3 August 2020

Kelly Hart, Funding Manager, in her Sporting Memories t-shirt

by Kelly Hart, Funding Manager

A cold winter's morning

On a cold winter morning in January 2019, I caught the train to York for a Sporting Memories meeting. Had someone told me that by the end of the day I would have not only agreed to but also signed up for the Great North Run, I would have pulled quite a face and certainly not believed them. 

But that is what happened. The day of the race was just fantastic, and one where I made so many of my own sporting memories.  

Time to train!

I have always been sporty – watching and taking part my whole life in a range of activities. I am a keen swimmer and cyclist. I thought about ten years ago I would attempt a triathlon, but that meant I had to start running!  

Running for me was and sometimes still is quite an effort. I started off with the Couch to 5k app on the treadmill at my local gym and slowly moved to running outside. I did my first triathlon, and it is true what they say: once you do one you get the bug and before you know it you have a tri suit, a better bike and are watching the World Series for tips and techniques! 

So I had a good grounding for the 13.1 miles from Newcastle to the South Shields coast. But back in January 2019 the furthest I had run was 10k. I needed to be able to run over double that in 9 months’ time.

My training began, and despite a few injuries and illness I was soon off to the North East for the weekend, with my Sporting Memories t-shirt to run in and many family members, friends and colleagues who had sponsored me all wishing me well and cheering me on.  

I will admit I was a little nervous on the day with various thoughts running through my mind. Will I get lost on route? Will I cross that finish line? Will I be the last one to finish? But those thoughts soon disappeared as I met up with the rest of the Sporting Memories running Squad.

VIPs for a day

We were very lucky as our team captain was Steve Rider and the BBC wanted to interview him just before the race began. That meant we were all given VIP passes and jumped the queue to start the race right on the front line! It was quite surreal walking around a VIP area with top athletes like Olympic medalist Mo Farrah, Bridgid Kosgeo who had won the London Marathon that year and is now Women’s world record marathon holder, and Para-Olympian David Weir. All just warming up next to us. The best bit about the VIP area? No queues for the toilets!

The Sporting Memories Squad at the start of the Great North Run

As the time for the start of the race got closer, we got into position and did the mass warm-up to music. Everyone was excited, there was a buzz in the air and so many smiling faces from people raising money for lots of brilliant charities.  

The hooter sounded and we were off. I knew I was not going to catch or even keep up with Mo or Bridgid, so I ran my own race with the aim of enjoying and making it round the course without stopping or walking.

There were two things I had not expected during the run, the first being the hilly course as I seemed to be running up hill all the time and on a warm day; running through shower stations on those hills was a welcome relief. Second, I had not expected the number of people lining the streets to cheer you on as you ran. That was magical. People lined the whole of the route and in some places, three or four deep. If you want a peaceful run, the Great North Run is not for you. People was cheering and shouting constantly, and some people even shouted your name. I heard "come on, Kelly", "well done, Kelly" several times, which really spurred you on.

The spectators had also brought treats and were handing them out as you passed. I had several Jelly Babies and even an ice pop whilst I ran. I never got the chance to thank the thousands of people for their support – so if you are reading and you were one of those spectators, thank you so much. You made a big difference and helped me get to that finish line.  

As well as spectators, there were musicians in several places, rock groups, steel drums being played, Bhangra music with dancers and I swear I saw Elvis in the middle of an island! The atmosphere was truly incredible 

I ran over the Tyne Bridge, passed The Sage and the renowned Gateshead Stadium, and finally saw the sight all runners welcome: the sea. That meant I had just over one mile to go. The crowd got bigger and noisier as I got closer to the finish. Running over that line at the end was a big achievement for me and meant my first half-marathon was complete. I had done it and it felt amazing. 


Supporting Sporting Memories

Collectively through running the Great North Run, we had raised over £16,000 to support the ongoing work at Sporting Memories, a great achievement by the team.  

We were all set to form a Sporting Memories squad for the Great North Run 2020 but due to COVID-19 the run has been cancelled this year. But the Great Run have set up an Official Virtual Great North Run. Therefore we are looking for people to join our virtual squad of runners to run on Sunday September 13 2020 the 13.1 miles around where you live and fundraise to raise vital money for the Foundation to help us support older people and reduce their isolation during this difficult time.

Entry to the virtual race is free and you can enter the race on the Great North Run website

The best part about the Official Virtual Great North Run is that upon sign-up you will get a link to download a new innovative app that on the day you can run and listen to and hear the sounds of the route including the Red Arrows as you cross the Tyne Bridge, the Oggy Oggy Oggies in the Oggy tunnel and the loud cheers from the crowd lining the streets so you can experience some of the atmosphere I ran in last year.  

Virtual Great North Run logo.

If you would like to find out more about fundraising for Sporting Memories while running the Official Virtual Great North Run, you can get in touch with me at [email protected] or call 07592 639056 to chat about it.