Great North During The Run Poem*
I see a man carrying a fridge,
humpbacked as the Tyne Bridge.
Like water, emergency loo roll, bananas,
it represents the inner burdens that we bear
and wondering could just one more run
have helped us properly prepare?
We’re off with a slap of Mo Farah’s hand,
laces untied we fall, silver blanket wrapped we stand.
Our chippings bipping us over the start line
as if we’re on a conveyor belt;
Indiana Jones! A Sunflower! A Cuddly Toy!
We run like water through the tunnels
with an “Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oy, Oy, Oy!”.
Shovers and shufflers,
hoofers and hustlers.
And my calves are already weak
when we reach the Tyne Bridge
but I think again of the man with the fridge,
and I think I’m going to have to fake it,
but someone bellowing my name
as if I’m a runner,
makes me think that I could make it.
Then the Red Arrows zoom on by,
coloured trails of smoke hang like spectres in the sky.
The missing man formation.
Shadow army of ghosts running with all of us,
giving a what and a why.
Then the band strikes up the Blaydon Races,
a spectrum of puce, shading our faces.
Crowds give whistles, cheers, bam bam clacks,
they are an outstretched hand,
and the way they wait
makes me think it’s as witnesses they stand.
And that speed camera can’t be for us,
I fantasise a ride on that charity bus.
Either I feel really ill,
or this is yet another bloomin hill.
Jelly babies, I’m Dr Who,
can I time travel to the end?
and every stranger shouting your name
becomes a friend.
Sun then rain then sun
in the blinking of an eye bridge,
light on and off
with the opening and shutting of that fridge.
Arrows pierce blue with white through a heart
and you can only get to finish
if you’re prepared to start.
The miles are longer and longer,
and there’s muttering around me
saying the worst to run
is the final strait, that final one point one.
Thigh to thigh, knee to knee,
clacking down along the sea.
the cacophony gets louder,
the crowd still on our side,
and is that a busted knee or a burst of pride?
I’m out of words.
The race has been ours
but the end is mine,
I need something from that fridge
to write this finishing line.
*I made notes while at the start line, then was going to run with notebook and pencil out but soon discovered that wouldn’t work, so wrote the rest in my head and kept muttering it to myself like a madwoman as I added lines, until after I did some of it on live telly to lovely Denise Lewis. Then it got a bit blurrier after seven miles, but I kept adding lines and did the full thing (apart from the lines I forgot) at the end to the telly (who used about 5 lines and cut the poetic bits out) and over the PA at the finish. I like that the rhythm reflects the running- although I can definitely tell that I was less observant and more insular and delirious after the first few miles, Things I didn’t get in were; how nice when fellow runners patted your back in encouragement, the sound of all those feet at once, how I was jogging at the same speed as people walking by the end but felt like I couldn’t stop or carry on, how the man carrying the fridge told me he wrote hundreds of poems and was being kept going on Anadin Extra and beer, the man ahead of me who’d lost twenty stone, tutus, Peppa Pig and a dinosaur, the orange segments, the diabetic woman dressed as Minnie mouse who’d done every run, the jumble sale of chucked away clothes and the grass bottle banks of discarded water and Powerade and people struggling and sweating up hills towards the end, chatting on their mobile phones about how they were nearly there…