A Great Run …. By Helen Rowe
The Great South Run was a great run (pun intended). As anyone who has ever done a Great Run knows, the organisation is spot on. When you have got 20,000 runners congregating in one place to run a 10 mile race, then it has to be.
We were awake before the alarms went off, and it was obvious from the noise in the corridor that there were quite a few runners staying at our hotel. I wonder if they all had shoeboxes for rooms? Anyone who has seen my facebook posts will know that our room was miniscule – with a mock wall unit painted on the wall, with pictures of things like a vase, a radio, a clock, some books, and the TV was attached to the wall in a mock aperture. There was not enough room to swing a cat as they say.
We had taken porridge pots for breakfast, and even that was fraught with danger, as the lid was loose, and as a result, the handle of the kettle became very hot when the kettle boiled. We packed the last of our belongings into our cases, and headed down to Reception to put our bags into store. I was the nominated “sensible one” and was given the baggage reclaim labels.
It was a dry bright day, and when we left our hotel we joined a throng of people all heading down to Southsea Sea Front, to the start line. There was lots of chatter, and the atmosphere was very upbeat. We passed several marshals on the way, already in place, and we said ‘good morning’ as we passed. Cal picked up my sighs – which are a regular thing on my way to the start of a race, which is when I am deep in thought about the task ahead, and elements of self-doubt start creeping in.
We walked passed the 5 mile sign, and Cal said “When we pass that next time, just remember that everything after will be counting down”. We crossed the common, and soon were in a melee of thousands of people, runners and spectators alike. We started looking out for the red and white of Massey tops, to try to find Philip McCarron, Phillip Hayes, Johanna Hayes, and Michaela Eyley. On the first sweep there was no sign. We found the baggage drop, but decided it was too early to leave our bags, so we headed to the portaloos, and joined one of the queues. Whilst I was waiting for Cal to rejoin me, a gentleman in red and white approached me and introduced himself as a Watford Jogger, and he commented that he often sees Massey runners at events – wearing the same colours – and saying it can be confusing because you think it is someone you know until you get closer.
Cal and I decided to set off on the Massey hunt again, and we walked back down the outside of the waves, scanning. The pens were starting to fill up. We walked the entire length of the pens, passed the start line, and still there was no sign of a Massey. They announced that the elite women were about to go, so we stood by the barrier to see them go. Then we started to make our way back passed the pens again, and on the third sweep we spotted the two Phils in the Orange Pen. We gave them a hug, and wished them luck, and then started looking for Jo in the White Pen. Unfortunately we did not find her to wish her luck. The fast club runners left, and then the Orange wave left, and they started the warm up for the White wave, and we decided we needed to put our bags in the bag drop, and head for the Green Pen, and look for Michaela. We found her, and we managed to squeeze through the crowd to join her. We just about managed to get a photo in the pen before we were being moved forward.
Then they announced that Eilish McColgan, had finished in 51:36, beating her mother’s record of 52.00. We had our warm up, and then it was time for the off. The route takes you along Clarence Esplanade, and heads towards Gun Wharf, under the railway bridge towards the harbour. Between mile 1 and 2, a lady ahead of me had fallen over, and she looked like she was in a bad way. People were with her, and St John’s Ambulance personnel were on their way. We entered the Historic Dockyard at about mile 2, and at first we were running on cobbles, but the terrain soon changed back to tarmac. There was armed security, and I wasn’t sure whether that was for our protection, or to protect the docks from us!
There was lots of support on the course, with spectators calling out your name, and give words of encouragement, and jelly babies of course! There were music stations on the course, with live bands playing/singing at miles 1, 2, 3, and 5, or recorded music blasting from speakers at 5.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, and 9.5 miles. It was great, and kept you motivated.
We ran passed our hotel twice on a switch back leg, which is where the first water station was, at around 4 miles. We then ran down the road we had walked down in the morning, towards Southsea Common, and we passed the 5 mile marker, and I remembered Cal’s wise words. There was an energy station just before mile 7, where CLIF were giving out bloks and shots. I was given a shot, but not having had one before, I was not going to try in on the race, so I put it in my hydration waistcoat, to try another time. The second water station was at mile 7. I spotted a runner who had finished, and he was standing by the side of the road, encouraging those of us still on our journey to the finish line, and I joking said “is the medal worth it, or shall I give up now?”. He laughed, and said “it’s definitely worth it – keep going” – so I did.
Just after the 8 mile mark, you came onto the East Esplanade, and then it was just under two miles along the esplanade to the finish. There were mixed emotions. I could hear some people saying they were flagging, and running buddies were urging them on, saying it was less than two miles to go. For others, spirits were high. I was in the latter group. I knew I had got this, although I was feeling a little tired. I decided to use the lampposts as markers, and started running one lamppost, then walking one lamppost. Others around me were doing the same.
There were timing mats at 5k, 10k and 15k. There were pacers up to 2 hours 5 minutes. I had started ahead of the Green Wave pacers, and the 2 hour pacers had passed me at the 10k mark, but the 2 hour 5 minute pacer didn’t pass me until 8 miles. Spectators were urging you to try to keep up with the pacer if you could. Then they started shouting only “800 metres to go”. I continued with my run/walk, but trying to run more than walk. I passed the 400 metres to go sign. Then it was 200 metres to go, and I could see the finish line. I could taste the sweet taste of success. I heard someone shout my name, and said “Go Massey” and I pushed on. I wasn’t sure whether I would get a better time than my previous best 10 mile two weeks ago. I hoped I would. I crossed the line, switched off my watch, and made my way through to collect water, goody bag etc.
When I checked my watch I had taken 1 minute off my previous best 10 mile – so I was happy with that.
I met up with Cal in the Baggage area, and we did some stretching out. We then went to try to find Michaela, but we had missed her. There was a race village, with lots of stalls, with merchandise, food, drink, etc. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to hang around, as we had to get back to the hotel to collect our luggage and head for the bus station, for the Megabus home.
It had been a Great Run. One I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a 10 miler. I may be back …. Also, there is lots to do and see in Portsmouth. You need a full weekend to do it though. We went up the Spinnaker Tower, visited the Mary Rose exhibition, went shopping at Gun Wharf Quays, and we fitted in a parkrun to Lee-on-the-Solent, which involved getting the ferry over to Gosport.