Sophie M
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Running with mastocytosis: My first Great North Run

Sophie M
Posted by
27 Sep 2013

My excitement was dulled slightly by the yellow weather warning decorating the Met Office page for Newcastle. Strong winds and heavy rain don't make for the most ideal running conditions. My unstable mast cells don't react well to running in the cold either...

The Saturday before though was beautiful and the Just Text Giving Fittest Fundraisers headed over to the pasta party where we met Spice Girl, Mel C. She looked super fit and was clearly going to run well. She was also really chatty and friendly. In fact, I've learnt over this weekend that celebrity  runners generally are very nice. There really aren't that many unfriendly runners, celebrity or not.

On race day morning Dan and I joined the stream of runners heading for the start on the dual carriageway. Thankfully it wasn't raining at this point! Warming up in the VIP area was great but it was a bit weird too as lots of other runners and spectators were 'celeb spotting' through the barriers. I think some of them were trying to work out who I was! I got a smile off of Brendan Foster which was pretty cool and passed within a foot of Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie which was even cooler. I had my photo taken with Robbie Savage too :)

Me, Robbie Savage, Dan and Grant

I saw the wheelchairs start and then the elite women. As it got closer to 10.40 I dared to strip down to my race kit and got behind the line. Some of the celebrities running for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research lined up next to me and chatting with them eased my nerves. I was keen to get going, for one thing I was already shivering!

Finally we were off and I found myself happily running alongside Noah Huntley, one of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Research runners, he was a great pacemaker on the inclines. I think I was a boring running companion for him though as I was beyond my talking pace. I was very impressed when he happily waved back to the crowd. Despite the cold, the wind and later the rain, the enthusiastic crowd stretched along almost the entire route.


Fairly early on in the race my mast cells began playing up a bit and I felt a bit wheezy. I think this was from running in the cold and the wind. I focused on getting the air into my lungs and letting go of any tension. Running with Noah (pictured with me opposite) helped prevent me from slowing down. When the rain set in we lost contact and I was left alone with my inner ‘chimp’ (I’ve been reading The Chimp Paradox!) telling me to ease off. By the ten-mile marker though I knew I could pull off the elusive sub-90 and got a real kick. The GNR is a pretty undulating course so it's difficult to pace it. It also knackers the quads! My Nike watch had lost 0.10 miles under the first underpass so I was having to calculate the splits on the go.

The crowd over the final mile were fantastic, and much needed. Great Run print runners's names on their numbers, which is a good idea: having people shout personalised encouragements was very motivating. I knew there was a descent to the finish but didn't realise it would be so steep, judging by the footage I think Mo Farah had the same surprise. The crowd lining the finishing straight bravely sheltered the runners from the wind. I was hurting. A lot. But was certain I was getting my sub-90 and it gave me a boost. Even so, I have never felt so happy to see the 800M to go sign! The army lined the final stretch then it was onto the grass and under the finish gantry. My aim for the day was to go under 90 minutes so, especially given the conditions, I was thrilled with 1:29:28. That time also qualifies me for a London Marathon Championship entry so I'll be doing the 2014 London Marathon. That's if I survive Loch Ness in a fortnight...

It's not too late to donate to Leukemia & Lymphoma Research on my behalf. I still have the Loch Ness Marathon, the Great Birmingham Run and the Great South Run to go.

You can donate by text: TINY81 and your chosen amount (e.g. TINY81 £2) to 70070. Or visit my Just Giving Page. Every pound counts!

N.B. It has taken me the best part of a year to get my fitness back and I would strongly advise anyone else with mastocytosis to get on a stable medication regime first and then build up slowly. I take a mast cell stabiliser, two H1 antagonists, an H2 antagonist, a leukotriene receptor antagonist, and I carry an adrenaline auto-injector. I also take a food state multivitamin and extra vitamin D and calcium for osteopenia (caused by the mastocytosis). It is possible!

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