Last year I returned to running after a hiatus of a few years and I’ve fallen head over heels with it all over again. Unlike a lot of other exercise, running is free, easy to squeeze into a busy schedule and I can do it almost anywhere at any time.
There’s no need for any specialist equipment or busy gym changing rooms, there’s no monthly fee and you see results and progress really quickly.
You can use apps, smart watches or other technology to monitor your performance or you can just fasten your laces and hit the road.
Nice kit aside, perhaps the thing I personally like most about running is how it much it has made me fall madly in love with where I live.
Be it a short sprint with the dog or a long jog with a podcast, running provides me with an escape and, with the right route at the right time, it can be the perfect opportunity to be a tourist in my own city or catch a stunning sunrise.
Here are some of the best places to jog in and around Newcastle.
Thanks to Geordie Shore, rock-bottom drink prices (such as three treble vodkas for a fiver), constant visiting stag and hen parties and, admittedly, a penchant for pints from Newcastle natives, the city has earned a binge-drinking and boozy reputation.
Ten or 15 years ago, running in the evening on the Quayside would have been an unthinkable assault course of hurdling over revelers and dodging discarded glasses.
Thankfully, Newcastle’s nightlife scene has now migrated farther into the city centre and the shift has made way for riverside runs.
As a rule, I don’t often run at night, although on the Quayside it is hard to resist as there is no better place to soak up Newcastle’s striking cityscape than the Quayside at twilight.
Keep your indoor treadmill, thanks; I’ll gladly jog alongside the reflection of Sage Gateshead mirrored on the water, the imposing silhouette of Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and, of course, the iconic Gateshead Millennium and Swing bridges that cross the River Tyne, which divides Newcastle and Gateshead.
A jog in Exhibition Park allows me to follow in the footsteps of literally hundreds of thousands of nervous runners, as every year that is where the anxious crowds stretch their calves, drop their bags and exchange “good lucks” in preparation for the Great North Run starting pistol to sound.
It’s a thought that spurs me on every single time.
In whose shadow am I running? What was their story? I enjoy thinking about others as I run by the old original bandstand, round the disused boating lake or sweep through the graffitied underpass.
Maybe it was the man I saw running 13.1 miles (21.1km) of this year’s Great North Run with a wheelie bin on his back – or the six friends who ran the entire way dressed as Spartan soldiers without breaking formation. Perhaps it was an optimistic New Year’s resolution they never thought they’d fulfil.
It may have been a determined first time attempting a run of distance, to charity fundraise in the name of an ill family member or colleague.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll allow myself the brief thrill of considering that my running shoes are falling in the exact same place as some of the most distinguished long distance runners of the last 39 years – the Kenyans, Ethiopians, South Africans, Australians (and one or two Brits too) who have won the Great North Run since it started in 1981.
North Tyneside coastline
My favourite place to run, in rain or shine, wind or fine weather, is without a shadow of a doubt by the coast.
Just shy of 10 miles (16km) from Newcastle city centre, the River Tyne meets the North Sea and, in my (extremely biased) opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the entire country.
Tynemouth has always been stunning, the unspoiled beaches and bays, and the castle and priory – built largely in the 12th and 13th centuries – mean it is an undeniable beauty spot that makes me joyfully smug to live and run nearby.
Recently, the north-east coastline has undergone a £36m seafront regeneration, mainly in Whitley Bay, which included the reopening of Spanish City, a gorgeous former ballroom and tea room with a striking dome roof that was originally built in 1910.
My favourite route is a run north from the Tynemouth Castle and Priory, following the curves of King Edward’s Bay and Tynemouth’s Longsands beach, through the village of Cullercoats and on to Whitley Bay.
Spanish City is my 3-mile (5km) marker and acts as a striking vantage point for my finishing line – tide-permitting – the lighthouse on St Mary’s Island.
There is something about running with the view of the sea – a stretch of blue-green as far as the eye can see. The untameable and incessant waves lapping up on to the sandy beach, slamming against a cliff or roaring and frothing uncontained over manmade walls, the entire experience, for a reason that’s difficult to comprehend and near impossible to articulate, shrinks the impossibility of a challenging run to insignificance.
What is a few more minutes running if those waves are unstoppable? What is another mile if the sea stretches on forever?
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