(not quite) Pier to Pier

Posted: 02/01/2013 in Occasional Half Marathon, Uncategorized

Not a bad start to a New Year. Many thanks to Mrs. Bees whose idea it all was, and who gamely chauffeured me to the start.

It was a grand idea, the sort of thing thing to capture the mind, boil the blood and generally get the boots laced up. A run, from the South Shields lighthouse on the southern pier of the harbour to the Tynemouth lighthouse on the northern pier. A grand total of 0.25 miles between them as the crow flies, but that quarter mile is full of the Tyne flowing its merry way out to sea. The first runnable crossing (bar running round and round the ferry) is the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel, a good five miles inland.  Iconic in it’s landmarks, audacious in it’s tunnel-spanning majesty, what better way to start things off for 2013?

On arrival at South Shields, the first order of play was to walk down to the end of the pier. Doesn’t sound that difficult, eh? But I had underestimated the power of the Port of Tyne – faced with a light breeze, they’d locked the gate half way down the pier, meaning there was no way I could get to the lighthouse… curses!

Well, we work with what we’ve got, so I started from the gate, and ran back for South Shields, heading right to follow the path riverbank as much as feasible. Past houses, across what looked like a tiny replica of the Tyne Bridge built of concrete and through the town – an exciting mural on Commercial Road. I don’t end up on this side of the river very often, so my geography isn’t so good – not sure which bits might have been Jarrow, other than the bit when I passed Bede’s World – a sort of dark age spiritual theme-park, or so I imagine, I’ve never visited and it was shut as I plodded by.  I imagine there’s a witch-ducking ride, and maybe a adopt-your-own-boil franchise. Or perhaps not.

Up through a bit of an industrial estate, past a gas manometer or two and a small building on the banks of the river. That’ll be the entrance to the pedestrian tunnel. The escalators (once the longest escalators in the world, and made of wood) were out of use – think that’s waiting for the renovation next year. Round the back of the building to the lift – cue one man, one can of Carling Black Label, one young lad with him and a pushchair waiting at the lift doors. He was a bit… slurry… and noticed I had the camera on my head – a bit of an uncertain conversation about filming, running, and trying to explain what the heck I was up to.

It seemed to be taking a while for the lift to arrive – when I’d turned up I’d asked if the button had been pressed. Apparently yes, but it didn’t seem to be doing much. I plucked up the courage and pressed it again. The doors opened immediately. Hmmm. In I went, and I asked if he was coming – he said, and I tell no word of a lie, “Nah, me and the young ‘un are just chillin'”. With a can of lager, in the cold, outside a lift, with a young lad. Just weird. Hence the funny face on the video when the doors shut…

Down, down, down into the the bowels of the earth, or at least a little way down to get under the river. The pedestrian tunnel is one of the mot bizarre and atmospheric places I know, it should be out of a Victorian murder story I think. Just hope they don’t mess it up when it gets refurbished later this year.

Through the tunnel, pretending I’m in some film noir spectacular. Out at the other side, up in the lift and through North Shields. Past the Parks Centre, where the North Tyneside 10k will kick off on Easter Sunday. Down the hill at Borough Street and onto the Fish Quay – seems like everyone has come out for fish and chips, the chippies all have queues outside. Onto the river path down to the Priory at Tynemouth, and past the throngs of people who don’t seem to understand that if they fill the whole path, then there’s nowhere for me to go really except sort of into them – I’m not usually an angry runner, honest, but I start to feel a niggle as I have to dodge around folk and grind to a halt because three or four people can’t not walk abreast towards me. Go figure.

At the end, quick look back up the river at the fabulous sunset that was getting underway, then up the small hill and out onto the north pier. Guess what? That one’s locked too, no, really, it is…

That seems the right place to stop – there was nowhere else to go, and they clearly weren’t about to unlock the gate for me. About 10 miles in total, I reckon it would have been about 11 if the gates had been open, took 1:42 . Add a couple of miles run home and I think this might be the next of the Occasional Marathon Series.

Oh, the video? It’s here:

Pier to Pier

  1. Jon Ritchie says:

    Looks like fun – Den has been looking for a challenge for the year and I think this is it. Dodgy bloke in the lift though (the one in the tights not the one drinking lager).

    • You’re not kidding, I scared myself – don’t think it’s fair to be confronted with a mirror mid-run. Should be some kind of warning, or at last an un-mirrored option for the less photogenic runner.

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