Someone who wishes to remain anonymous supplies the next in our series of Great North Run memories, some of which aren’t always happy ones.
Always wanted to run the GNR but couldn’t afford it. One year I went along to see off a friend, leaving them at the start as I walked a few hundred yards down the road to get a good view. I heard the starters gun go-off and watched the elite runners run past. Then the number of passing runners grew larger and larger. I saw my friend approaching, waving and shouting at me, and suddenly I found myself climbing the barrier and running alongside them. At first, the feeling was of great excitement. The screams and shouts from the crowd were thunderous and everyone was in high spirits. But it hit me that the crowd weren’t cheering for me, they were shouting at the real runners, the people who had paid to run. I was a cheat.
I ran most of the way, pulling out near the end and mingling with the crowd. Meeting my friend after, we talked about the race and how we both felt. They were euphoric for finishing the race, and in quite a decent time too. I felt absolutely terrible. I’d run almost the full distance but it seemed I hadn’t took part at all. No shirt, no medal, not even a bottle of water. I swore never to anything similar again.
A few years later I did manage to enter the race (officially) and had the best time ever.