Tuesday 18 September 2012

My Great North Run: a record time waiting for fish and chips

This column nearly did not get filed owing to the serious injury I sustained at the Great North Run.

Not actually running it, you understand. I could not run 13.1 miles even with a lion bounding along behind me. In fact, I have serious doubts as to whether I could even walk it these days, unless there happened to be an agreeable pub offering a decent lunch approximately halfway through.

But I did sustain an injury, nonetheless. I was the fat bloke in the tweed jacket who sprained his ankle making an undignified scramble down that grass bank from Claremont Road to the starting line.

Or, to be more accurate, the pen full of less gifted runners about 38 minutes trudge back from the start. What a gift that tumble would have been if I had been down to run the race, providing me with an entirely legitimate excuse to limp off home.

But, as it was, I was merely there to offer encouragement and support to Mrs Hann, who was looking to repeat her triumph of 2008, when she managed to complete the course – eventually – despite an unusual pair of undiagnosed conditions: pregnancy and a broken toe.

The broken bone was, on the whole, the more troublesome of the two.

This time her excuses, registered well in advance, were giving birth by Caesarean just seven months ago and having done remarkably little running (except after disobedient toddlers) since 2008.

I noted that the last two runs in her rigorous training schedule were cancelled on the grounds that it was a bit wet and windy. I wondered whether I should mention the possibility that it might also be like that on the big day, but thought better of it. This meant that I was not in a position to say “I told you so” as we damply awaited the start on the Central Motorway, which in turn no doubt saved me from a considerably worse injury than a mere sprained ankle.

It would be invidious of me to cite Mrs Hann’s time, though you will find it in the NE66 section of yesterday’s paper if you can still read it on the floor of your budgie’s cage. And she raised more than £2,000 for the excellent cause of brain tumour research.

So many good causes and so many nice people running for them: it would be hard for even the most determined cynic, like myself, to be anything other than wildly positive about the Great North Run. The logistics of baggage buses and so forth also work with Olympic-like precision.

Mrs Hann’s only small reservation last time was about the hours it took to get on board a bus back to Newcastle. This time, thinking laterally, she decided to make her way home on the Shields ferry.

Having spent the best part of three hours waiting for her in the vicinity of the Fish Quay, tortured by the aroma of fish and chips from shops that had inevitably closed by the time she made it across the river, I can confirm that this was not her best strategic decision of the day.

The whole concept of the sponsored run (walk, or anything else) is, to my mind, severely undermined by the modern habit of getting one’s sponsorship money in advance through the internet. Where exactly is the incentive, beyond conscience, actually to perform the promised task?

Since the PA system at the start was talking about a record 55,000 entrants, and yesterday’s Journal cited 39,953 actual runners, I wonder whether 15,000 others came to the same conclusion?

Next year we will do it properly. Mrs Hann will train hard for months, wear an animal costume, strap a fridge to her back and haul me and our two sons in a suitable rickshaw. Plus we will book a hotel in South Shields so that we don’t have to worry about the journey home.

I am looking forward to it already. And luckily my wife and I will be 240 miles apart when she learns of my cunning plan.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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