An excellent report from Brian Hegarty …
As a first time participant in the Blaydon Race I was anxious to discover what all the fuss was about. The rush to enter had begun with the online application process some months ago, which I would have missed were it not for a reminder one club night, when I was informed that the race would be full and all places allocated within about 12 hours of entries opening. All I had previously known about the race was that it caused traffic disruption and, in order to remain faithful to the famous Geordie Ridley song, was always run on the 9th of June.
I made my way to the start in glorious sunshine to see the area around the Bigg Market swarming with both runners and spectators and a carnival atmosphere very much in evidence. By this stage the hardcore were vying for position at the starting tape. Our own Roberto looked not at all out of place amidst the elite as they bobbed and stretched as part of their final preparations.
At 7.15pm, with the sound of the original bell mentioned in the song ringing in our ears, away we went along Collingwood Street on our way to Blaydon. The field remained fairly compact as we made our way through the city centre. It was not until we were gannin along the Scotswood Road that runners settled into the race, with fewer smiling faces in evidence the further we got. We crossed the Tyne via the Scotswood Bridge, leading to a descent (love the downhill sections) on the Gateshead side. Next was a section of road where we ran back towards Gateshead as those ahead of us in the race ran on the other side of the road in the opposite direction towards Blaydon and the finish. In my limited experience I have always found such arrangements dispiriting. As I pass those in their 70’s gliding imperiously toward the finish I find myself wondering just how far it can be until the turning point as I lumber on, panting like an asthmatic pit pony. However, this time it was different! No sooner had I entered this section when I heard my name shouted in encouragement by one of my more able clubmates. And so it was for all club members, who would scan the throng of runners to shout encouragement at those wearing the same club colours.
Having checked the distance and heard the discussions of various previous participants, my target was to complete the race in under 40 minutes. I pushed on for the last mile or so following the turn and gave it all I had left in the final few hundred yards or so, thinking I was close, but too far behind to make it. I was delighted to discover that I had, my watch showing 39.59 as I recovered my composure in the finishing area (Editor’s note: Brian’s timing chip gave hime 39:52, so easily inside 40 mins).
I genuinely enjoyed this race. Prior to joining Claremont I thought running clubs were the exclusive preserve of elite athletes training hard for personal gain. How wrong I was. Claremont and the Blaydon race are inclusive and events such as this are for all, regardless of age or ability. It may only be a genuine race for perhaps a few dozen or so but it is an enjoyable community event for many thousands of runners and spectators alike and it is an event the region can be proud of.
Confirmation that this was my kind of race came upon opening the finishers bag of goodies. I gazed in wonder at a ham sandwich, a packet of crisps and a bottle of beer! Much, much better than a sachet of energy gel and a shiny silver blanket.