Michael Shelley, Andy Vernon, Steve Way… Just a few of the big names towing the start line with us in Southsea yesterday. It was the Great South Run 2014, an event I’ve wanted to do for a few years and it was finally my year.
I love a big event. I love the atmosphere, the buzz, and I love running in a massive crowd. Don’t get me wrong, parkrunning is great but nothing beats being in the start pen with 20,000 people shuffling around. There’s nothing like it.
The morning didn’t start well though. Despite my suggestion we leave at 7.30 I was over-ruled… and we ended up in crawling traffic! And when we were trying to prepare a quick departure I realised I’d forgotten my spibelt! Luckily Simon offered to take my phone and money in his for me. Then when we did eventually park we had no change/time/patience to queue to get a parking ticket, so we used the RingGo service while walking to the start… Not without its own frustrations! And finally Jodie forgot her iPod.
Anyway, the 2 mile walk to the start served as a good warm up and we walked along a couple of sections of the course. We stupidly bypassed some toilets thinking we’d get some near the start… Error! The queues were massive! Simon and I only had 10 minutes or so to get to our pen, but Jodie thankfully had more time. We wished Jodie luck and like the considerate fiancée I am… Left her in the toilet queue 😀 (we found a convenient tree)
We hopped the fence to get in the Orange start pen. There was plenty of room in there, and we hopped in about a third back from the front. We only had the fast club and elite runners ahead of us, so I hoped there would be limited weaving during the early stages… I was wrong.
Anyway there was a cheesy mass warm up before we were started by the legend that is Jo Pavey. We eventually crossed under the starting gantry, caught by the good people at Channel 5!
Our race strategy was simple – even splits at 7m/m for a target of sub 70 finish time. The first mile was an utter nightmare. There were people EVERYWHERE. We were weaving around for at least the first mile and it got slightly easier moving into mile 2 and did get progressively better. But it was frustrating and energy sapping. Missed the first split by about 5s so I was determined to catch that up in mile 2. At which point we overtook Eric Pollard off’ve Emmerdale! Lovely man, I said ‘come on Eric Pollard’ to which he responded with a cheery ‘Good Morning!’.
We passed our support crew of Jodie’s parents and sister at about 1.5 miles, I have no idea how they saw me with the number of people running!
The route took us through the docks, passing HMS Victory (which I saluted), the Mary Rose (museum) and some Royal Navy ships. As we reached the 3 mile point I was struggling to keep Simon in touch. I was trying to control my pace but felt pretty good, but He was struggling after running the tough Bupa Great Birmingham Run (half marathon) only last weekend! So I pressed on on pace.
My watch wasn’t very good with its measuring for this race. The mile markers were getting progressively further apart, so I was having to do some quick maths to stay on track. I worked out that on my watch is need to be doing a pace of 6.50m/m to keep on my 7m/m target.
After a quiet 3rd and 4th mile which consisted of a water station, an out and back and a hairpin turn we came back into ‘town’ to mark the halfway point – and the crowds were magnificent! I heard a ‘come on Yeovil!’ which was great motivation. I passed the Lucozade station and didn’t pick one up, which I think turned out to be a mistake. Shortly after I ran through the shower to cool off. It was around here I saw the back of a bleached blonde guy in a McMillan Cancer vest – I’ve seen enough televised mass races to know that it had to be Iwan Thomas, British 400m record holder, Wold Championship gold medallist and Olympic silver medallist! I put in some extra effort to get past him, and with a great deal of pride I overtook him shouting ‘come on Iwan Thomas!’ He looked at me like I was a right nob but was polite 🙂
Miles 6-8 were mostly residential but still well supported, I started to flag. Watching back the coverage on the TV you can see me crossing the 10k split whilst the race leaders were on the opposite side of the road – I was oblivious to them! I did see Michael Shelley at his 800m to go though.
I was having to work really hard to hit the pace splits, and as my watched beeped for 8 miles the official mile marker was still 150yds away, so I pressed the manual lap button as I passed it. Looking at the time I passed 8 in just about 56 minutes – I was bang on still but it was so tight.
Then we turned on to the seafront and the famous ‘Great South Run Westerly Wind’ kicked in. After 8 miles at my top end effort this was a massive kick in the nuts. I tried and tried but I had nothing left. Some supporters were offering Jelly Babies and I grabbed a couple. But I couldn’t chew them, I had no saliva and they were tough to swallow so I just let one melt in my mouth. Crossing the 9m mark I clocked a 7.25 mile. I knew the target was gone. But I could see the finish past the pier and I was determined to go under 71mins so I pressed on.
The crowds were getting better and started passing the masses on their way back. I kept my head down and just gave it everything I had left. The support was brilliant and I crossed the line in 70.27. If it weren’t for the wind I would have made it! But I was still incredibly pleased with my time.
The race had split times every 5k which was good – so when I look at the official results I can see that I really was as consistent as I thought. This alongside my Garmin Activity break it down further, though it looks like there was a fault with my heart monitor – no way it dipped that low for the last 3 miles!
Analysing the results further I can still see that I over performed. Regular readers know I use the McMillan Calculator to work out target and training times, which is why I knew I had over-performed compared with my relatively recent Bristol Half Marathon time. According to that I should have been outside of 1.12 for this race. 667 overall out of 16,000 runners – whats not to be pleased at with that?! Furthermore when looking at how RunBritain had rated the race conditions, it further cemented that I had done well.
I moved to the side of the funnel as I thought I was going to vomit and grabbed a sick bag from the volunteers. As I was urging I saw Jodie’s family which was slightly embarrassing, but when I stood up I realised I was in front of a tv camera! Luckily it wasn’t broadcast!
I waited in the funnel for Simon. He took a few minutes as he’d had a tough race, but at least he went for it. Considering he had a half last Sunday he still had a lot to be proud of! We got our goody bags and medals. Note to self – I am no longer a large! Medium is fine. The large tee I got was massive!
We walked past the podium, it looked like the women’s medals had just been given out as Gemma Steel was in the enclosure with 2 Kenyans. We took the obligatory podium selfie! Closest we’ll get to actual medal!
We then found our support crew and waited for Jodie. They saw her at the same place they saw me and said she looked in control. She was targeting 10 minute miles and we had the race clock on the finish gantry. We were (very proudly) shocked when we could see her and there was 1.35 on the clock! Sister Lauren managed to get this vid of her – mind your ears!
She smashed her target and we all couldn’t have been prouder. After the race she was very pleased with herself too and she enjoyed it – and I love that she enjoyed it too!
We all had a fantastic day. The weather held off and the organisation was good. The goody bag was full of tasty treats and it was a nice medal. Not sure I’ll do it next year but I do have a score to settle. If I do come back I’ll be starting nearer the front of the pen to avoid the weaving.
Next race: Weston Christmas Cracker!