Great South Run 2012

On Saturday afternoon Mr J and I made our way to Portsmouth for the Great South Run 2012. Darin very kindly came to collect us from the station and drove us to the hotel which was literally minutes from the start/finish area. After a dinner at the local Chinese where I loaded up on noodles and rice, we settled down for a good nights sleep with an extra hour thanks to the clocks going back.

I woke the next morning feeling refreshed, excited and raring to go. After a breakfast of porridge and banana we took a quick stroll to see what the weather was like – cloudy, grey with a bit of wind and it looked like it could rain at any time but not too cold. I had expected these kind of conditions and our wander helped to me to make a final decision on what to wear.

At about 9.30 we made our way to the start finish area where we had arranged to meet Darin. This was a completely different experience to the year before. We knew where to go, what to expect and rather than feeling nervous, I was excited. The photos below show the difference in me between 2011 and 2012

Left – waiting to start in 2011 – looking unsure and a bit nervous.
Right – waiting to start in 2012 – looking excited and ready for the race!

We met up with Darin and went through the pre-race routine, which for me includes a number of toilet stops!

Team Thinking Slimmer ready to run

Soon it was time to get into our start pens. This year we were in white, the middle group and one group up from our first year. I said goodbye to Mr J, having worked out where on the course he was going to be standing, and Darin and I made our way into the starting area. It was pretty cold and I was glad of the old cardigan and gloves that I’d bought with me to keep me warm until the start.

Standing in the starting pen felt totally different to last year. I was excited and ready to get underway – knowing what to expect. The year before had felt quite surreal, bordering on overwhelming, but this year I was able to enjoy the atmosphere while we waited for our wave to start. After a rousing chorus of Jerusalem we were underway – waved off by Dame Kelly Holmes!

Darin had been hampered by injury in the months leading up to the event, and was delighted to even be starting the race. We had agreed before the race that we would stay together for as long as possible but that as soon as he needed to back off we would say our goodbyes and run our own races. We had agreed to run the first mile non stop – and once the number of people had thinned out a bit to get into our 5 and 1 interval pattern. The first mile flew past as always – I find that there’s something about being surrounded by other people running that makes it almost impossible to judge the pace that I’m running at. It feels easy but almost inevitably I’m running one of my fastest miles!  

My goal was to complete the race in under 2 hrs, ideally in sub 1.55. To do this I needed to average 11:30 min miles. The first few miles passed quickly and our pace was good. Even with the walking breaks we were keeping easily to sub 11:30 min miles and I was feeling good. As we passed the 5K mark I knew that we were 4 minutes faster than last year at that point and I felt a wave of confidence pass over me that I’ve never really experienced when running before.

Between miles 4 and 5 Darin started to struggle a bit with the pace. I thought he was doing brilliantly given his lack of training bu just after mile 5 he told me to go on. It was really strange to leave him but I knew that he would complete the course, even if he had to crawl there was no way he wasn’t going to finish so I said my goodbyes and went on my way.

Approaching mile 6 I looked at my time and realised that I was on for a 10K personal best. My 10K time has bugged me all summer – I’ve not really run a good 10K race and have been disappointed with my performance at this distance so I was delighted to pass the 10K mark in just over 1hr and 10mins – a whole minute quicker than I’ve run before. It gave me such a boost and I was feeling strong.

About half a mile later I saw Mr J for the first time on the course. I was slightly ahead of the time that I’d predicted to be at that point and was feeling pretty proud of myself. He managed to get some photos of me as I ran past – his photos are always so much better than the offical race photos for some reason!


I soon came to mile 7 and started to think about the last couple of miles. Just after the mile 8 marker the course turns onto the seafront and the last two miles are run in a pretty straight line, into the headwind. A tough couple of miles. My legs were starting to feel it by this point so I took a couple more walking breaks to conserve some energy and make sure I had something left in my legs for the home straight.

Turning the corner onto the seafront wasn’t quite as bad as I’d expected – the wind wasn’t too strong but it was definitely there providing some unwelcome resistance! My legs were feeling tired and my pace slowed a little at this stage. At mile 9 I saw Mr J again and knew that I had just a mile left to go.

By this point I knew that I was definitely going to come in sub 2 hours, it was just by how much. Despite the aching legs and head wind I pushed on as much as I could and when I saw the finish line was really pleased to be able to manage a sprint finish. I crossed the finish line in 1:56:04 and felt like I had won the race!

I couldn’t stop smiling – it had been such a brilliant race. I have never felt so strong when running and been able to hold my pace so consistently. My mile splits from my Garmin are below

I collected my water, goody bag with medal and T-shirt (this year picking up a medium knowing that it would fit – YAY!) and made my way back to the meeting area to find Mr J and wait for Darin.

I love this year’s T-shirts and the slogan across the front – participate, enjoy, succeed – it summed up my race perfectly. A new 10K and 10 mile personal best in one race – just fantastic!

Darin also did himself proud – finishing the race just 2 minutes slower than last year despite having to walk the last 4 and a half miles thanks to a reoccurance of his calf problem. Given that 3 weeks before he wasn’t even sure he would start this was a brilliant result – the time, not the injury obviously!

I have learned a lot from this race about what I am actually capable of – I’ll post my reflections separately once I’ve had chance to make some sense of them all!

The Great South Run is a fantastic race – great organisation, a fast, flat course and brilliant support from the crowd. I have already booked my place for next year!

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