Race Report by Alison Lowe
I’ve wanted to do this race for several years having watched it on the TV, but it had always clashed with half term holidays. The race takes place in Southsea in Portsmouth and I grew up in nearby Southampton and as well as bringing back a few memories, I had seen that the route was scenic. It’s also less daunting as it’s only a 10-mile race. With my half term (being in Solihull) falling a week later this year, I bagged one of the early bird entries last October.
My wave start time was not until 11am so I broke up the journey by staying overnight at my brothers in Oxford so I didn’t need a very early start. I arrived in Portsmouth at 9.30am and parked some distance away from the start in the main shopping area. There are 20,000 runners in this event so there were lots of people to follow down to Southsea Common.
Just before the start area I spotted a long line of toilets – but with the longest queues I’d ever seen (I later discovered there were other nearer the start)! I joined the queue thinking this would be the only chance – but from there I did get to see the Elite Women set off on their race.
Having finally found the bag drop building I left my bag and found the start for my wave. The weather was glorious with a clear blue sky – but by 11am when we were due to start I was actually feeling hot. I realised too late that I didn’t need the extra t-shirt under my Massey vest – so I knew I was going to be warm. Just before we started they announced that Eilish McColgan had won the ladies elite race – 23 years after her mother Liz had won the first ever race here, which was a nice note to start on.
After a short warm up we were off as the last wave of the day. We headed off past the sea front, past the Spinnaker Tower and towards the Historic Dockyard. From the start the race felt very busy and I felt I wanted to overtake people, but there wasn’t much room to do so. I realised this was possibly the biggest race I had ever run and I had not raced any big race for a year. People were weaving and stopping to walk so I had to keep aware of people around me. However, given I will be running the London marathon next year I guess I need to get used to it! We continued past HMS Victory, up past the naval dockyard (with armed guards) and then past the Mary Rose building to turn back into the city. The route then took us through the city streets where there was quite a lot of support including some great bands – in particular, one female drumming group at around Mile 3. By this point I realised my pace was not great – I could not get into clear space to get my pace to what I wanted, and it was actually hot – so as the atmosphere was so good, and the sun was shining I decided time would not matter.
There were 3 water stations at 3, 6 and 7 miles which were much needed as well as a SiS gel station at 7 miles – not having tried those gels before I didn’t risk one. The course is almost completely flat and continued from the city back towards the seafront – still very busy along the route. At 8 miles the route turns back towards the start and runs along the Esplanade along the shoreline. From TV coverage in previous years I have seen that this can be the toughest part of the race as in bad weather it can be brutal with high winds. Today we were lucky and the slight breeze coming off the sea was light relief against the warm sun. I was worried that this part would feel never ending – however the view out to sea was gorgeous and I even spotted a Brittany Ferry and remembered returning here from a holiday in Spain. The 15km mark was a welcome sight especially as my watch had been bumped by someone’s elbow earlier and it had clicked an extra lap, so my watch distance was not right! A small turn in the route took us to the finishing straight and the finish line. There we received the goody bag which was much better stocked than the one at the end of the Birmingham half last year with something to eat and some discount vouchers I will actually use! The finish area covered quite a large area so there was space to look around the stalls (and acquire more free food) – and there I bumped into Philip and Jo Hayes who I knew were also running but I didn’t expect to see with so many runners there. We chatted for a while – then having collected my bag I wandered along the seafront savouring the sea views before finally finding where I had left my car!