‘I got a National Express overnight coach – I couldn’t face the return’

Signing up for this year’s Great North Run seemed like a brilliant idea until I checked the price of a hotel.

If you could get one for under £200 a night, you were doing extremely well. And, as much as I enjoy running, splashing out around £1,000 when you take into account travel and other expenses to jog around the north east for a couple of hours really didn’t seem worth it.

I had been a National Express regular during my university days with those famous white coaches taking me from Kent to Southampton and back a number of times. I remembered them being much more reasonably priced than a train back then.

And so it was again this year with an overnight return coach from London to Newcastle costing me less than £40. It was the most sensible and cost effective way to make the long journey north. Or so it seemed…

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As I waited at London Victoria coach station for my 11pm departure to the Toon last Saturday night, I was left wondering exactly how much sleep was I going to get.

The coach was due to get to Newcastle at 6am on Sunday with Sir Mo Farah and the rest of the mass participants beginning their race at 11am.

I knew a services stop was scheduled for the journey, as well as a pick up in Milton Keynes and a couple of drop offs once we’d reached ‘The North’. But, with 13.1 miles to run in a matter of hours, how rested was I going to be?

In truth, I needn’t have worried.

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The coach was spacious and generous in the leg room. Even for me, standing at 6’2, I had plenty of leg room.

There were two working, for me at least, USB ports attached to every seat and allowed me to charge my watch – vital to track the upcoming run.

There was one gentleman who decided to brush his teeth in his seat about ten minutes into the journey. I admire his oral hygiene, but not sure why he didn’t just scrub those canines a few minutes before boarding like I did.

But once we had hit the road and got out of London, I managed to get some sleep.

The seat next to me was empty until Milton Keynes with the passenger who took that seat departing again at Doncaster, so I really couldn’t complain about the space I was given. It was certainly less crowded than I would have expected a train to be.

The loud announcements before any stops did awake me from my slumber. Though I was glad to get off the coach at the Welcome Break Woodall Northbound Services M1 – if only to take the picture of my coach you see in this article.

A 25 minute stop felt about right and much better than you get on some away football supporters' coach trips.

Back on the road at 2.45am, it felt like I only blinked before an announcement that we were just arriving at our final stop Newcastle came. Twenty minutes early at 5.40am meant I had over 18 hours until my booked 11.55pm return coach back to London.

But by 2pm, with the Great North Run medal around my neck, I simply couldn’t face the wait.

Spending another £80 to get a train back to the capital felt worth it to be able to spend the night in my own bed, instead of on a coach seat, and to have a shower.

Back through my front door at 9pm, I realised I’d have had another three hours sitting around in a Wetherspoons or late-night coffee shop waiting for my coach had I remained in Newcastle.

I love a Spoons as much as anyone. But after putting my body through hell in horrendous heat, my bed was more needed than a £3 pint… even for a Southerner!

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