Run for your life

Last weekend was The Great North Run, a massive half-marathon that runs through Newcastle. Two coworkers and I signed up for it last May in a fit of insanity and it had been looming over us like a heavy thundercloud for months. Still, I felt pretty confident leading up to it and was looking forward to the pancakes I’d been promised once I’d finished. (Food is often a great motivator for me when it comes to exercise.) And anyway, Sex and the Single Girl swears that sporting events are a great place to meet men. I had a vague vision of chatting merrily away to some fit man as I breezed through the home straight, ponytail perfectly in place, face glowing attractively from the exertion.

We arrived at the start of the race to find a massive swarm of people wandering around wearing bin bags for warmth and standing in endless queues for the port-a-loos. We were huddled into our respective pens (dependent on our estimated finishing time) and forced to go through a slightly hurried warm up by an enthusiastic man on a jumbotron.

This was the highlight.

Now, I understand the rationale behind Helen advising her readers to join group sporting events in order to find eligible bachelors. We were literally in a sea of fit and attractive men. Unfortunately, we then had to run 13.1 miles. I think you’ll find that this is not the most opportune moment to try out your best pick-up line.

In fact, I spent much of the race despising my fellow man. It turns out that, for me, running alongside 54,000 other people is not the joyous, uplifting experience it is purported to be. Instead, I just wanted to mow down all the people who were in my way so that I could get the bloody thing over and done with. No one had thought to warn me that the Great North Run consists almost entirely of long steady climes up a motorway through various industrial estates. I’m sure I’d seen lots of lovely pictures of runners gliding through picturesque cityscapes but this was not true to my experience (though it’s entirely possible that I blacked out during all the scenic bits).

The low point came at the misleadingly-named “boost point” where lovely spectators handed out gummies and ice pops and (oddly) wads of Vaseline (which my poor colleague mistook for food and was unpleasantly surprised when she discovered she’d been handed a large gob of petroleum jelly. Not knowing what to do with it and loathe to stop, she just wiped it in her hair. She spent the rest of the day looking oddly sleek and glossy.) As we ran through the boost point, man on a megaphone shouted “Come on guys! Almost there! You’re at ten miles! Three to go!”

“Okay,” I thought. “I can fucking do this. Soon I will be out of this ninth circle of hell and eating some goddamn pancakes.”

Five minutes on from the boost point, we passed the ACTUAL ten mile mark. I cannot express to you the feeling of utter dismay this caused.

When I crossed the finish line, it was not whilst holding the hand of an attractive fellow runner and grinning triumphantly. I was a salt-covered shell of my former self who was cursing my bloody ipod shuffle, which had kindly decided to crap out on me during the final mile. How I got through that shit without Jay-Z, I will never know.

The race rage passed (although gallingly I didn’t get my pancakes) but I still think Helen got it slightly wrong here. Sure, there were a bevy of men there for the snaring, but I was too busy concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other to notice. Which is probably how much of life should be, really.

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