This is my story of how the Great North Run changed my life. Not just getting me fit and changing my mind set, but actually contributing to my current employment choice and enabling me to inspire others. I’ve come a long way, and not just the 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields!
I moved to Newcastle as a student in 2000. From 2001 onwards I turned up to watch the thousands of people every September spend a special Sunday morning running 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields. Until 2010 that’s all I did about the Great North Run - sponsor friends, turn up, watch, cheer and admire the spirit of people of all shapes and sizes, and backgrounds taking on this challenge each with their own reasons. Admiring those adding to the challenge by wearing fancy dress, carrying heavy loads (including Tony who carries the fridge!), pushing wheel chairs, shaking buckets en-route even running backwards in a horse costume!
Every year I came away feeling inspired, yet thinking I could never do that; Then in a moment of ‘madness’ in 2011 I entered the ballot for the race. I wouldn’t get through would I?, thousands of people don’t get through each year. Besides I couldn’t run for a bus, I was the last over the finish line in PE, and over the years I had eaten more than one too many pies.
In February 2011 I noticed the entry fee had gone out of my bank account, checked my emails, and sure enough I had a place….. I had a place! My thoughts turned from absolute elation to complete panic…. ‘I’ve got a place, can I do it?, how am I going to do it? I can’t even run!’ . By lunch time that day I’d been fitted for my first pair of running shoes, downloaded an ‘app’ to my phone based on couch to 5k (very apt given the couch being a much bigger part of my life then 5k, let alone 13 miles!) and planned my first run for the weekend.
I trained, jogging, running, walking, aching, getting outside through the spring and the summer, sun and rain. My friends, partner and colleagues encouraged me, whilst my mother worried for me! In-between times my job contract came to an end. For the first time since I was 14 years old I had no job, I’d always maintained part time employment since school and gone straight into full time work post uni. I could have fallen apart, but I didn’t have time! I had also learned something new about myself and inner strength. I needed to get out running, I couldn’t let everyone down now. I continued running 3 times a week. My confidence grew. If I could conquer running, something I found so hard, I could definitely find a new job!
I had the confidence to secure some short term freelance work, and a couple of months later secured a job working for a Sport for development focussed charity Sported! Seven months later I found myself at the starting line ready to take on the biggest physical challenge of my life. Now weighing in a stone lighter, looking and feeling healthier, in my own fancy dress costume! I crossed the line 2hrs and 36 minutes later, elated, surprised and proud!
3 years on, and I’ve continued running, and am about to embark on my 3rd Great North Run (running in 2011, 2013, and 2014 – I was unsuccessful in gaining a place in 2012). In between times I’ve completed other races and even a triathlon!
I’ve also raised over £1,000 for good causes through event sponsorship. Since 2011 I have been working for Sported, supporting groups using sport to change the lives of young people. The Great North Run taught me the power of sport, and now my job enables me to take that forward by supporting those helping young people through sport in our North East communities.
The Great North Run truly changed my life, work and my perspective, and through this I’ve inspired others to take on the GNR challenge as well as the everyday challenges of life. Maybe I will be the millionth over the line…maybe not, but I am proud to have been part of the line up!