The fact that it’s the world’s LARGEST half marathon means that Great North Run isn't one you just rock up to without giving it much thought. Nope, it requires a little more planning and forward-thinking than a lot of the smaller races due to the sheer bloody scale of it, but honestly, it’s totally worth it because it’s the best race out there with so much positive energy. And if that’s not enough, there are red arrows too, and it’s on TV! Ed and I ran it for the first time last weekend and were not as organised as we should have been. With that in mind, I thought I’d go ahead and share some tips that you can bookmark for next season (and/ or take in to account for other races) so to make it as hassle free as it can be outside from the 21km slog…
Remember, this is the world’s largest half marathon, and it’s not all locals hitting the pavements so hotels are at a mad premium. 1 night at the Sandman Signature Hotel cost us £179, which still makes me sweat… Obviously, hotels aren’t stupid and they’re always going to up their rates, but I’d suggest making sure you sort your hotel as early as possible (extra clever people will book provisionally on Booking.com pre-confirmation then cancel if you don’t make the ballot), sort an Airbnb, or make a friend who’s couch you can sleep on. That said, if you are going to stay at a hotel, I can’t recommend the Signature Sandman enough – breakfast was included (hello porridge), the room was perfectly good, there’s parking available (and free street parking), and it’s really well located in walking distance of town/ the start line.
We don’t all live in Newcastle so remember to factor in how you’re gonna get there. Trains from London are expensiveeeeeee and it’s a long ol’ drive. That said, if you drive, you do get to stop at Angel of the North (which I just love!) and it gives you more flexibility too. Only thing is, driving back a long distance on Sunday evening after the race is a struggle to maybe plan to stay two nights?
Where to carb load the night before
Save checking out the best of Newcastle’s food scene for another night, pre–race night, it’s all about the pasta, right? And the simpler the better I think. Judging by the fact there were 45 minute waits at both Zizzi’s and Pizza Express, everyone else seems to think the same, so do good and book a table. I know, I know, Pizza Express is nothing special, but it’s fuss-free, cheap, and generous portions of carby pasta and that’s what you’re looking for.
Start and finish line situ
Okay, this is a biggie. Unlike a lot of races, Great North Run isn’t a looped route: you start at the city centre and run to South Shields, so you finish 13.1 miles away from where you started/ probably want to be. Course, your bags are transported for you and there’s the whole ‘village’ with food and drink at the end, but there’s a damn long queue for the shuttle buses back in to town. If you’re getting the bus, remember cash. It’s about £3.50 per person and with that many people, you’re gonna piss the driver right off if you hand over a £20 note. Also remember there’s gonna be a LOT of traffic so factor that in to your timings… The BEST thing to do I think (if you’ve driven/ got access to a car) is to park at the finish line and get the bus back to town to the start line so that when you’ve finished you can easily nip away.
Great North Run doesn’t start until 10:40am. Hello lie in! No, you obviously have to be there earlier, obvs, but it definitely feels a bit more leisurely than some race mornings!
Over 57,000 runners needing last minute wees? That’s a lot of long portaloo queues. Add to that those who didn’t poop before they left the house (sorry to lower the tone, but let’s be real) and you’re talking at least a 30 minute wait, so leave time, queue early, don’t drink too much water, and squeeze as much out before you leave the hotel #justsaying.
The baggage system is very efficient. You load ‘em on to double decker buses corresponding to your colour at the start line and they’re waiting for you at the finish. Easy.