McLeod, twice the British half-marathon champion, is tasked with leading thousands of runner through in 95 minutes
British international half-marathon runner Ryan McLeod will lead a colony of Duracell Bunnies on Sunday (September 11) as a group of pacemakers take to the streets for the first time in the Great North Run’s 35-year history.
McLeod has twice competed in the elite race in the north-east and was winner of the Great North 10K three years ago, but this year will get his first experience of the unique atmosphere of the mass race as he dons the orange pacemaker vest to help participants to personal bests on the streets of Newcastle.
Tasked with running from gun to tape in a time of 95 minutes – 31 minutes slower than his own PB – the proud Geordie says he’s excited to see a different side of road racing away from the top end.
The 31-year-old said: “Running as an elite you’re very much in the zone and focused and don’t always pay attention to what’s going on. But this weekend pacing for Duracell I’m going to be a lot more relaxed and take in the atmosphere to see what the Great North Run really is about.
“Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to chat to a few people and find out their stories of why they’re doing the race.”
McLeod, who competed for Great Britain at this year’s World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff and is twice the British half-marathon champion, has a personal connection with the Great North Run which extends beyond his geographical ties to the city as his dad, Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Mike McLeod, won the first two editions of the event in 1981 and 1982.
Usually filled with a mix of nerves and excitement in the days approaching major road races, McLeod says he’s looking forward to what will be a relaxing occasion as he moves at a speed akin to a short warm-up pace, though says he’s aware of a different type of pressure this time round.
“It is a unique challenge,” said McLeod, who will be on duty working the day before for The Great Run Company at the Great North CityGames. “The pressure is on me to get the pace right. I’m confident in my ability and my watch to keep me right and get the splits accurate for everybody and to deliver the guys and girls around me to 1:35 pace.
“If me running in my orange Duracell t-shirt helps people in the first few miles and they then want to push on then great. I just hope I don’t start picking them up in the later stages. The hardest part for me will be not sprinting that last mile. I’ll want to but I can’t.
“It’s a completely different type of excitement. Normally now I’d be a little bit nervous. I’d be watching everything I’m eating and making sure I’m getting all the right sleep. It’s a completely different approach to this.”
He added: “This weekend I’m there in a working capacity. I’ll be running round the CityGames. I’m easily capable of getting round 13 miles in 95 minutes so I’ll wake up on Sunday, have my normal breakfast and see it as I’m going out for an easy run.”