In February 2000, around Mike’s 21st Birthday I decided that I wanted to do something for him, something ‘big’, something I had never attempted before. I decided to compete in the Great North Run.
Training started at the end of May, very slowly at first, which was just as well, as I had never run since leaving school – too many years before. The first mile was the best thing I had done in my life, even though the breath was coming in great rasps, but I was encouraged all the way.
As the weeks went by the training became more intense, and one or two dropped out through injury. I was running with Steven, Jane, Harriet, Domenica, Claire and Francis and was trailing quite a bit as they were nearly all younger than me, BUT I never stopped. Karen, Steven’s wife, was brilliant and also helped me to train .
The big day dawned, very frosty and very early as we had a long journey to Newcastle. I went on a minibus with Domenica, Claire, Francis and family. Allan, Ben and the rest of my family were to meet me at the finish – if I got there! I wasn’t too worried, knowing that my only intention was to complete the course, not run for a time. We were dropped off somewhere in Newcastle and had to walk to the starting line. I knew my bearings as Ben had been to Newcastle University for a while and we walked past his old haunts. I knew that Domenica had known Mike at school, but hadn’t realised until we were about at the start line that she had been in Mike’s Ladies’ Basketball Team. I must admit to being a bit emotional when she told me, and was glad I had taped his photo to my wrist. He was with me all the way.
The scene ahead was breathtaking, so many people, such a long way back from the starting line. Above us was an enormous screen and the tanoy kept us informed. The warm-up began! It was great, I started chatting to a gentleman who said he used to do this run with a full army pack on, now he was just a Careers Officer. Behind us were four ladies dressed as fairies, not far away we could see a ‘bush’ (they were also in the London Marathon). The atmosphere was fantastic. Then we were off.
We hadn’t been going long when we heard very loud shouting, we were approaching an underpass, and on entering it everyone was shouting ‘Oggy, Oggy, Oggy’. Round the corner the jazz band was playing, all along the route people were shouting and clapping for you. It was great! We had covered about eight miles before we even realised. The whole atmosphere keeps you going.
Running uphill, not far into the race, someone put his arms around me and said ‘Hello my love, how are you doing’.. Claire was astounded, she said “Marje, all these thousands of people and you KNOW someone! It was Andrew, a friend from Kirkbymoorside, and such a nice ‘young man’ . Running towards a roundabout Steven overtook us, he was amazed to see where we were but didn’t stop to chat – I wonder why!. Further on and the crowds still clapped, shouted and encouraged. The sun was shining, the weather was perfect, but the hills were getting harder. My poor old knees began to hurt and I stopped for a bandage. Little did I realise that you couldn’t just pop a bandage on, you had to go into the First Aid tent and have it done properly. The trouble is that you get cool and stiffen after that. Still we carried on.
As we went round the roundabout into South Shields, only a short way to go, the spirits began to rise. I have to say though, that was the hardest bit for me, the long, long, uphill struggle was so painful, the knees (both of them now) just would not bend properly. Then, the top of the hill, and down onto the sea front. A lot of runners were saying, ‘Oh, this is the longest mile ever’. I had seen the flags ahead though and had something to aim for. I gritted my teeth, (it’s a wonder I have any left) and we carried on. Domenica was brilliant, she stayed with me all the time – what a star! I was looking for Allan, Ben, Sallie, Bren and Paul and they just weren’t there. Then – I saw the CRY tee-shirts they were wearing, Allan looked round with a smile on his face and realised we were there, Ben was grinning at me and I just wanted to cry and stop there and then, but we were almost there. In no time we were running through the tape, collecting our medals and it was all over. Never again! (I raised a total of £1380.50).
Six months on I am in training again to compete in The Great North Run 2001. I have got my place already. Not bad for a 50 year old! Losing someone as special as Mike is so very hard, it wrecks your life forever, but it can make you stronger. You just have to have a goal to aim for, and keep going, no matter what. I do know that Mike is with me and helps me when I need it. I could never do anything like this without his silent support. When the going gets tough, I say ‘come on Mike, help me’ and he does.