The race to South Shields
HARRIERS HAVE A RUNNING PROBLEM.
A thirteen-mile run isn’t half thirsty work, so it’s time for a beer, writes Alastair Gilmour.
It’s Sunday September 10 2023; you’ve been in training for the past 12 months – distance running, sprinting, bending, stretching, weights and measures – and you’re psyched up to run a personal best in the world’s most popular half-marathon. You’re accompanied by 59,999 others who will include Sir Mo Farah competing in the last professional race of his illustrious career, with every single one of you being followed live on BBC1. Should you still be in dreamland at 11.35am on the day, a Red Arrows flypast will jolt you to your senses as you cross the Tyne Bridge that links Newcastle and Gateshead, heading for South Shields some 13.1 miles (21 kilometres) later.
But ten miles into the annual Great North Run you’ll be starting to breathe more heavily, feel those thigh muscles tighten, mouth drying and shins beginning to ache, so what’s next? An eighth of a pint of beer, that’s what.
Steady as you go. There’s still a few miles left to clock a respectable time
To the rescue then Newcastle Hash House Harriers who have been providing a Beer Stop at the 10.5-mile point of the Great North Run (GNR) for the past 26 years with top-class beer donated by some of the North East of England’s most notable and progressive breweries.
Hash House is a worldwide, non-competitive running club where the emphasis is on the social benefits of group activity – and as it calls itself ‘a drinking club with a running problem’, members obviously don’t take themselves too seriously.
Newcastle Hash House Harriers’ representative, Keith Hudson, says: “We started contacting the breweries in July, going through the list of the regular contributors and trying some new ones that had previously expressed an interest.
“One of those was The Flying Gang brewery and tap room in Ponteland which is run by one of the guys behind the Left Luggage Room at Tynemouth Metro Station.
“On the other hand, Hadrian Border brewery are always keen to get involved and are very generous with their support.”
Reduce speed now. Newcastle Hash House members with Keith Hudson on the right
Ready and waiting. Volunteers get ready for a mad 90 minutes of service
The final list hadn’t been decided at the time of writing but it’s more than likely the Newburn, Newcastle-based brewery will supply its Tyneside Blonde, a pale-coloured thirst quencher heavy on Maris Otter malt, wheat malt and an abundance of aromatic and bittering hops. Although never having tackled the Great North Run, I’d imagine it to be close to what you want after ten miles ‘in the saddle’.
Firebrick Brewery from Blaydon – a new one on the 2023 list – is represented on the GNR roster by Firebrick Wey-Aye PA. True to his Geordie roots, brewery owner Alistair Lawrence says: “Can there be anything more enjoyable and life-affirming than hearing ‘wey-aye’? It’s more than ‘yes’, it embraces ‘of course’. It states complete support.”
The quietly efficient Out There brewery from Ouseburn, Newcastle, is also a first-timer. Its owner-brewer-mastermind Steve Pickthall was a runner himself, so he is particularly keen on the idea of an organised beer stop.
And the new owners of Tyne Bank brewery have decided to renew their Hash House collaboration while next-door neighbours Full Circle are contributing a cask of something refreshing and interesting.
“Almasty in Newcastle are as keen as ever,” says Keith Hudson. “Paul Frost, who works there, is another runner so they’re well up for it, and Hexhamshire Brewery are such lovely people and didn’t want to miss out, while Newcastle’s Anarchy BrewCo are supplying bottles and cans. The rest will come in barrels. It’s five thousand pints dished out in one-eighth of a pint measures. I know exactly because of the number of cups we have left out of a 40,000 order.”
Proper hydration and nutrition are crucial for optimum performance on any race day; before, during and after the event and, while beer is made up of around 95% water, the alcohol content means it doesn’t hydrate a body. However, beer in moderation as part of a balanced diet taken with regular exercise, consumed with friends in convivial surroundings, reduces stress levels and promotes feelings of wellbeing.
Beer is a good source of B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and potassium, is a source of soluble fibre, and is considered to have beneficial effects on blood pressure. Beer contains zero fat and zero cholesterol. That’s worth repeating. Beer contains zero fat and zero cholesterol. It is packed with many of the minerals the body needs for a healthy diet – in some quarters it is still referred to a ‘liquid bread’.
“The Beer Stop is a way for us to promote what Hash House Harriers does as a club to attract new members and also to promote the brewers and their beers,” says Keith Hudson. “The elite runners obviously fly past and the good club runners simply look but Conrad from Gateshead Harriers always takes a beer – and he regularly finishes high in the top one hundred. The first few runners to stop for a drink always get a great big cheer, then when the fun runners start to come through, it’s absolute chaos for an hour-and-a-half. You have your work cut out to keep up. Some runners, sensing the beer is about to run out, start sprinting to get their hands on the final few measures.”
Then, when the volunteers and Hashers have cleared up, they get together and go for a post-run run around South Shields’ finest pubs, finishing around closing time.
Isn’t Sunday supposed to be a day of rest?
THE GREAT NORTH RUN
The Great North Run was devised by Olympic 10,000-metre bronze medallist (Montreal 1976) later sports commentator Brendan Foster with the inaugural event taking place in 1981. It was won by Gateshead Harrier Mike McLeod with Karen Goldhawk winning for the women. It was originally designed as a fun run between Newcastle and South Shields that attracted an incredible 12,000 participants.
Over the intervening years, the date has varied between June and October, depending on other major sporting events attracting mass media coverage. The Great North Run’s official starter has developed into something of a status symbol with celebrities such as Sting, Ant & Dec, Sir Bobby Robson, Tony Blair and Mo Farah entrusted with the starter’s pistol.
Ain’t no stopping us. Many of the top club runners can’t resist a drop of beer.
HASH HOUSE HARRIERS
The Newcastle Hash House Harriers name is derived from a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, nicknamed Hash House because of its cheap and uncomplicated food and drink. Resident expats’ weekend excesses would be run off on a Monday. The Newcastle branch meets every Wednesday evening for a run, plus the first Sunday of every month at a different location each time – usually a pub. Local organiser Keith Hudson says:
“Our runs are ‘hare-and-hounds’ format, where a ‘hare’ lays a trail that the pack has to follow – we use flour. The trails are organised so that runners, joggers and walkers of all ages and abilities complete the course in approximately the same time.
“There is no membership fee, just come along and run for fun whenever you like. A small subscription covers a drink and snack after each event.”