And so it has come to this. The 2013 Great North Run is almost upon us. My husband Andy and I have been running and fundraising for Tommy’s all year in preparation for a couple of hours’ effort on September 15th – the day before our son Joseph’s third birthday. I think I’m ready, but as this is my first half marathon attempt I am somewhat heading into the unknown. It’s undoubtedly exciting and thoroughly nerve-wracking at the same time.
Fortunately for me, Andy has done all this before. He was down on the start line with 50,000 others for the event in 2011, and I watched as a spectator when he approached the Tyne Bridge and the Red Arrows made a spectacular flypast overhead. I was momentarily distracted by the sight of a man ‘running’ with a fridge strapped to his back – who I have since learned is an incredible endurance runner from Hebburn called ‘Tony the Fridge’, a prolific fundraiser for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. He is currently in the middle of an epic 1000 mile journey from John O’Groat’s to Lands End with his customary kitchen appliance and I urge you to give him a follow to show your support for this odd but amazing feat.
Turning back to the runners not wearing white goods, I was so excited to catch sight of my husband within the throng of competitors, still bursting with energy as they waved at the gathered onlookers. This was supposed to happen in 2010, but instead of cheering him on whilst heavily pregnant as was the plan, I was laid up in hospital with three-day-old Joe and high blood pressure, having been induced three weeks early due to pre-eclampsia. Andy had not slept properly in a week so it wasn’t really the best time for him to be dragging himself through South Tyneside for 13 miles – fortunately he was able to defer his place to the following year.
He arrived at the finish in South Shields, soaked to the skin thanks to a poorly timed torrential downpour and vowed never to do it again and I thought how much it contrasted with the excited faces that had passed me at the Tyne Bridge, a little over a mile into the race. Not all of those naïve-looking faces would have been competing for the first time – evidently they had blocked out the memory of the blisters, the strained muscles, the aching joints, and only recalled the euphoric relief of crossing the finish line and being congratulated by friends and family at the end. The sense of achievement makes it all worth it – once you have got your breath back – and now here Andy is, ready to go through it all again.
This must be something akin to the feelings of you second-time mums as you made that decision to experience the repressed agony of the delivery room all over again – and the fact that I would really have no qualms about adding to our family myself assures me that I am not imagining it. Even though at the time childbirth is unquestionably the worst pain you can ever go through, you still somehow in the future look back with rose-tinted glasses, unless you have had a truly horrendous experience, and think ‘Yes, I could do that again – it wasn’t all that bad’.
Because of this ability to look back on contractions, the unavoidable indignity and the wonder that is tea and toast with fond nostalgia rather than horrified recollection, I think mums make the perfect runners. In theory. If you can overcome the lack of sleep, just wanting to sit down and watch TV for thirty uninterrupted minutes, and the fact that you just can’t be bothered, you can get your trainers on, be out the front door and just go. You can get some time to yourself, clear your head and perhaps most importantly to some, shed those baby pounds which have clung on to you so reluctantly. And who knows, if you really push it and start to challenge yourself a bit more, even if it gets hard, you might actually enjoy it. After all, you’ve been through worse.