all the time, passing those runners who were flagging as much as I had around the 11 mile marker, and on to the finish.

I crossed the line 2 hours, 15 minutes and 30 seconds after I left the start line, and then proceeded to stagger about in a daze as I was herded like a lost sheep through the processing point that was the finish. Bag of goodies and space blanket collected, I stumbled in my stupor towards the bus on which I had left my bag all those hours before, and was eventually able to locate it, and put on some warmer clothes.

Finding my family and equally exhausted wife proved somewhat difficult, but eventually all were duly located, and we were able to head for home, walking very slowly as we went. Two weeks later, and apart from a blackened toe-nail I've pretty much recovered from my efforts and am now charged with recouping the money promised to me by friends and colleagues.

Having already run 13.1 miles, it should be easy.

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