You may remember that recently Katie Atkinson took part in the Great North Run to raise money for Aniridia Network UK. Katie completed the half marathon race in 3 hours and 40 minutes and raised over £750 for Aniridia Network UK. With Gift Aid the total should rise to over £800. Huge thanks go to Katie and all those who sponsored her so generously. The funds will help to ensure we can hold our annual meeting in 2012 and more too.
Here Katie tells a little about her experience in taking part in Britain’s most popular race:
“I entered the ballot for a place in the race back in January 2011. The event is always oversubscribed so I wasn’t really expecting to be lucky enough to get a place. But then about a month later I heard I’d been successful.
I wasn’t very fit and I’d never run before but I was keen to raise money for Aniridia Network UK. I hoped that raising money for a good cause would help motivate me to get fit.
I began a training programme for beginners which began with short intervals of running and walking for a total of half an hour slowly increasing the amount of running every week. I have to admit I found it pretty tough and after a few repeats of running for 2 minutes and walking for 1 minute I was really struggling to keep running.
I decided I needed to build up my stamina so I started going on some brisk walks instead. Luckily Sheffield has some pretty steep hills so walking up those helped to build up my fitness combined with some longer walks in the Peak district.
In the summer I felt fitter and ready to try again with running. This time I tried the ‘Couch to 5K’ podcasts which I found on the NHS website and would highly recommend. Again they begin with short intervals of running and walking but a friendly voice on the podcast tells you when to run and when to walk which I found much easier than trying to look at my watch. The music also helped me to get into a rhythm and keep me motivated. By the time I finished the 9 week programme I could jog continuously for 30 minutes, something I would have never thought I could do before.
The Great North Run is a half marathon (13.10 miles) so I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the whole route but I planned to run for 30 minutes and then walk for 10-15 minutes before running again and keep repeating this trying to run as much as possible. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever even walked 13 miles in one go so I would be pretty pleased to have even just walked the whole way round.
We got up early on the morning of the race and had a good breakfast. My brother was also taking part for another charity and my parents were coming to support us. We drove to South Shields where the race ends and then my brother and I caught the Metro into Newcastle where the race starts.
When we arrived at the start line we were already a little late so we had to run to get our bags on the buses which would take them to the finish for us. There were huge crowds, in total over 50,000 people were taking part. The queues for the toilets were massive and I was still waiting when the warm up started but the atmosphere was very jovial and all had fun doing the warm up while we waited. Being partially sighted I was worried about finding my way around the start area. We had to start in groups depending on how fast we thought we would complete the race and my brother was in a different group from me but the groups were colour coded so I just followed the other people with pink race numbers like me. My group was right at the back so it took us 25 minutes just to walk forward to the start line after the race started!
Once we got going it was great. There were lots of people overtaking me, I guess some of them must have arrived late and should have been starting ahead of me. I tried not to fall into the trap of running too fast at the start, I didn’t want to tire myself out and I stuck to my plan. The race started on part of the motorway which had been closed for the event. It was strange running down a road we’d never normally be allowed on. Once we started to approach the Tyne Bridge lots of crowds began to line the route and cheer us on. My parents were somewhere up on the flyover just before the bridge but with such huge crowds I couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see me!
Going over the Tyne Bridge was great, that’s the iconic picture I always remember from watching the event on TV. Not long after the bridge I reached the 2 mile mark so I slowed down to walk for a few minutes before starting to run again. The weather was quite warm and sunny when we started but then during mile five dark clouds appeared and it began to rain heavily. I ran most of that mile because I thought if it carried on raining like that I wanted to get around the course as soon as possible. I ran most of the first half of the race, probably doing 4 -5 mile in total then it started to become harder to run, luckily the weather had started to brighten up again. The 11th mile was the most difficult, I was really starting to ache by then, although strangely I ached less running than walking. Once I reached the final mile and turned the corner onto the seafront I really began to enjoy it again knowing I was nearly there. I made it to the finish line in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
The local people who came out and cheered us on even in the rain were brilliant. Even after three hours of watching people run past they were still there. The race organisers provided water on the route but some locals had brought refreshments to give out including sweets, sausage rolls and slices of orange. This really helped to keep everyone going on the last few miles. Crossing the finish line was a big relief and I was glad when I could finally sit down but I also felt very elated and was already thinking about doing it again next year, hopefully in under 3 hours next time. I did ache the next day but not as much as I thought I might and I was lucky to avoid any blisters. Despite all the hard work involved it was a really enjoyable experience and I’m pleased I managed to raise so much money. I hope I can do it again next year and raise even more!”
Aniridia Network UK relies on fundraising to be able to do its work. Please help us by giving what you can online. Alternatively what could you do to raise money for our charitable cause. Contact us if you have or want ideas for fundraising.