By Jeremy Smith
I hadn’t realised the Pier to Pier race was taking place until Saturday evening when one of my wife’s friends from Heaton Harriers rang to say that she was running and would we like to join her. This was the first time that I had run the race – which starts at South Shields pier and finishes at Roker pier – and it reminds me of the Coastal Run, albeit that it is only half the length, and, unlike the Coastal Run last year, we didn’t have to spend the whole race fighting against the wind!
I started the race with Matthew Kingston and Paul Robinson – there were about 800 runners, and a small group of 100, including Matthew, Paul and me, decided that we would start nearer the sea where the sand appeared to be firmer than further inland. We ran along the beach and then up onto the cliffs where we have our first decision – either to run along the cliff path or to run further inland. Matthew decided that he fancied running through the shin-high grass while I decided that I preferred the cliff path – I’m not sure that it made too much difference although, by the time Matthew and I were running again along the same path, he was about 30m ahead of me.
We then ran past the finish of the Great North run and along to Souter Lighthouse where we had our first (and only) drinks station – I failed to notice until it was too late so, unfortunately, I had to do without! We then continued along the coastal path, cutting a number of corners, and passing through Whitburn until we eventually reached the beach at Roker where we were greeted by a good crowd. Matthew continued to maintain a 50m gap from me and he finished in an impressive 43rd position with a time of 44:35. I finished 16 seconds, and four places, behind Matthew. The race is billed as being 7.6 miles – that might have been the case if you were to keep to the coastal path, but since this wasn’t necessary (the only rule was that you weren’t permitted to run along the road), it was closer to 6.8 miles.
We were very lucky with the weather – warm and sunny – not least because, as we drove home after the race, the skies darkened and it rained for most of the rest of the day.