I have lived in the North East of England for pretty much my whole life (factoring in 2 awful years in North Wales – which I’ll get to at some point). I had never taken any notice of the Great North run in that time.
That’s a lie. I had gone out of my way to avoid it. I don’t run, I don’t like being outdoors (unless it’s on a beach in Southern California), I actively disassociated myself from it.
That is until so many of my relatives declared running their new favourite hobby. So this annual event began to become a part of my regular calendar.
2014 was a special year. For the Great North run at least. The 1 millionth runner would cross the finish line. And now, thanks to the 2012 Olympics, no one can have a sporting event without an opening ceremony. And it is here that we lay our scene.
For reasons unknown, Mother and a friend of hers volunteered as en-masse dancers for the GNR 1 million opening ceremony (which took place 3 days before the race). As a consequence of this, she was given 2 tickets for guests to come and watch. I asked The Man Indoors, who refused as I suspected he might, and instead asked my best friend on this earth, Faye, to join me. And so she did.
It was a Thursday night in September. Still warm, despite being metres away from the Tyne. It was also, surprisingly, still light.
Faye and I got the Metro through to Newcastle. We hurried our way to the Quayside, grabbed a drink at a friendly bar, and waited to be allowed to take our place on the Quayside itself. We were excited, and to be honest we were mostly there to see Sting!
When the barriers were lifted, it was a free-for-all! People actually ran to get a good spot. Ran! We did not run, but maintained a dignified dash to a plum position right at the front. We had a great view.
As the Quayside began to fill with people, Faye said in a conspiratorial whisper that the man behind us was the priest at a wedding she had been to the weekend previous. She just had to show her then boyfriend (now husband) who she had seen, and so took a selfie of the two of us and the Priest in the background.
By this point, the ceremony had not started. Still. Night was drawing in and it was starting to get uncomfortable. And a bit chilly, and dark. Then finally, there was movement! Not the actual ceremony but a sequence of boring speeches. Hosted by Ant and Dec (who else) Only 1 stood out, and it was for the worst and most hilarious reason.
The Priest had with him a female friend. They chatted as we chatted, but our two groups never inter conversed.
A solemn speech was beginning. Serious and awe inspiring from a man on the big screen. A very important man; Lamine Diack, the first black president of the IAAF, and what an honour it was to have such an esteemed guest speaking at this event. This is where the trouble began.
As Mr Diack stepped up to the mic to begin his speech, the Priest’s Female Friend said to the Priest in a stage whisper “Look it’s Trevor McDonald”
Mr Lamine Diack, dignified as ever.
Photo courtesy of http://www.iaaf.org
Sir Trevor McDonald, news legend.
Photo courtesy of http://www.nigelfarndale.com
Which was quite funny, but then I said to Faye, also in a stage whisper, tongue firmly in my cheek,”Well that was racist”.
They heard, We heard, and the 4 of us were giggling. We hadnt directly communicated but we were giggling uncontrollably. The packed crowds on the Quayside were in rapt silence listening with respect to Mr Diack, and me, my friend, The Priest, and his pal, were almost literally dying of laughter.
I’ve never known anything like it. It was such a silent and dignified atmosphere, We were unable to laugh out loud. And everyone knows that the moment you can’t laugh at something, the funnier it gets.
Faye looked up at me, weeping! I was trying to calm down, but could feel a deep, unbreakable, unswallowable burst of laughter start to gurgle in my throat. I couldn’t hold it in. You could hear a pin drop on that Quayside, and I had to let out this laugh in the only way I knew how; I tried to disguise it as a hacking cough. I failed.
It echoed. It rattled around the Quayside, people stared, trying to find the source of this strange strangled explosive guffaw. The Priest, his pal, Faye, and I now were beyond help. Mr Diack continued with his speech and the 4 of us continued laughing.
Faye, in particular, had gone past the point of no return. She had laughed and cried so much, that now she was practically sobbing, shaking next to me, as I tried to gather my composure.
The ceremony was spectacular, a fantastic representation of the North East, and yet, all I really remember is the cough-laugh that reduced my best friend and a priest to a crying mess.