Great North Run 2011 – our review of the big day
It’s not just about fundraising. For our supporters, the Great North Run is also a social occasion. The Welcome Tent becomes filled to overflowing and the crowd spills out onto the grass. It becomes quite a scrum – a time to relax and enjoy some nosh, a chance to chat and swap stories now the big physical effort and the tension are over.
It was another bumper year – more runners for the MND cause than ever before. It was a year of records on the road too. Last year our two first finishers both clocked 1 hour 27 mins 26 secs. This year, four of our runners produced faster times than that. They were: Joe McKevitt, Philip Bell, Mark Havenhand and James Howitt.
Keith Hall also a winner. In the official GNR results he was placed first in his age-category (70-74) with a remarkable time of 1 hour 45 minutes. (He beat the next guy in that category by a single second.)
Our oldest runner is Arthur Hindmarch, aged 75 or more. He completed the Run in 2 hours 30 mins. Our oldest lady was Elda Scott, running in the 70-74 age-group. Her time was 3 hours 13 minutes.
A record of another kind – our first barefoot runner. Hugo Minney ran naked from the knees down:
Cue for jokes about showing a clean pair of heels…
Some of our extroverts went to the other extreme, donning outfits designed to catch the public eye. Yes, our exuberant fancy dress fanciers were on show on force. Gaudy skirts (and sometimes wings too) were in evidence:
Once again the Thompson brothers, Craig and Andy, did the Run the hard way. This time they wore gorilla suits – just the thing for running 13 miles in on a hot day:
But this year’s fancy dress prize has to go to Shaun Mulligan:
Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the rest of our runners were quietly completing their Run. Some were (as far as we could see) solo runners, independent of team-mates or support groups:
though some bring the kids along to share in the atmosphere and sense of occasion:
Other were in pairs – whether husband & wife, partners, siblings, workmates or just pals:
Rachael & Sam Wyatt are brother and sister. This is their 3rd GNR:
Two larger groups centred around wheelchair riders, both of them young men struck by MND while in the prime of their lives: Adam Peacock and Chris O’Flaherty:
Adam was a keen footballer who trained as a schoolboy at Sunderland AFC’s School of Excellence. He was diagnosed with MND 2 years ago at the age of 30. A team of 5 friends pushed his chair but he insisted in walking the last 5 minutes.
Chris was also a fit and active young man with a wide circle of friends. His chair was pushed by Simon Peck and his Justgiving page has already raised over £1,300 for the MND cause.
Family groups were prominent – the Cassons, the Mallaburns, the Ortons, the Pratts and the Rendells, amongst others.
The Cassons are an all-female team, running in honour of Nigel Casson, who has MND.
The Mallaburns comprise sisters, brothers, sister-in-law and cousin, running in honour of Celia Mallaburn, who has MND.
The Orton Team is of 3 brothers and their father, running in memory of a well-loved aunt, Christine Tovey.
The Pratt Team includes 2 brothers, their father and a close family friend, running in memory of the brothers’ grandad.
The Rendell Team consists of family members, running in memory of Donna Rendell’s mum who died of MND in 2010.
All afternoon, Trudi and her team from National Office and our own volunteer roving reporters are circulating, talking with our runners and listening. We hear amazing stories of how people cope with MND. We hear of grief, tears, distress, acceptance, resiliance, determination – of heroism and sheer doggedness in the face of a relentless enemy. We hear, for example, of children of 13 and 14 in one household who are caring for their MND-stricken father.
Yet despite the tragedies that cause us to be here, the afternoon is a joyous occasion . Everyone here has done something positive to help in the fight against MND. There is a shared commitment and spirit. There is a feeling that some day, with our help, a cure will be found. Meantime there is work to be done and life to be lived and enjoyed as happily as we may.
The mood is captured by the words that Fred Astaire sang and danced to in the depths of the Great Depression:
There may be trouble ahead,
There may be teardrops to shed,
But while there’s music and moonlight,
And love and romance,
Let’s face the music – and dance!
Review by AR