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The really Great North Run!

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Joe and Debbie Worthington

Debbie Worthington and her husband Joe raised over £14,000 for the MS Trust last year by taking part in a year of running challenges.

Debbie, who was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago, tells us about her experience of taking part in the Great North Run for the first time in 2015.

What do you get when you take a bored spectator, an inspirational charity and an empty calendar? The answer is… The Worthington 500k Challenge!

Last year as I waited for Joe to finish the Great North Run (or GNR for short) I wandered around the charity village hoping to take my mind off the fact he’d been immobile in hospital just 5 weeks before with a nasty infected knee, courtesy of Tough Mudder. He did it, but it wasn’t pretty…

I’d completed my first 10k a couple of months before and wondered if I could stretch myself to do the GNR too, after all I knew Joe would be back in 2015! Lots of charities were looking for people to run for their cause, but it was the ladies from the MS Trust that caught my attention with their friendliness and compassion.

A charity that made a big difference for me

It turned out that the MS Trust had been at the heart of my experience of being diagnosed with MS 10 years before. It was the training they gave to my MS nurse and the information that I was able to take away that had made such a big difference to the way I viewed the illness and my treatment. I’d just never realised how much I owed to them as they’re so often overshadowed by the more well-known MS charities.

I signed up that evening and the Worthington 500k Challenge evolved in the coming weeks – surely running 10ks throughout 2015 with Joe would prepare me for the big half marathon? The £10,000 target was dreamt up in the pub to mark the 10 years since my diagnosis and although we didn’t think we’d get close, lots of friends were caught up in the excitement and the Run With Us Team was born.

A year later at the Great North Run

Fast forward 12 months: we’d smashed the £10,000 target, I had blue hair and I was joined at the start by founding Run With Us members Emma, Kate and Dan. I don’t think anyone could doubt that we were on a charity mission! I’d been at the start before as a spectator, but actually being one of the 57,000 runners was something else entirely. It took us nearly 40 minutes to get through the start after the first runners had set off and there may have been a few tears along the way!

We set off at a fair pace and soon the famous cry of “OGGIE, OGGIE, OGGIE… OI, OI, OI” was echoing around us! Coming over the Tyne Bridge was an incredible moment, I’m so glad that Dan was able to capture some brilliant images of us all. We were welcomed to the other side of the Tyne with the sound of the Heather Small song “Proud” pumping from the radio station tent – it summed up the emotion perfectly.

Soaking up the atmosphere

Over the coming miles I lost the others and immersed myself in the event. By the 10k mark I’d high-fived hundreds of kids, passed some brilliant bands and been inspired by many other runners. I was also making decent time! Fatigue seemed to set in around mile 8, but I kept going and the cola ice pop given to me by a spectator helped me pick up my pace again for the final leg – thank you whoever you were!

Other GNRers had said the last hill before you see the sea is the toughest, but the crowd carried us on and soon we were teetering down the other side before the final mile along the sea! I knew my family (and Joe who would have finished over an hour before) would be amongst the crowds lining the route, which kept my mind off the aches; instead I was scouring the spectators for familiar faces.

Relief at the finish line

I think the relief was mutual when we spotted each other and I trundled towards the finish line and a well-earned massage in the MS Trust tent. It was great to see the ladies once again, especially after all the emails and their incredible support over the last year. The team was reunited, rubbed down and plied with tea and jelly babies – the perfect end to the race.

My time was 2 hours, 44 minutes and 9 seconds and, amazingly, Emma, Kate, Dan and I all finished within 10 minutes of each other. I want to say a huge thank you to them and all the other Run With Us team for getting me this far and raising such a huge amount for the MS Trust along the way. I didn’t mind being last… It’s still a PB until I smash it next year!

Would you like to be part of the MS Trust 2016 Great North Run team?

Find out how you can run for the MS Trust but hurry, there are only a few places left!

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