Monday, 27 August 2012

37 laps around the Quayside

With just 2 weeks until the run through Death Valley, I was very keen to do one final confidence boosting long distance run. Last Saturday, the plan was to run as many times as possible in 9 hours around a 1 mile course down at Newcastle Quayside. The route took me from Baltic Square on the Gateshead side then across the Swing Bridge before heading back along the Newcastle side across the Millennium Bridge and back to the start. That's right! I'd be running round in circles in the rain for 9 whole hours!

I'd set my expectations at a realistic level before setting off. I thought 35 laps in 9 hours was easily achievable and that was the target that I had in my mind before the start.

I "advertised" the run on Twitter and Facebook the week before asking for people to run with me. I wasn't to be disappointed with the turnout despite the poor weather conditions. It was a very wet day down on the Quayside but that didn't dampen my spirits as I set off running right on noon.

I ran the first 3 laps on my own and was joined by Helena from Heaton Harriers and Donna from Tyne Bridge Harriers for 2 and 5 laps respectively. My mate Nigel ran a lap with me next. He's new to running and had already ran 4 miles that morning. To add an extra mile onto that was a great achievement. He is doing the Great North Run for the first time in a few weeks!

Personal Trainer Dave Fairlamb and Dawn from The Fit Factor joined me for 4 and 2 laps respectively.  Dawn along with her fellow participants, some of whom were there to cheer me on, have lost stones upon stones of weight over the last few months.

I lost 10 minutes while waiting for the Millennium Bridge to re-open. It was raised for a yacht which was 5 minutes late. I had tried to time it so that I would have missed the bridge raising. It wasn't to be. A hazard of the course I guess. Before setting off I'd had a chat with the bridge controller and discussed the times that the bridge would raise. He recognised me from last year when I actually got to open the bridge. That was one of my lifetime ambitions fulfilled that day!

The bridge reopened and next to join me on lap 10 was Janine (pictured below) from Tyne Bridge Harriers. She did 3 laps with me as part of a planned 12 mile run.

The miles started to fly by and I was joined by Jack aka Run Geordie Run Junior (pictured below) half way through the run. I enjoyed running with him even though he said that I was running too slow for him! He managed to run 2 miles with me in his Team Run Geordie Run vest. These are the vests that will be worn next month by those runners taking part in the Great North Run raising funds for The Children's Foundation.

I stopped to chat to a few curious passers by who had seen me run past them a few times. One couple told me how their mother was cared for by the same Hospice as mine (St Benedict's Hospice) and another how their son was operated on in the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital. 

I ran through the marathon barrier after 5 hours and 45 minutes of running. I was slightly ahead of the pace that would get me 35 miles in total. 

Joining me next was my old friend and work colleague Mike Lewis. We have ran many miles together in the past and it was great to catch up. Mike recently turned 60 and to celebrate ran 60 miles on his birthday! Quite remarkable. Joining us after 2 laps was Dan the winner from the Fit Factor. Soon after Dan joined I saw Rob from Tyne Bridge Harriers together with Sumanth, Isao and Robert from Claremont Road Runners and someone who I only know as "Jiving K Boots". These lads had ran 6 of the North East Park runs earlier that day (Sunderland, Durham, Chester-le-Street, Gateshead, Whitley Bay and Newcastle). They finished off their running day by joining me for a mile. 

After 33 miles the Millennium Bridge stayed up for 15 minutes after I reached it. Ironically, the delay was caused by 2 party boats. One of which had David Fairlamb on board celebrating a friends 70th Birthday.

With 57 minutes remaining Mike and I decided that a further 4 miles to give an overall 37 miles was a very realistic possibility. The conversation soon switched to favourite dishes as the amazing smell of curry started wafting our way from the nearby Quayside restaurants. "I'm definitely getting a King Prawn Madras" was a sentence I used many times during those last 4 miles!

The final mile was the 5th quickest out of the 37 and I felt like I had so much energy left at the end. The church clock in the distance struck 9 and Mike and I reached the finish line at Baltic Square right on time. One quick photo later and I thanked Mike (pictured below) for his 3 hours of great company. If I can run as well as he does at 60 then something will have gone incredibly right in my life! He's a machine!

I was very pleased with 37 miles in 9 hours. There had been some minor delays during the day. I had accepted that the opening and closing of the Millennium Bridge was part of the charm of this particular route and I stopped briefly to chat to a few people. I'll definitely be back to have another crack at beating 37 laps sometime in the future.

Running the same 1 mile lap so many times was surprisingly never monotonous. There were so many things to keep me entertained such as the many passing stag and hen groups. The amount of folk who joined me during the day added a lot of variety and they all had something new to talk about. It was very easy for people to find me and having people dip in and out of the run worked very well indeed.

The route itself was very easy to run. There were only 3 small climbs and the feeling of always being close to the finish line gave me a huge psychological edge. 

The good condition I found myself in at the end of the run and the excellent recovery the following day bodes really well for the 78 mile run across Death Valley next week. I've lost a stone and a half over the last 6 weeks and I feel that good progress towards Australia is being made each week. 

I'm far from the finished article that will see a successful run across the Australia next year. However, I genuinely feel that I'm right on target to be ready come October 16th 2013. My mentor Dave Fairlamb was very concerned 6 weeks ago but given the progress made recently I know that he is now less so.

The run through Death Valley is going to be incredibly difficult. Saturday's 37 laps around the Quayside has given me the necessary confidence boost that I'd hoped it would. 

Finally, I did have that King Prawn Madras if you were wondering (along with a nut Pilau rice and a Peshwari Naan). Just what you need after running 37 miles!