This poem came about following the Great North Run in September 2015 which I completed in just under two hours. It was my fifth GNR so not especially significant, other than the fact that I had not done the run for a few years and wanted to make sure that I still could. The post race picture above tells its own story!
The weekend after an event like that is always strange as you no longer have a ‘purpose’ for running, having achieved your ostensible goal, yet you still cannot shake the habit. There is a bit of a sense of relief, a bit of a feeling of wind down and, at the same time, a nagging sense that to get too complacent will just make it all too difficult to get started again.
I have tended to drop back to nine miles initially, ease back to 10k (just over six miles) after a couple of weeks, then do my ‘four milers’ (Throckley to Heddon) over the winter before building back up to 10k for the Easter run in North Tyneside. I have no plans to do the GNR again this year but aim to build up to the nine miles for the summer, just to try and stay half way fit. I am already at the 10k mark so there is hope!
Newburn Morning Run
This is no ‘great north’ nine miles
But it is running just the same.
The sharpness of the morning cuts the hillside,
Close the gate, check the time
Plunge down the pathway,
Brambles, trees and hedgerows pass,
Weave to a pause before the summer field.
The sweep down the backroad revives the morning rush
Horses, potholes, rabbits
The backs and bins of Blayney Row.
The waggonway to Wylam stretches out,
An enclosed tunnel holding morning chill,
Heart beating, shoes pounding
Blending the sounds the morning whispers.
The sun stretches and yawns, the river rushes white.
Across Wylam bridge to race the Hexham train,
An uneven pace,
A derisive whistle and away.
Past the white house at the river’s edge,
Blinded by the rising rays,
Rowers rhythmically rippling
The water’s surface calm.
Newburn bridge in sight,
Calf muscles prepare for the twist and climb,
Then through the lights and hit the Newburn Road!
This final push needs music.
Albarn yearns, as his terracotta heart breaks.
The ground levels, to the shimmer of distant drums,
Ushering in Strummer who fought the law
But the law won…
The law of averages pushes me on
As the Hexham Road approaches,
With Coral to the left of me,
St Mary the Virgin to the right,
Place your bets
Starting positions please!
The Vaccines swear they are through
Thinking about you…
Pick up the papers, talk about the Toon
And then for the final push
Down Coach Road, into the estate
As Nadine sings about stealing cars
When I hit the track for home,
Touch the gate, check the time,
“Check your pulse, when I speak…”
For the music anoraks out there you will notice a few references which may be of interest, if only to criticise the choices on my ipod. This is hardly the equivalent of T.S Eliot’s notes on The Waste Land but here goes.
Albarn’s yearning is a reference to the track My Terracotta Heart on Blur’s excellent album The Magic Whip from last year.
The distant and insistent drums herald in the crashing guitars of Strummer and Jones on this version of I Fought the Law by The Clash before Joe Strummer’s vocal comes in. Poetic licence people, not everything scans! Either way, while the Bobby Fuller Four original is good The Clash really take this one to town and for me, along with many others, this is the definitive version.
The Vaccines third album English Graffiti seemed to sink without trace last year and I really cannot fathom why. It is yet another great piece of pop music from a band I really ought to be too old to like this much but they just write great tunes – what can you do? Anyway, a track called 20/20 from this album is the pinch here.
The Nadine mentioned here is Nadine Shah who is beginning to get the acclaim she deserves. If her next album gets anywhere close to her second, Fast Food, from which the track Stealing Cars comes, it will be well worth the wait. The quote at the end of the poem is from that song too.
The really astute, or over 50’s, amongst you may even detect a passing allusion to the seventies classic Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel. This was more recently made famous by its use by Quentin Tarantino in his debut movie Reservoir Dogs.
While Tarantino can come over as a bit of a pain in interviews he can certainly select a soundtrack. Besides, if your directorial cv runs to Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, etc you deserve some licence.