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Great South Run - 28 October 2012

Chris Archibold reports.

The build up to the Great South Run was cold, wet and very windy. Traffic leading into Portsmouth was queuing from about 8.30am, but I eventually managed to find a car park on the outskirts, and followed the crowd of runners heading down to Southsea front.

The last time I did the Great South I remember a warm October, lots of crowds and walking around in singlet and shorts. This time I had on tracksuit bottoms, fleece and a hat and was biting my tongue against the wind and rain.

However, I was in a much better position than the other WAC runners, Katherine Dunkerton and Rebecca Hughes as I did have my secret weapon of a VIP pass. The advantage for my Geordie background and a friend who is Brendan Foster’s PA.

I found the VIP suite and was in my element. Whilst watching Sally Gunnell and Iwan Thomas go through their warm up routines I tucked into a sausage bap and played ‘celebrity spot’.

I then thought I had better look prepared, but as my stretching seemed very pitiful compared to Sally Gunnell, I decided to get a photo opportunity and warm up next to the Diabetes UK charity runners. However, the best part of the whole VIP section was not having to queue for the toilet. Every race should have a dedicated toilet block, and that really took the pressure off whilst adjusting the Garmin and IPod.

I was meant to meet Katherine to run with but with mobile phone signal dying about 45 minutes before the start and several fruitless efforts of searching, I made my way to the start line. By pure accident I ended up at the front of White, and although it was good to talk to Tony the fridge carrying Geordie it was also terrifying.

The countdown began and with Kelly Holmes hitting the start button a sea of White overtook me. At the speed I went off Usain Bolt would have been proud, but after 100 metres reality (and the freezing wind and rain) soon brought me back to a 6 minute K.

The first two miles went by really quickly, and luckily I did manage to warm up halfway through the docks. The 3 mile mark came round quickly and 5K in less than 30 minutes was good for me. The long straight with 4 mile at the top was tough with the wind, but motivational as you came down the other side seeing a lot of people were still behind you. A careful navigation of the water bottle tops kept the runners on their toes, before a bend left to go back along the seafront.

At 6 miles the heart sank a little when you saw the first runners heading into the finish, and the pull up St George Road is never the most attractive. One house definitely merges into another!

Seven miles came and went, and hitting the 8 mile mark on the turn into Henderson Road spurred me on again. Well it did until you hit the Esplanade and had the full headwind and rain in your face. The Yomper statue meant to inspire was slightly drowned out by the ambulance that rushed by with blue lights flashing, but 9 mile soon approached and the BUPA boost zone came into sight. The jelly babies were a very welcome sugar boost as was the sight of South Parade Pier.

It was at about nine and a half miles that my right knee decided that it had done its run and now needed a rest. Limping and hobbling I made it to the side, and several stretches later told the knee to behave and carried on. The knee dutifully complied for about 200 metres before it brought me crashing to the ground, and I am forever grateful to the lady by the side who helped me up. The other runners decided with 600 metres to go that getting to the finish was much better than helping the fool who had just fallen over.

Stretches later and the fact that by now all the crowd were giving me encouragement and telling me, ‘It is only a few metres’, spurred me into action. Running would be a step too far, but a quick walk saw me over the line. OK - I was beaten by the Flowerpot Men, and gave Sonic a good run for his money, but actually 10 miles in 1 hour 35 had put a smile on my face.

Now the second advantage of the VIP area.  On making it back I had a changing area and settled down to hot food, tea and coffee and warmth. Yes - WARMTH !! That was the best 30 minutes eating warm food, drinking my tea and looking at the shattered athletes walk outside in the rain. Feeling refreshed and already motivated for more I took in coaching advice from the ladies’ winner Jo Pavey.

I am glad that Olympic athletes have the same problem I do with Energy supplements, and that on long training runs Jo hides her drinks in people's hedges as she hates to carry water. We both agreed that Jelly Babies and Jelly Beans are the way forward for energy boosts.

On a high now I decided some inspiration for Dame Kelly Holmes was called for and we discussed various training techniques.

It was agreed that Rio is only a few training runs away for me, and it is good for every runner to dream.  On that point I left and walked and met the fellow WACers. Rebecca had run a superb 1 hour 22, and Katherine a fabulous 1 hour 33. Sitting having coffee on the way home one thing became clear. You have all the benefits of VIP pass, and mixing with the stars, but the best people on the day are the fellow runners from WAC who always support you, and the benefits of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday running are what makes the big races more special.

Till next year ....



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