The Blaydon Race
A race I’d always said that if I’d been a runner I’d have done – steeped in North-East history, a song to sing at the start which the race then follows the route described in the song, can-can dancers at the end and Jackie Broons bell that needs to be securely transported from a local museum for the Lord Mayor to ring to get the race underway!
Well this year was my chance to run it! I had become a runner!
The song is The Blaydon Races written in 1862 by Geordie Ridley a local miner turned entertainer and describes the exploits of people trying to get to The Blaydon Races which were horse races held near to Blaydon. The current race is organised by Blaydon Harriers and Athletics Club and has tried to keep as accurate to the song as possible in their route.
“Ah me lads, ye shudda seen us gannin’,
We pass’d the foaks alang the road just as they wor stannin’;
Thor wis lots o’ lads an’ lassies there, aal wi’ smiling faces,
Gannin’ alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.”
Race day came which is always the 9th June irrespective of day and we were herded up together on Grey Street in Newcastle City Centre for the annual singing of The Blaydon Races song by runners. Cue lots of bobbing up and down and a rousing chorus (less said about the verses the better!) before moving around the corner at start time to outside where the Balmbra’s Music Hall used to be for the Lord Mayor to set us off. The sun was shining and there was little air about. However after an 18 minute delay due to the road closures not being clear (and a whole load of wrists in the air desperately trying to hold onto a GPS signal) we were away – along Collingwood Street and on the road to Blaydon.
“Aa went to Blaydon Races, ’twas on the ninth of Joon,
Eiteen hundred an’ sixty-two, on a summer’s efternoon;
Aa tyuk the ‘bus frae Balmbra’s, an’ she wis heavy laden,
Away we went ‘lang Collin’wood Street, that’s on the road to Blaydon.”
The race went past the Centre for Life and headed onto Scotswood Road. This is where most of the race is run – a long stretch heading from Newcastle towards the Scotswood Bridge past more sights from Geordie Ridley’s song.
At this point there was no relief from the sun and as soon as any shade appeared people were veering off the road onto the path just for a few seconds of slightly cooler air. The atmosphere was great considering we were essentially covering most of the race distance running along one straight road! There were live bands entertaining us, spectators shouting and cheering, kids high fiving those who were inclined to reciprocate.
The road then turned over Scotswood Bridge which has replaced the Chain bridge mentioned in the song and headed into Blaydon. Nearly there – another mile and a half and we would be crossing the finish line.
“We flew across the Chain Bridge reet into Blaydon toon,
The bellman he was callin’ there, they call him Jackie Broon;
Aa saw him talkin’ to sum cheps, an’ them he was pursuadin’
To gan an’ see Geordy Ridley’s concert in the Mechanics’ Hall at Blaydon.”
The run down from the bridge had a little out and back section but with the lure of the water station just after the back section the out didn’t seem quite so brutal. The water station was frequented by pretty much every runner – although not much was drunk! Including me most people took one drink then dispensed the remainder over our heads. Never have I been so pleased to see someone with a paper cup of water.
A friend and I decided to challenge ourselves over the space of a year to “celebrate” our 40th birthdays – one challenge for each decade. This was challenge 1 for me and her pre-race message of encouragement rang around my head over the last mile. Dig deep, the legs are hurting at this point, the sun is still beating down but there’s only 1 mile to go.
As we headed into Blaydon town the crowds thickened and somewhere in there was my support team – Alan was there somewhere. His holler would see me through to the end….. OK so it would have done if I’d actually noticed him perched on a huge concrete block on a corner so he was in plain sight of the runners coming into Blaydon shouting like a banshee! Oops!
The finish line was on a local playing field so off the tarmac and onto soft grass which my legs were very happy to reach! I couldn’t see the timing clock so had no idea how I had done (other than knowing the first 2 miles were probably a little quick!). I allowed myself a cheeky glance at my watch as the time ticked from 48 to 49 minutes – one monumental “what have you got left” and I’d be in in less than 50 minutes, something I never envisaged.
Over the finish line and down the funnel finishers bag in hand, t-shirt in hand and a bottle of water that seemed to evaporate as I drank it. Opens the bag to see what can only be described as the best finisher’s bag ever!!! A bottle of beer brewed specifically for the race, a ham and pease pudding sandwich (don’t knock it – to me that’s the best sandwich ever!), a bag of crisps and a race program with all of the runners names printed in it.
Chip time came in as 49.14 for 5.6 miles which just blew me away.
If you want a run that is challenging in terrain or a really interesting route then this is not the race for you, however despite it being hot and airless this was a great race to run – full of Geordie history, lovely people to run with and a dream of a finishers bag.