Keep reading for Matt's Great North Run experience or watch his video above to experience the day with him. 

Several years ago, my eldest daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with autism and not too long ago benefited from a grant from Family Fund. I first became aware of Family Fund when I started working for MCC Digital, which has worked with the charity for a number of years. It was because of my close working relationship with this fantastic charity and the great work they do for families with disabled children that I wanted to try and raise some money for them one way or another.

Being an enthusiastic runner, I thought one way I could raise money was to enter into a race and to get friends and family to sponsor me, so when my Sales Director told me that he couldn’t run this year's Great North Run, I gladly stepped in to take up the challenge.

The Great North Run is one of the worlds most recognised half marathons, and this year there were approximately 57,000 entrants. The 13.1 miles starts in the heart of Newcastle and winds over the iconic Tyne Bridge before taking us through Gateshead, past Jarrow, and onto the coast line at South Shields

So, how could I turn this opportunity down?  That’s right I couldn’t!

September rolled around too quickly and it was soon time to make the three-and-a-half hour drive from Telford to Newcastle. My good friend Gabe, who was running for his own chosen charity, accompanied me and eventually we made our way into the centre of Newcastle. I was excited to be running in the same race as multiple Olympic and World Champion Mo Farah, but I doubted I’d push him for the win this year!

We got ourselves dressed into our running gear, pinned on our race numbers and made our way to the race HQ. Stepping off the Metro we could feel the excitement in the air, there were thousands of runners and supporters filling the streets and the atmosphere was amazing. Music was playing, volunteers were working hard to make everyone’s day enjoyable and runners and supporters were making their way to the start line.

Once I’d been for my third nervous pee of the morning I made my way to my start location. There was already a sea of people warming up and readying themselves to run so I filtered in and joined in. It took me 25 minutes from the gun to get over the start line; as soon as I crossed I started my watch, hit record on my GoPro and settled myself in for 13.1 miles of this epic half marathon.

I knew I had done the training, but the excitement of the day got to me a little bit and I did the worst thing you can do when running a long race, I went off too quickly! I covered my first three miles in just over 27 minutes and I was at mile 5 before I knew it. I managed to slow myself down to my planned pace but I knew I’d used up a bit too much energy in the first section of the race. So I took on some water, ate my gel pack at mile six and dug in for the long haul!

What was apparent to me was the level of support from the locals. It was absolutely amazing, from kids handing out ice pops and orange segments, to adults with bowls of jelly babies, cups of water and even cups of Newcastle Brown Ale at one section. It was constant support through the whole 13.1 miles with many roundabouts housing local bands playing live music. But it was just the constant cheering, high-fiveing and people calling out your name in support as I ran by that carried me, and all the other runners, along the whole route.

I got into a good rhythm, but I hit the dreaded wall at mile nine and the pain was constant right through to the end. But you don’t give up, you push on and get the job done. The sight of the South Shields coastline coming into view gave me new strength, as I knew I was almost at the finish. As I turned the corner and into the last mile thousands of people were lined along the streets cheering us on and I actually felt like a ‘proper runner’ (I’ll give Mo a run for his money one day!).

I hit the 800 metres to go marker, then the 400 metre sign, and I couldn’t help but slow down slightly to take in the atmosphere. As I came to the finish line I was overwhelmed. I had done it, I’d completed the Great North Run 2017.

I stopped my watch as I crossed the line and almost fell over when I realized I’d completed it in 2:07.50, beating my previous half marathon personal best by over 16 minutes. I was over the moon! Joining the masses I collected my well-deserved medal and met up with Sarah, who I know from work and was also running for Family Fund where we had a team FF photo. The rest of the afternoon was a blur of people, tiredness, congratulations, and happiness.

Finally, we made our way to the car, after enjoying a well-deserved beer, for the drive home. I have to say it wasn’t the most comfortable drive I’ve ever had, but nothing could take away the feeling of what we had just accomplished. Completing the Great North Run 2017!

For me, Family Fund was the charity I wanted to give something back to and throughout the build-up to the race they have offered fantastic support. I hope my small contribution, combined with the contributions from other fundraisers and the great work from all the fantastic staff will continue to provide much-needed support for families raising disabled or seriously ill children.

Here’s to the next event on this list!