Just over a year ago, Andrea Whiting was struggling with obesity, weighing over 30 stone and finding it difficult to walk. After deciding to turn her life around by eating healthily and exercising daily, she is now 14 stone lighter and recently ran the Great North Run (GNR) for UK charity HOOP, raising a fabulous £1,791.
Check out her BBC Interview
A member of HOOP since April 2015, 45 year old Andrea has written a blog post about her GNR experience:
It was an early start with the mandatory porridge and some fruit for breakfast at 7am and then headed off in a taxi to the start. Expecting the traffic to be bad I arrived far too early. Despite this there was a buzz of anticipation and the whole size of the event was overwhelming with queues of double decker buses to take baggage from Newcastle to South Shields and hoards of happy people all ready to be part of the biggest and best half marathon in the UK.
Having regularly checked the weather forecast the week before I was convinced that my jumper would be needed, along with the best part of another 50,000 people who were also dressed for autumn. It became very clear, however, that perhaps the met office had got it slightly wrong. The sun came out and the extra layers started coming off. Oxfam would collect the clothes so I didn’t feel quite so guilty leaving a jumper on a grass verge.
Time flew by and I made my way up to the pink pen. I was in the last pen due to my expected finish time, which is around 1 mile from the start line. On the large screen in front, the elite runners were on there way. It took a further 50 minutes before I crossed the start line, just before Mo Farrah crossed the finish line.
And we were off…. I was told that the first two miles we would be walking due to the volume of people but this wasn’t true as we were running as soon as we stepped over the line. I was running with 57,000 people all there for their own reason. All were running at their own pace but each soaking up the atmosphere and supporting each other.
After a short time, we were running under a fly over which was cooler but the echo of OGGY OGGY OGGY OY OY OY will stay in my memory for a long time. I continued my run. Seeing the iconic bridge across the Tyne surrounded by fellow runners was amazing.
The sun continued to beat down. The water and lucozade stations were a welcome relief and the crowd started to play a bigger part in helping me run. My name was being called and helped me to keep going.
My watch was vibrating all morning relaying my mobile phone messages but all of a sudden my watch went into over drive with messages saying I’ve just been on the television, saying everyone’s crying and messages of love. I well up. Seemed incredible that I was on TV – how was that even possible?
I got near the 6 mile mark knowing that I need to look out for Denise Lewis who would interview me. I expected a couple of minutes of rest but instead I quickly found myself stood next to the beautiful Denise Lewis with a mike in front of me. I did the interview and within seconds was back running again. I can’t remember the questions I was asked. I just felt overwhelmed by the situation.
More messages started to come through, people donating to my just giving page purely because they have seen me on the TV. People inspired by me. I began to sob. I was truly overwhelmed. I started to realize what others have seen for a while. I have and was doing something quite amazing. I thought about my dad knowing that he would be proud of his bonkers daughter. Yes he should have been there to see me but I know he was and continues to be my driving force.
The heat was starting to get to me so had to start alternating running with walking. This wasn’t an issue as whether you are an elite or whether you walk it all, you are cheered on massively by the supporting crowd.
The crowds were amazing. There was not an inch of the course where there wasn’t someone cheering and encouraging people on. The offers of sweets, biscuits, extra water, oranges, were overflowing. The ice pops were the best I’ve ever tasted in my life!
I got to a great big shower ( imagine a car wash without the brushes) and run through it. The water was cold but incredibly refreshing, just what was required.
I saw the 9 mile marker, then the 10 mile marker, the 11 mile marker and then come the hill that I had been warned about. It’s a fair old hill when your legs are tired. Nothing at that stage would stop me. I dug deep looking at the costumes, talking to fellow runners, hi-5’ing the children. I then saw the sea in front of me – wow what a sight. I ran down the hill and just as I get round the corner, I heard my brother shout my name. Not knowing he was going to be there, I was elated. I ran over give him a huge hug and then started running the final mile.
I had heard the last mile would be the longest mile and I can honestly say it was. It was so tough!! I saw the 800 yards sign, then the 400 and finally the 200. I saw the finish but my legs were struggling to run. Just at the right time, I saw a camera, raised my arms and cheered through the finish line.
I was met with the biggest hug and I was elated. I’d run 13.1 miles and I’d run it quicker than I thought. I was on a huge high and had a great big smile across my face.
I know I had trained for the run. My personal trainer Craig Ross had ensured that I did my training runs, conditioning and resisting training etc. I remember him saying 12 weeks before that he didn’t want me doubting whether I could run it on the day. He wanted me just to enjoy the whole experience. No amount of training could ever prepare me for the atmosphere or the sense of elation I felt at the end.
Running for HOOP was an honour. I have had so much support, encouragement, and the enthusiasm was amazing. The build up was incredible, before I even got to Newcastle I was on a high because of all the messages of support I received.
Being selected by the BBC was surreal, why would I be inspirational? Why did they think that I was any different from anyone else? Despite not accepting the reason I was selected I decided that stepping out of my comfort zone was worth it if it would promote HOOP.
After watching the footage and hearing Gabby Roslin describe me as the ‘amazing Andrea Whiting’ and knowing I had run 13.1 miles little over a year from being nearly house bound, I have finally realized that yes I have done something special.
Running is incredibly tough and I can honestly say I hated it for at least 3 to 4 months. It was only the knowledge that I was running the Great North Run and running it for HOOP that kept me going. In the last couple of months I have started to enjoy running. It’s still hard and still takes a lot of internal arguments with myself to keep going. The sense of achievement at the end is huge. So if you are thinking of starting running, go out slowly, build up slowly and just put one front of the other.