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16 September 2021   |   2021 Trends   |   

What is it like to participate in the Great North Run with us? Runner turned rep, David Guy, tells us his story!

About the Simplyhealth Great North Run

The Simplyhealth Great North Run takes place every September and is the largest half marathon in the world. Usually, the runners set off from Newcastle upon Tyne and cross the finish line in South Shields. Due to COVID restrictions, the course had to be altered this year and consisted an out and back style race around Newcastle upon Tyne instead.

The first Great North Run took place in 1981 with 12,000 runners. Since then, the event has grown to become one of the greatest running festivals in the world. Many international and UK based runners share the view that it’s a remarkably well-organised and inspiring event. The atmosphere is always legendary!

Here at Sports Travel International, we’ve been working with the Great North Run since 2018. In that time we’ve built up great knowledge of what we can do to support our runners in the race. In this blog, we delve into David Guy’s experience. He not only repped, but also ran in the 40th edition of this iconic event, which took place last weekend. David works in the Product Team here at Sports Travel International. His dual experience with the Great North Run has provided us with invaluable knowledge and insights, that we can now relay back to those of you who are looking to conquer the run in the future.

About David

David is a self confessed ‘bling king’ and race addict. He has been running organised race events (from 5K races to marathon events) for over 12 years. His preferred distances are 10K and half marathons. Prior to the pandemic, David was averaging at 30-40 races a year. True to form, he jumped at the chance to attend his first sporting event since COVID turned our worlds upside down.

This year’s run was a special one as it was the 40th edition of the Great North Run. The event was initially planned for 2020 but was postponed due to COVID. The event started on Friday with a warm-up 5K event down on the Quayside. This was followed by the Junior Run event and the half marathon on the Sunday.

David’s Great North Run Experience 

According to David, the cool and cloudy weather conditions were ideal for the running distance, and equally as perfect for the unique (and hillier) course that was specifically picked for the 2021 route. This year, the route started and finished in Newcastle and crossed the iconic Tyne Bridge twice. Although the route had to be altered this year, David believes that the event felt even more special as a result. One Great North Run tradition did remain the same however, the presence of The Red Arrows which never fails to add to the electric atmosphere.

During our exchange, David mentioned that there was a great buzz around the city over the weekend. 48,000 runners from diverse sporting backgrounds and nationalities set off from the start line on Sunday. Many of those participating were running for registered charities.

David told me that this year’s event was very well organised and run in line with COVID guidelines and protocols which were carefully implemented by the race organisers. The runners were given specific arrival times and set times to venture over to the start zone. In addition, the start times were staggered throughout the morning. This prevented large groups congregating at the start line, out on the course, or indeed, in the finish area.  The number of spectators was also closely monitored.

The first wave set out at 9.45 am and the last wave of runners started around 1:30 pm. These changes to the race timetable and to the route helped to ensure that the runners were able to socially distance both before and during the event. David did say however that while the protocol was very much omnipresent, it did not compromise or detract from the overall atmosphere in the slightest.

As a Sports Travel representative at the event, David was on hand to meet with customers and help with pre-race queries and jitters.

For David, it was a joy to be able to engage with customers again. As a runner he shared their excitement of being part of an organised race after 20 long months. He added that although it had been a while, it felt natural to be back on location and providing support to customers. As he has run the Great North Run on several occasions, he was able to give out helpful tips, answer questions, and help with any hotel issues.

David also took the customers on walks around the area. This was great to familiarize them with the setting before the event. Because events may feel and look a bit different for the foreseeable future, David felt that this was important, to provide the customers with a sense of reassurance. All our runners were eager to get going and re-gain a sense of normality.

David confirmed that there was a great atmosphere throughout the weekend.

“No one had any regrets about attending the event and they were all elated with their memories of a great day.”

He went on to add that after the success of the event, he could sense that customers were definitely more confident about the future.

A few top tips from David to wrap up the weekend:

  • My top “newbie” half marathon runner tip would be to respect the distance and to train well. Don’t get fixated on achieving a given time. Focus on enjoying the experience and reaching the finish line.
  • Familiarise yourself fully with your chosen event. This includes getting to grips with the logistics, number pick-up / time to get to start / hydration stations available on the course etc.
  • My top “long-timer”  runner tip would be to not forget all of the lessons that you’ve learnt on past runs. That could make this one your best yet.

David said that it’s easy for him to keep his running mojo going

“It’s all about the buzz and the adrenaline of an organised event, plus the achievement of completing the event and earning the bling. Running also really helps with my health and well-being. It’s an enjoyable experience that allows me to combine trip away, sometimes overseas, with my hobby.”

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