Quigleys do the GNR

Great story below from the Quigleys who did the GNR in support of Breast Cancer this year.  Paul, Mary and their son Mathew are all member of Ponteland Runners and the club is proud to see this support for a great cause. The race report below is written by Matthew doing his first GNR…..

“I wasn’t exactly what you would called ‘enthusiastic’ when my parents suggested doing the Great North Run with them. I mean, come on – a half marathon? I could barely run for 5 kilometres without getting out of breath! But there was something in the back of my mind, a nagging feeling that I might as well try and see how it goes.

First run – 5km, as expected, completely exhausted by the end and wondering how on earth anyone could even do this voluntarily?! The difficulty that comes with properly running for the first time was really apparent, and I was unsure whether it was worth continuing if I was barely finishing such short distances. The half marathon looked like nothing but a hopeless, unattainable dream at this point… But despite that, running with my Mum and Dad was actually quite a nice, enjoyable experience, and so I thought maybe, just maybe, I’ll do another one.

Fast forward a few months, and I was constantly surpassing my own expectations for what I thought I could do. First 5, then 8, then 12. I was actually managing 12k runs consistently and without being totally drained! It was definitely thanks to Mum  and Dad that I was still going, as their endless support helped me push through in the moments I was struggling to get to grips with the increased distances. Having got this far alone with their help felt like a tremendous achievement alone, but I was still only halfway there on my journey to complete the Great North Run!

The next level of our training schedule was, for me, a new type of hurdle – the Long Runs (just hearing those two words filled me with dread). Though I had become comfortable with the shorter runs, these new 16km and 18km routes were not only more physically taxing than ever before, but also quite mentally draining as it required a large amount of motivation to keep going for at least an hour and a half! I recall my first 16km run being a pretty fiendish one along the river Tyne, forcing me to stop after around 13km, much to my disappointment. However, I was determined to press on and finish it, and somehow I managed to pick myself up and make it all the way to the end. After that, every run I did became just a little bit easier than the last – for the first time, I thought I could really do the half marathon!

In what felt like the blink of an eye, the day itself arrived. The distance from where we parked the car and where the race started was pretty long, and I could feel a bit of tension bubbling up inside me. The number of runners seemed incredibly vast when seeing it in person for the first time, a huge swathe of people reaching farther than I could see! It was 10:30 by now, the race was beginning for us soon. After a few minutes of stretches, my anticipation had boiled over and I was raring to go. Only five minutes left… two minutes… we moved up to the starting line, and I took a moment to take everything in.


My 21.1km trial had begun, and what a phenomenal atmosphere there was! The bystanders were cheering, and everywhere I looked I could see fascinating displays of support. Before I knew it, we were already a mile in and were approaching the bridge. Our pace was a bit fast, averaging about 5:15 min/Km, but I figured it would be good to bank a few faster kilometres for the tougher stretches later on! As we passed under the bridge, I heard a booming voice right in my ear, shouting “OGGI OGGI OGGI”, to which the hundreds of runners around us chanted back “OI OI OI!”. I did a half-glance to my right to have a look at who had started it, and honestly did a bit of a double take when I saw MY DAD yelling at the top of his voice. I’ll admit, I was pretty impressed!

Soon we were crossing the Tyne Bridge, and I started to settle into my comfortable running pace. Just ahead of me was Mum, who was leading us as we ducked and weaved our way past a number of people (in retrospect, we probably should have started in a slightly higher band!).

From there, we were managing pretty well and averaging under our target pace of 5:30 min/Km. Unfortunately, we seemed to have lost Dad somewhere behind us! A martyr to our cause I suppose, haha! The numerous water stations along the way were tremendously helpful, as I had made the fatal mistake of wearing two layers on a day that was bright and sunny! Needless to say, I was swelteringly hot and needed as much water as I could get. The water spraying stations along the way were godsends as well! Approaching the halfway point, Mum and I put on a burst of renewed energy and checked the time. 58 minutes, a fantastic time for us! If we could keep up the pace, we might be able to make it in sub 2 hours!

The motivation from making it to the halfway point was easily enough to keep me going for the next few kilometres, but I was starting to feel the fatigue kicking in. I was doing my best to keep up with Mum, but the sheer number of people made manoeuvring my way around to stay behind her rather tricky! My legs were heavier than ever at this point, around 16km, but hearing the sound of people cheering my name occasionally was such a great feeling that I was pushing on anyway!

Not for too long though, unfortunately. At the 18km mark, I had just about reached my limit and had to stop and catch my breath for the first time. It was at that point that I knew the last 3km were going to be reeeeally tough, but I couldn’t quit just yet! With a bit of mental effort, I started to run again, although at a bit of a slower pace than before.

Sure enough, the next 2km were TORTUROUS but somehow I managed them with the help of my iPod shuffle. I put on a burst of speed down the hill that led to the final straight, and what a feeling that was! When I reached the bottom, the end of the run was – to my delight and relief – in sight, and it instilled enough motivation in me that I was able to match my old pace as the finish line drew nearer and nearer. Then came the signs to signal the shortening distances which I thought would never end, just 800m, then 400m, finally the last 200m and by now I was panting, aching, going as fast as I possibly could and… I finished!!

All the months of long runs and hard work finally paid off as I triumphantly crossed the line, so glad that I was able to complete it. With a (not too shabby, I hope!) time of 2 hours and 2 minutes, I half-sat, half-collapsed onto the grass and just savoured the moment. With the help of my family and the fantastic supporters during the run, I managed to do what I definitely would consider one of the biggest achievements of my life, and I couldn’t be happier.”