Great South Run (better late than never)

This write-up comes a little late, but on October 21st my husband and I actually ran a race together! You can count on your fingers the number of times we’ve run together because of the children, and this had required months of advance planning and the roping-in of his parents to babysit while we ran.

At 10 miles, it was his longest run to date and I was glad I’d finished my half marathon only three weeks previously because it meant I was largely already trained for it. It was quite the logistics exercise though. We live in London, the in-laws live in the West Country, the race was on the south coast. It required two hotel rooms, a travel plan to get us to the start, another to get them and the children to the finish!

One thing you don’t expect running towards the end of October in the UK is warm weather! Early mist cleared to leave a bright sunny day. We got up early for breakfast and then left the children with their grandparents and drove to the ferry at Gosport which seemed the best way to get to Portsmouth with minimal fuss. It was a fun way to arrive too, and the fifteen minute walk from the ferry to the race start was a good warm up. We dropped off our bag and then spent some time looking around the stalls in the race village and checking out some of the runners in fancy dress.

Having had no idea of our possible finish time when we booked the race, we had taken an estimate of 1 hour 45 minutes which put us in the last, green, starting wave so there was a lot of hanging about waiting for our 11.09am start. Finally, after hearing the other waves starting off and eventually getting our warm-up we were off, just as the elite women were finishing! I had been hoping for an average pace of around 9:40 per mile which would have us finishing somewhere between 1 hr 35 and 1 hr 40 minutes, and seemed doable given that I’d run my half marathon at an average of 9:50 per mile. At the start, my husband said to me “So are we aiming for 9-minute miles?”. I just laughed. That’s faster than my usual 10 K pace. There’s no way I could run 10 miles that fast. We agreed we would just set off at a comfortable pace and he would try to keep me to whatever I set.

The first mile took us back to the ferry terminal, and the second took us on to the historic dockyard. We had visited Portsmouth last summer to see the Mary Rose, the wreck of a 16th-century ship. It was running through the historic dockyard that we ran past a charity runner dressed as a portable toilet! Onward to the three mile mark, passing three women singing Baby Shark (do do do do do do!) and the first water station. It was warm for October and I was glad of the bottle of water.

There was an out-and-back stretch around the four-mile mark and we had fun spotting other charity costumes, Ninja turtles, Zippy from Rainbow, assorted superheroes. Passing the samba band again for the second time and we were approaching five miles and the halfway point. So far so good. Once we got to six miles and then the 10k point I was getting tired. Another four miles to go, this was going to be tough. I took jelly babies from passers by, and another bottle of water, a fair amount of which I poured over my head and down my back! We reached seven miles, just a parkrun to go. I wasn’t sure I could have managed a parkrun. I was hot and my legs were tired. More water, more jelly babies. We’d been warned about the road with the speed bumps at seven miles and I was worried about that, and actually that was a good distraction. Not long after the eight mile mark we found ourselves back on the sea front and the sea breeze was very welcome. The time was now well after midday and the temperature had risen to the mid-20s Celsius and I was flagging. Others were less lucky. We ran past some people being assisted by paramedics at the side of the road. They were conscious and talking but I felt sad for people who had run 8 or 9 miles only for their race to end within such a short distance of the finish. Runners ahead of us started waving and shouting and an ambulance passed by.

Nine miles, less than a Junior parkrun to go. I’d had enough by that point but told myself I had not more than ten minutes left. I could run for ten more minutes. The crowds were building, music was blaring, there was the 16km sign, and then finally the finish up ahead. With music playing and crowds cheering we both found the energy for something approximating a sprint finish. The finish arch had a number of different clocks for the different start waves and I saw the green clock was just over an hour and a half. I couldn’t believe it! We finished together in a time of 1:31:35. So much for my 9:40 per mile pace. We had averaged 9:05 per mile!

We collected our finish line goodies, drinks, medals, T-shirts, and somehow managed to track down the rest of the family. Amazingly they had seen us cross the finish line! Then it was just a case of keeping moving so neither of us seized up! If nothing else, the mile walk back to the ferry terminal kept the joints moving.

What a day! I enjoyed my half marathon more than the Great South Run, but I enjoyed the experience of running with my husband, and was really proud of the achievement of running ten miles in just over 91 minutes.

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