Great North Run - "Faster Club Runners" pen

Did GNR at the weekend and got what i thought was a decent start pen (B) just behind the elites etc - only apparently the elites pen also seems to contain various VIPs, members of staff from sponsors, s'lebs etc as well as "faster club runners".  My pen B contained (I've calculated) c4,000 people, whose finish times varied from 69mins to something over 4.  From a run down of the results I'd say the average time was something around 1:55-2:15.  I had a horrid first mile running round people who were running very, very slowly (no walkers, but then it is downhill) and took I gues and extra couple of minutes for the first mile or two.

Now I wouldn't class myself as a "fast" club runner, but my expected time for a half would be 80-85 mins so I was wondering if anyone knows how you need to be to get in that pen?  And indeed how you go about getting in it?


  • You just have to lie about your expected finish time, I would guess.

  • Normally for those who have done sub 80 mins for a half or proof of a decent 10k time. If you can show that you have run the times then you can change your pen before the event by go to the expo and speaking to the organisers. What time did you do as you might automatically get moved into this zone next year
  • Not quick enough, Martin - 1:29 (partly a slow start but mainly a disrupted preparation).  As I said I doubt I'd qualify as a "faster club runner" (80:09 HM, 37:00 10k) but there was such a HUGE range of ability in that front "public" pen that I find it difficult to believe that they'd ALL put 80-90 mins as their expected time. I was just wondering whether there is a specific way of entering that i didn't know about, or whether they have a version of London't GFA (I think I was top 40 in my age group).  Living in N Yorks it's easy enough to come up and back on the day, so no chance for any pen-shifting shenanigans at the expo.
  • To be honest i think you would qualify for Pen A with your half time - you just need to put down that you  you plan to run between 70 and 80 mins for a half, which although it is a large time range wouldn't be an exaggeration, and give a link for your 80:09 half results. Alternatively if you still get a B zone number get in contact with them and see if you can get it corrected without having to go to the expo as a few people with Orange numbers were in the B Zone but had letters. 

    I made into Pen A for the first time this year but when I have had an Orange B number I normally enter the pen on the right hand carriageway fairly early so I am near the front and across the line within about 15 seconds so avoid any major hold ups. 

    I was on for low 78 mins but due to the unexpected issuing of low calorie Powerade ran out of juice in the last few miles. Next year I will stick to water and a gel.

    Hope the info helps for next year

  • Andy - I was one of the green pens. We had walkers from 0.4m. I was so unimpressed.
  • Thanks Martin - v helpful.  I may even get myself a sub-80 anyway early next year as the 80:09 involved a slower last mile and a bit as i tweaked a calf muscle.  This is with GNR is it's expensive but so brilliantly supported it's one I'd like to run in decent shape and with a decent start.  I was in B this year but went on the left so behind sponsors/slebs etc.  RGH side next year!

  • As a local the only side to go on is the right hand behind the elites and fast club runners as the left hand side the the celeb side and those that have done every gnr and they will only get in your way. No denying that the GNR is expensive but I treat it the same as I would if I wanted to go to a concert so at the mo I am willing to pay the cost and it is my only real expensive race. Being local means I do save alot on accomodation costs.

    Hoping that I get a VLM ballot place for 2011 for my first attempt at a marathon and then I will appreciate the cost of accomodation then but seriously doubt that I will get a ballot place.

  • Can't be just me wondering why you are actually surprised you got slowed up by runners in the biggest half marathon in the WORLD, surely?.....image

    I wouldn't worry about it - I'd go for a fast time elsewhere and just enjoy the atmosphere. But then I was pen F last year and I had NO problem with people slowing me up really until about 11 miles when every bugger started walking.

  • I don't think I actually said I was surprised - but I was wondering how you could minimise being slowed up because as i said i originally thought I'd got a good start being in the pen behind the elites.  What's unusual was that they'd put people running slowly right at the front because 9for example) of who their employer is, and also the vast range of abilities (and this wasn't just people having a bad day) that they had in the front pen.  Now that might be because 4,000 people said they could run sub-90, but I'm not sure that's the case.

    It's obviously not a PB course or race, but it would be nice to do it being able to run fairly freely from the start and see what time you could run it in.  I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot, but when I run races i do them to run them as fast as i can on the day - it was no biggy on the day as I wasn't in massively good shape but it was really a question as to how feasible it is for a fat lad to get in that front pen - which martin has very helpfully answered. 

  • I'm not a fast runner and knew that there would be little chance of a pb but I was amazed that people were walking before mile one!! I heard someone say 'Almost four mile mark and that's the extent of my training'.

    I was pretty cross as while waiting like a good girl in my white pen, pink numbers jumped the barriers to get in and the marshals did nothing (mind you, I saw them again later in the race with the St John's Ambulance and an oxygen tank!) To get my place I had to send proof of split times from a previous race so lying on the form was never an option.

    One other mini gripe were the little tops from the bottles not being removed by the folk giving them out and so being strewn all over the road by us, I saw a few ankles turning.

    It was a great day however and I'm so pleased I'm able to say I've taken part but doubt I'll do it again if numbers remain so high.

  • I agree with Andy. I was amazed yesterday in orangeB that there were people doing I guess 9-10 min miling at the start. I thought I had a good pen and would get away well but instead I had to weave from side to side, speeding up and slowing down. It made me quite cross. I'm sure the people I was passing were thinking what an idiot but when you've trained hard to put in a good time - it matters! I didn't even know there was a fast club runners pen and was surprised to see it there. Unfortunatley I was already in the left hand side - thanks Martin - I'll remenber to go in the right in the future. At least with VLM you know what time you need to get good for age - it's not a mystery like it seems to be at GNR. Anyway,  winge over, I enjoyed my first GNR overall and will definitely return - just a bit wiser!

  • 9-10 minute miling? I did the first mile in 8.12 from Orange D and everyone was overtaking me.


  • (2013) In case these figures help anyone to know what to expect:

    I did it yesterday in 1:30'41 starting from halfway down the first (Orange B) pen, right-hand side so behind the elites not celebs. Gun time at the start mat was 1'45. The funnel has a constriction just before there so you can cross the line at full speed - why don't more races do that? Due to the wind direction I ran at 7'15 for the first 5 miles and then 6'40 to the end and I think there was barely a second of the first 10 miles that I wasn't either overtaking or planning an overtake. That said, I was able to do 95% of my passing by drifting across rather than weaving and still got round on the inside of most of the bends so I think it cost me very little time. If you're looking ahead, thinking and making use of opportunities such as those little bits of pavement at the side of the motorway, I don't think a 1:30 runner is going to have much trouble with traffic, but you won't be in any danger of falling asleep either! At 1:25 though, I think you'll regret it if you aren't in the front quarter of the pen.

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