As time marches ever onward the latest installment of The Great South Run is upon us. It’s lauded as the world’s leading 10 mile running event and is a popular choice with both the fun runners and elite athletes alike. It winds through the city of Portsmouth and takes you through areas that are off limits to the public on a normal day. You get to run past the Royal Navy’s current naval ships and some of the more famous historic ships like HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose museum.
This weekend I volunteered on the Saturday which was fantastically rewarding. I was part of a team who’s job it was to hand out the finishers packs at the 5k, the mini and the junior events, 5 races in total. I had such a great time doing this that I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s not a difficult thing to do and seeing the joy on the majority of people’s faces is heart warming. It’s also a great way of seeing what goes on behind the scenes and how many people give up their time to help out. Volunteering at an event like this is quite a days activity, I was down there for a good 5-6 hours for the junior races. The guys doing the 10 miler on the Sunday must be clocking up a fair bit more time than that. A big thank you to all involved is most definitely in order.
I did encounter some very minor negativity from some. I don’t think I will ever understand people, how can anyone possibly think that moving a safety barrier to walk across a finish area where the kids are finishing, to save themselves maybe 100-200 metres of walking, is acceptable behaviour. More so, to act all incredulous when you tell them “no, walk around”, it beggars belief. Such a sense of entitlement in this day and age.
With Saturday out of the way it’s time to think about running it on Sunday. I’m going to have to admit that my enthusiasm levels for participating in this years race were at an all time low. Nothing to do with lack of training or anything like that, it’s just that I’ve been going off these larger corporate sponsor type events. I’ve become a big fan of small events, ones where you can rock up and run with no faffing about before hand, you can thank the race director(s) personally and shake them by the hand, those sorts of events. Warm, friendly, welcoming, more personal, yes these huge races do provide loads of support with crowds of people cheering you on, but it’s just not quite the same as a quick chat with someone at an aid station in the middle of nowhere who might not have seen another competitor for five minutes or more!
It’s an early start, whilst the race starts for me at 10:30am, I’m in the orange wave that goes off first, I have to leave the house at 8:00am to ensure that I get down there early enough to park up and walk down to the start. I get to the bag drop at about 9:00am and am greeted by the all pervading aroma of Deep Heat, the quote “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” pops into my head! This makes it feel more like a small race, crowds of runners huddled in the warmth of a room with trestle tables littering the room, bodies and bags everywhere, people sat on the floor or queuing for the loos. I feel more at home almost instantly, odd eh?
There’s also lots of familiar faces in the hall, people I recognise from other races, from parkrun and from Bosh. Everyone going through their own personal pre-race mental check lists. For me that consisted of “what shall I do with my jacket”… it’s a bit chilly outside and I’m being a bit of a pussy about it. I’ve been ill for the past couple of weeks and am still not feeling 100%, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! I’m also deciding what sort of pace I’m going to try and run it, I want to beat last years time, so somewhere between 1:20 and 1:30 would be grand. That puts me at 8 to 9 minute miles, so anything better than 9 minute miles will see me home in good order. I should easily manage that.
Now one of the things I hate most about races like this is the almost enforced pre-run warm ups. Every year I usually stand there on my own looking miserable whilst all around me attempt to follow the instructions of some Lycra clad Mr Motivator-esque lunatic prancing around on a platform. If that’s your bag then crack on, it’s not mine, I have my own warm up, which is usually relatively quick and simple and does not include performing squats in time to music! This year was slightly different from usual as I was in a small group of people I know, 3 or 4 from Victory, a couple from Fareham and my friend Vanessa from Bosh. Everyone had a bit of a boogie and a bit of a laugh with it, which was so much more fun than usual!
At roughly 10:40 we were set off, a huge procession of people shuffling towards the start line, a mess of colours with outfits of many varieties. There are lots of club vests in this faster wave, with a smattering of costumes and a large number of charity vests on show. The Great South Run always draws lots of runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. Even at this point, crossing the start line under a cacophony of noise from the crowds and air horns I’m not feeling the excitement that you’d expect. The whole thing this year has been a bit “meh”, I don’t really want to run it, but almost feel I have to what with it being local, it being the first race I ever ran and also having done it five times previously.
The first five miles go without a hitch, I’m cruising at an 8:30ish pace without checking my watch, it’s a natural pace that I’ve fallen into without really realising. I’m feeling pretty good, running up Winston Churchill Avenue I collect a bottle of water from John Cole manning the station there, he runs alongside soaking me with two more water bottles he’s armed with! I take a sip from the bottle I took off him and keep hold of it to squirt him with on the way back, it’s serious business this running lark! This is probably where it started going a bit wrong for me, the water I sipped seemingly setting my delicate stomach off into ‘gurgle mode’.
I made it to the end of Hampshire Terrace rather fortunately as there was a Lucozade aid station there with portaloos! I managed to duck off the course and dive into one where I spent a good 5 minutes cursing the fact I’d not taken any Imodium before the race. I’d not been well before hand so it was a big risk not taking preventative measures beforehand, so that quite physically backfired on me! The less said about those five minutes the better. My steady 8:30 minute miles ruined with a 12:15! The following three miles I had to run half a minute slower than I had been prior to the upset, you know, just in case! I certainly didn’t feel in the clear and didn’t want to push my luck as the next lot of toilets were at the Eastney end of the seafront. I made it there OK so upped the pace a bit. The last mile I pushed on and felt really comfortable pace wise even if my stomach was complaining, I managed a 8:14 minute mile with a final push across the line at 7:11 minute mile pace.
Rather disappointingly, but also rather unsurprisingly given the issues I had I managed to cross the line just outside of, but relatively close to, my target time. I managed 1:31:28, annoyingly 9 seconds slower than last years 1:31:19. Never mind, I know I could have bested last years time if I hadn’t have stopped for five minutes!
Great South Run results
- 2009 – 1:50:04 – 10358th
- 2012 – 1:19:58 – 2713th
- 2013 – 1:36:08 – 7879th
- 2014 – 1:35:10 – 7639th
- 2015 – 1:31:19 – 5461st
- 2016 – 1:31:28 – 6042nd
At least I’m relatively consistent, but I really need to prove to myself that 2012 wasn’t a complete fluke! It looks like I’m going to have to enter it again in 2017 and try a bit harder.
The medal felt a bit naff this year compared to previous years, the design is good but it just didn’t feel weighty enough, feels a bit plastic! Great technical Tshirt this year though, that’s a marked improvement from the usual cotton shirts you get. Quite a packed goody bag too, lots of snacks, so quite a nice haul, though a box of Ryvita is slightly questionable!
Great South Run boshed and I guess, in the words of Arnie, “I’ll be back!!”