Sunday, 17 June 2007

a lesson in tribes

If you ever meet someone from Sunderland, don't call them a Geordie. At best they won't really care, but at worst they will see it as a mortal insult. There's quite a rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland.

People from Sunderland are usually known as Mackems. This is quite a recent term, but has gained the status of something older. The distinction comes from the difference between the pronunciation of the work 'make' in the two dialects. In Geordie, it's [meːk]; in Mackem it's [mak]. Those in Sunderland, referring to the ships that used to be built here, used to 'mack 'em and tack 'em down to the river'.

All this is important because today, I've been in Sunderland for the Great Women's Run. It's a 10k race in aid of Cancer Research that has the distinction of being the first 10k race I ever did, this time last year. It has a stretch that runs along the beach on compact sand, and the route takes you out to sea and back down Roker Pier (incidentally, what is it with 10ks in the north east and lighthouses - the North Tyneside one finished at St Mary's lighthouse).

In short, I loved it last year, and I loved it this year.

Last year, I came in a hair's breadth under 1hr 18. The North Tyneside one in April, I knocked 5.5 minutes off that. Today, I knocked 3.5m off that. 3.5 minutes off your PB in a mere 9 weeks is, I feel, pretty impressive.

A km breakdown is below.
Start line: I cross the line with a minute 17 on the clock, but it's a chip timed race so that's OK.
1k: I completely missed the 1k marker. Too many people walking and getting in my way. Also, how on earth did I forget about the slope from the start line? Completely threw me. Just after 1k, I think, a girl I know from the running club catches me up and we run together for the next 4k.
2k: Relief that I really did miss the 1k marker and that this isn't going to be the most ridiculously long race in the world. We're running back along the sea road.
3k: We seem to arrive there incredibly quickly and I joke 'we're almost halfway!'
We're running on the path next to the beach. Only barely longer than a 5k left to run. We ran along the beach for 354m. The sand is compact and lovely to run on.
5k: As we go past the 5k mark we're handed bottles of water. I've been drinking a sports drink that I made up myself, but I take a bottle and gulp it down, splashing a little on my face to cool me down. The girl I've been running with needs to drop back as we start running onto Roker Pier, so I carry on alone.
6k: The 6k marker is just after we turn round on the pier. It was soaking wet and slippery last year, so it being dry is quite a relief. Channel 5 cameras and photographers are out there taking photos. I smile and wave hopefully. (Highlights on channel 5 just after midnight Wednesday morning - see if you can spot me!!!)
7k: showers. Relief. Cools me down. Flat at first, but then a nasty, nasty slope. I give up and walk for the first time since I get caught up in the hoardes of walkers at the start. Then downwards to...
8k: into Roker Park. There's a band playing, and another killer slope. I walk up it, again. One of the marshalls is telling the runners that the 9k marker is just around the corner, that from there it's 3/4 of a mile. I can do that.
9k: out of Roker Park and back onto the sea road. Just one last hill to crest and then it's all downhill to the finish line. 400m to go... I start to run that little bit faster. By the 200m to go marker I'm nearly flat out. I can see the clock. It's ticking towards 1hr 10m, but it isn't there yet. I put everything I've got into it and run as fast as I can. It's a little over 1hr 10m as I cross the line.
10k: Relief. I did it, and in a new PB. I get my goodie bag, put on my new t shirt and eat some chips before heading for the metro.

I am exhausted. I'll sleep well tonight.

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