I ran the Pier to Pier last year for the first time and really enjoyed it (even though it was only three weeks after the London marathon and my legs were still tired). This year’s race took place four weeks after the London marathon so it allowed me an extra week to recover.
As the name suggests, the race takes place between two piers – South Shields and Roker – and, like the Coastal run (or the Phoenix 14 as it was previously known), there is no fixed route although most runners tend to follow the same route. The race starts close to the permanent funfair at South Shields with the first mile taking place along the beach (mostly firm although soft, and less easy to run, in places), before the (slight) climb towards Gipsy Green (which will be familiar to those who have run the Great North Run as that’s the meeting place at the end of the race). It is here that runners have a choice – stay left and follow the coastal path or run inland. I was following Paul Robinson at this stage and, as he went inland, I took the coastal path. The paths joined about half a mile later as Paul maintained his lead over me.
We then ran past Marsden Rocks and onward towards Souter Lighthouse and the first (and only) drinks station. Just before the lighthouse, Paul slipped, but managed to regain his balance, and maintain his position ahead of me, although, after the lighthouse, not having fully recovered from his slip, he dropped behind me.
Shortly after Souter Lighthouse, we again had a choice – follow the coastal path or go further inland. We all took the route of the coastal path with the exception of one runner who I never saw again – there was quite a distance between the two routes and no obvious access back to the coastal path!
We had had the benefit of a tailwind for the first half of the race, and, although a linear route, the wind turned around 180 degrees and became a headwind as we followed the coastal path towards Roker, along the promenade, past various tempting ice cream and coffee kiosks (and an Italian restaurant) until we reached a headland (which I had mistakenly, maybe optimistically, thought was the end), before descending to the beach and a 600m sprint to the finish.
I was pleased with my finish – 48th this year, one place lower than last year, albeit nearly a minute slower. Paul appeared to have recovered well from his slip and followed me to the finish shortly afterwards.
One of the highlights of the Pier to Pier is the goody bag at the end – not a pack of pasta or Dolmio sauce or another T-shirt to add to the collection – but something useful. When my wife ran the Pier to Pier two years ago she was given a ruck sack – very useful, and we take it to most races, although it might have been more sensible to have used a different bag for the Pier to Pier as we had to find our bag amongst 30 or so identical bags on the baggage bus!. Last year, we were given a drinks/gel belt and drinks bottle, and this year, a shoe bag, snood and socks, as well as a bag of crisps and a mars bar!
All in all a great run and like most races in the North east well marshalled. Many thanks to Paul and Heather too for giving me a lift to South Shields to pick up my car – I had started to run back, but it was tougher than I expected and I very much welcomed the lift.