WOW, yesterday I attended my first ever run event, the Great South Run and it truly was great. Maybe I was just lucky this year but the whole thing was a fantastic experience.
Back at the beginning of May following entry to the Goodwood Duathlon, I decided I wanted to be better at running and I needed something to focus on. Having completed a couple of 3 mile runs, 10 miles seemed like an achievable goal with 5 months to go.
The first two months following sign up, not much changed I attended Monday track sessions and occasionally ran once more in the week for a couple of miles. However, in the middle of July, I started a proper training plan, running 4 times a week including track session on a Monday.
Back to the actual day, having decided to stay in Southsea for the weekend and take away the stress of travelling in the morning. At 10:00am following a light breakfast of peanut butter on toast, I thought I should probably stroll down to the starting area. No need to register as a very informative pack had arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago with everything that I needed.
On leaving the B&B I joined a flow of people headed towards the seafront. The first WOW came when I walked onto the field and saw the crowds of people milling around waiting to get started. More than 20,000 people sign up to take part in the GSR. And as I walked further into the crowds of people it looked like most of them had decided they need the loo at the same time.
All I had to do now was wait for my running partner Paul Venus to arrive and in about an hour we would be off. It wasn’t long before Paul, Paul’s mate Dave and I were queued up in the green wave with thousands of others waiting for the off.
The sun was shining but there had been a slight chill in the air, so I was glad I had opted for my long sleeve top. However standing in the middle of such a large crowd, I didn’t feel cold at all. We had a bit of a warm up to do and then in a few minutes we would be off, Coach Paul thought he was too cool for the warm up but everybody else was joining in, throwing some shapes to the music. Next WOW, I realised I wasn’t nervous just keen to get going.
Our support team of Simon, son Rhys, Jacqui and Neville were waiting to cheers us on somewhere near Gunwharf, which was around 1.5 miles. And then again at the loop on Winston Churchill Avenue around 3 and 5 miles.
As the horns blew to signal the start, I couldn’t help but smile. We were off!
In the first five or ten minutes, it felt like we were barely moving and it doesn’t do you any good looking down, so many legs, I felt a little giddy.
In my training sessions, I had averaged a pace of 10:39, so my plan for the day was to aim for less than 1 hour 50. Although I wasn’t sure how realistic that would be as my longest run was just over 7 miles, could I sustain that pace over an extra 3 miles?
Soon we were running towards Gunwharf and it wasn’t long before I spotted a familiar sight, Nev’s head above the rest of the crowd. Only a mile or so in but seeing friendly supportive faces gives you a great boost.
As we ran on through dockyard and past HMS Victory, I was still smiling. In truth, it was difficult not to smile, the weather was gorgeous, there were constantly people cheering from the side of the road, plus I was being entertained by Paul’s humour and stories.
It wasn’t long before we had travelled up and back along Winston Churchill Avenue and that we had seen our support team again twice. A quick look at my watch confirmed over half way and that the pace was looking good at 10 minute miles.
I had a decision to make I had a gel in my pocket, should I do as advised and take it. Breakfast was doing me well so far, I still felt good so decided no, half a mile later and I grabbed a drink from the lovely Lucozade ladies. At which point Paul was feeling disappointed that he hadn’t seen anyone handing out jelly babies.
A couple more miles, pace was getting quicker, we had a quick glimpse of the sea at the end of Clarence Parade and then before I knew it we were coming back round onto the Esplanade and the final 2 mile stretch. Also to Paul’s delight people with huge bags of jelly babies! Everything I had heard or read about the Great South Run, advised to hold something in reserve for this bit as you normally find yourself running into the wind and it can be quite unpleasant. Well another WOW, not today, in fact quite the opposite, there was a lovely warm wind pushing from behind. Fantastic!
I did a quick mental check, yep legs felt good, breathing was still comfortable, was still finding Paul funny. Still smiling!
Then, hold on! Whats that all about? An 800m sign, now why does that make me feel rubbish. Twice around the track? Why did that seem like a long way? Nope don’t listen to that voice!
Paul mentioned that we ought to keep an eye out for the support team again. Then the road bent slightly to the left and there it was, just in the distance the finish line. Brilliant nearly done, smiling again now, and as hoped cheering from familiar voices once again and then that was it, across the finish line. Paul at 1:41:46 and me a second later. Although we didn’t see them, Chris Edwards and Peter Holt also ran today, finishing 1:29:35 and 1:34:42 respectively.
I am not sure how it all went so smoothly; it genuinely was a fantastic experience. Massive thanks to Paul for jogging with me (well he was jogging), Rhys, Jac & Neville for spending their Sunday morning cheering us on, oh and Jac for buying me a pint of Doombar for the end. Perfect! And finally, to Simon for the encouragement and support on the day but equally on those training runs, cycling along beside me, singing!
I would highly recommend Great South Run, considering how many people take part and the organisation that must go into an event of that size, it was superbly run (no pun intended).
Goody bag and bling were good too, almost sure to sign up for this one again!