I began this article during the latest lockdown, which following the gradual easing of restrictions, may seem like a distant memory:
As each day went by, sometimes the previous day was indistinguishable from the next. Most days became routine, almost as if it was Groundhog Day, revising for the next exam or catching up on recorded lectures that were sent out three weeks before. It seems as though nobody was immune to this tedium, as I had always assumed that I would never fall victim to this scourge, however, I did.
Running is my way of ensuring I’m not inside all day, staring at the same four walls of my room. However, having exhausted all the various routes and trails of Newcastle, I wanted to cover new territory and be more adventurous with the routes I was taking. Naturally, Sunday seemed like a perfect day for finding new running routes, as is the norm for me to run further on Sundays. On an evening in mid-January, a thought occurred to me: could I possibly run from my flat in Jesmond, all the way to the Stadium of Light on the banks of the Wear River? A quick browse of a map gave me the knowledge that the stadium was between thirteen or fourteen miles away. The idea of running to the stadium may have seemed perplexing to a hard-core Newcastle United fan, yet, I was not going to let that hinder my sense of adventure. With a route devised and memorised, I contacted a friend to accompany me on this voyage, a voyage that would span 14 miles, cover 2 cities, trek miles of monotonous north-eastern highways and encounter 2 major rivers. The reply was instant, I had never seen such a prompt response, almost as keen as any English person is to offer you tea each and every hour of the day.
That Sunday, the stage was set, I left my flat on a brisk winter morning, on-route to Sunderland. Having looked forward to it all week, the sense of excitement was pulsating in the air. I had my waypoints remembered, so was confident in my ability to correctly navigate.
The experience of running in a pair is much more beneficial, as the distractions of talking allow the miles to quickly pass, almost unnoticed. You can unlock the deepest and most thought provoking of subjects to discuss. On this particular occasion, conversation covered current world events, our running experiences so far and most importantly, who we had selected for our fantasy football teams. This seemed ironic when we were travelling between a city with a Premier League team, to one without.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the Millennium Bridge, where we then proceeded to head East along South Tyneside, following part of the Great North Run course. Further along the road, we peeled off the main road heading south along a mini off-road section, which provided relief from the long highway we had just run. As we edged closer to Sunderland, a milestone I had mentally taken note of came into view. Spice Junction. A fine establishment. Although that day, to my disappointment, it was closed. This waypoint signalled the point where I knew we weren’t far away from the stadium and also as a means to check we were heading in the correct direction. I would definitely recommend memorising a route beforehand, as it means you won’t have to stop and constantly check directions. The subsequent miles brought the stadium structure in and out of view, a truly majestic sight to behold for a pair of tired legs. Shortly after, we arrived and scouted the outskirts of the stadium. A shocking statement was uttered upon arrival, that this “was the biggest club in the North-East”, yet nobody can be sure of who made such a bold claim.
Little did we know that this courageous maiden voyage would be the first of a trilogy of adventurous running trips. The following week, the chosen destination was Tynemouth, finishing just as Longsands came into view. The route this time was more straightforward, heading towards the quayside and following the meanders of the river until we hit the sea. Naturally the conversation began to flow as usual, however, one point was raised which peaked my interest. The notion that once we arrived, we could buy some fish and chips, had been uttered. Completing the run and eating lunch, two birds, one stone. With this excellent prospect burning in my mind, a renewed sense of motivation sparked into life, the sun shone brighter, further uplifting my mood. As we peeled away from the river, a large cruise ship came into view, which I assumed had lay dormant since the previous March. Following this, we climbed a steep hill into Tynemouth where the run came to a conclusion on the sea front, but more importantly, fish and chips were on the cards, which made the experience very enjoyable.
Lastly, on the third consecutive Sunday, we ran to South Shields, which would complete what I have affectionately decided to call the “Three Coast Trilogy”. The route covered a course similar to the Great North Run, where some of the greatest distance runners had graced the very same tarmac as us. As the minutes rolled by, the 3 coastal runs had amounted to 63+ kilometres. This particular run finished with a conclusive and celebratory Greggs steak bake, which seemed a fitting end to this series of runs.
Before I started these runs, my aim was to be more adventurous with my lockdown runs, which I certainly believed that we achieved. More ambitious runs are absolutely something I wish to continue and highly encourage anyone to try if they are interested in running.