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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Dimmock

Northern Great North Run pilgrimage

After last year's 'Great North Run Solo' where I ran around the half marathon distance on my own, thank God this year it was semi back to normal, albeit in 'waves' and on a different route.

So our annual Northern pilgrimage began on Saturday 11th September, taking a taxi to Heathrow Terminal 5 with my big silver case, car seat, the Yoyo buggy and a day pack. From getting out of the taxi, I was quite easily able to load a trolley up with the silver case and car seat, and push Tiger along in the buggy at the same time. At the airport we were guided to the Family Check In area in Zone E at Terminal 5. They were just excellent, gave me a paper ticket which was really helpful as you just don't want to be faffing around with your eticket on your phone when you have a toddler. Once the suitcase and car seat were checked in, we were able to move to security where we were ushered to a separate line and Tiger had to have her photograph taken (as did I) as we entered security - this was then matched just prior to boarding.

Security was also fairly swift with the baby milk going into a separate tray, and Tiger coming out of the buggy to go through the scanner. The staff there were really sweet and used to little kids coming through. Tiger seemed to take it all in her stride but didn't want to get back in the buggy after we had gone through so after security she walked and I popped my little backpack in the buggy itself.

Finally, we took our seats for the 1h10 minute BA flight leaving around 08.30. Tiger is now 2 years and 8 months old, so she has to have her own seat but is also (fairly) well behaved and can follow simple instructions e.g. 'You have to wear your seat belt. Look, everyone are wearing their seat belts. When the light is on you have to wear your seatbelt!'.

I daren't count up how many flights Tiger has had in her short life so far but this was really the first one where she seemed to really understand that she was going to go up in the sky like a bird! We watched all the aeroplanes in front of us take off, before we pulled up and it was our turn. Tiger really made me smile as she was saying "ready, steady, ready, steady, ready, steady go! Mummy we are going up!". Looking at the clouds and the world below us was quite fascinating for some time, and the snacks and water were quickly consumed.

Landing ("Don't hit the houses, be careful of the bump!") into Newcastle was uneventful but then lots of bags didn't arrive on the carousel. Our suitcase had arrived, but the car seat did not. So we spent quite some time hanging around to resolve the situation. I had booked a hire car without a car seat, so all we did was pay additionally for a car seat and then I had to claim the £26 back from BA when we got back.

I had booked a car via Holiday Autos, getting £5 Quidco cashback, for £93.88 with Green Motion. The actual office is off the airport so we had to wait for a guy to come with a shuttle but for the price you couldn't complain. We were given a funky little (new!) Fiat 500 which was a hybrid car so I hardly put any fuel into it (around £10) over the 3 days we had it.

First off, we drove the 25 miles to Durham, parking in the Walkergate car park for £3 which is very centrally located and just perfect for buggies with lifts to practically everywhere you would like to go! We had a cheap dinner in the Bishops' Mill (Wetherspoons). No frills of course but the children's menu is just perfect for Tiger. We had a little walk around Durham, getting groceries from Tesco, and went up to the Cathedral. I had looked online before we left, as I really love going climbing the tower. You now have to book tickets and specific slots for this at £5 per adult and £2.50 per child (aged 8-17). I think you could take a baby up with you if they were on your back but I was really unsure if they would allow Tiger to walk up the 325 steps (we do know she could do it though!) so I didn't book a ticket on this occasion.

Leaving Durham behind for perhaps another year, we drove the 2 miles out to a village called Meadowfield where we had booked a superb little Airbnb called 'The Durham Pad' for £134.49 for 2 nights. It was simply perfect for our needs with two bedrooms, one with bunk beds for Tiger (although she slept in a travel cot they provided upon request), great kitchen and lounge with Netflix. What more could you ask for? We will definitely be returning.

The following Sunday 12th September was race day! But due to the wave situation I didn't actually have to be at the start line until 12 noon so it was less rushed. I drove to my friend Ruth's house in Stockton-on-Tees (24 miles) to drop Tiger off to spend the day with Ruth's triplet boys. Then I drove to the Stadium of Light metro station (27 miles) where parking was free on Sundays and it was a short metro trip from there to Haymarket metro station and from there a very short walk to the start! Phew!

The whole arrangement of the Great North Run in 2021 was a real feat by the organisers, I was so impressed. With around 57,000 runners, they made it happen. We didn't run to South Shields as normal but rather a back and forth route in Newcastle, so there were definitely complaints from some loud voices but I didn't mind, I was just so happy to be back. Even before I started though there were people walking around with their medals - the first waves had started at 09.45 and I was still walking to the start line at 12.30pm!

All my running training had been with Tiger in the running buggy and no more than 10km, add to that a bit of weight I would dearly love to shift, so I certainly wasn't breaking any records but I am pleased to report I ran the entire way around without stopping, listening to Peloton Outdoor classes the whole way - I did four! The atmosphere was just incredible, as it always is, and I finally came in at 27,804th in 02:59:32. I was quite happy I'd not slipped over the 3 hour mark and although, of course, I can do better I was proud that I had achieved the best I could in my current level of physical fitness. I raced three pandas in the last 150m and they only went and blooming beat me!

In reverse, I went back to Haymarket, back to Stadium of Light, picked the car up and drove back to Ruth's to pick Tiger up who had had a blast with Benji, Sammy and Jakey. And finally back to the Airbnb for a well earned sleep.

On Monday 13th September, it was a breeze driving back to Newcastle airport to drop the car back to Green Motion (and no extra charges for anything!). We were booked onto the 11.50am flight so we had time for a quick coffee and bacon sarnie before more flying like a bird in the sky! We were picked up at the airport, and finally retrieved our own car to get home. Exhausted but very happy and very proud.

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