Having missed the Great South Run for the last couple of years, I was looking forward to this years’ event. It’s always a great atmosphere and there were a good few fellow Hedgies running. I’d had a bit of a break from racing after a disastrous few races in the early summer… Heat and running just don’t mix for me and the self-imposed ‘pressure’ of a race just made for a woeful combination so I had decided to take a race break and just run for fitness a while. That made the GSR my first race in about 6 months. Eeek!
I can’t deny that I went into the race pretty undertrained. I had stopped joining the Sunday morning long runs on a regular basis when the marathon training mileage got too high for me. Combined with a general lack of time to run and the shortening daylight hours, I hadn’t run more than 7 miles in at least 2 months… Double Eeek!
All that aside, I was feeling fairly confident as my last few runs had felt pretty comfortable. I allowed myself to start thinking about a target time and actually thought it was doable.
So, excuses aside, the day itself was pretty perfect for running. A bit chilly, overcast and not too windy. Having lost every other white wave Hedgie when I nipped off for a last pre start trip to the loo, I dropped back into the green wave to run with a friend of mine who had never done it before and was really nervous. This meant an extra 20 minutes or so hanging around – we’d already been hanging around for almost 2 hours! I was cold, in danger of getting hungry and keen to get going.
When we did eventually get going it was really crowded. My last time here it took around three miles to get some space so I’d mentally prepped for an easy first three and then planned to step the pace up a tad from there on. Unfortunately there was no real space until about 5 miles which meant that finding ‘my groove’ took far longer than I had anticipated. Somewhere around 4.5 miles I lost Jenny and was running alone. Thankfully the support along the route is always amazing and I was quite enjoying Hi 5’ing the kids and soaking up the atmosphere.
At the Lucozade station I repeated previous race errors by taking an energy drink. I don’t personally think an energy drink is warranted for less than 2 hours intensive exercise if you’re properly fuelled before the start but I was thirsty. Two swigs of Lucozade and I was even thirstier! I should have remembered as I’d made the same mistake here last time and repeated it at the Reading Half! It’s a shame they don’t also offer water there as I’d prefer to miss the water at 3 miles knowing there would be some at 5.5 miles. So, with a mouth drier than the bottom of a bird cage I was off in pursuit of the 7 mile water, but with an added niggling feeling I might need a wee!
The miles were ticking by nicely. Although I run with my Garmin, I actually rarely check it as it messes with my head too much. I’d had a look at 3 miles and worked out I was, just about, doing the pace I’d planned but I didn’t check it again until almost 7 miles when I was starting to feel fatigue in my legs and my head was starting to sabotage my run by telling me I needed to walk – just for a bit! I battled the voices in my head for a bit but the voices beat me and I started to walk when I was about 200 metres away from the 7 mile water station. I was so annoyed/upset with myself! Having started walking I thought I may as well give myself a bit of recovery time, so I walked to the water, had a good drink and then spotted the loo’s.. I couldn’t resist. I was already battling my head telling me my legs were too tired to run, I didn’t need the niggling need for a wee to become a bigger deal so I stopped my watch and nipped in to mitigate that.
By this point, Jenny had caught me up so I waited for her to pay a visit and we headed off together again. A quick check of my watch told me I was going to struggle to achieve my hope to get anywhere in the 1:30’s but, I reasoned, I only had a parkrun to go so I just needed to push on. Sadly, having had the luxury of a short walk, my legs disagreed and I found it really hard to get them moving and then my toes started to feel a bit numb. Then I was hungry – after all that waiting around at the start…. Then I started fantasising about a nice cold pint!
The last 2.5 miles were all about the run-walk. I can’t lie, the thought of food and a pint were keeping me going. The comfortable pace for my legs was becoming too fast for my breathing and at 9 miles it was absolutely obvious I wasn’t going to get in the 1:30’s. Oddly at 9 miles my watch was saying I had covered 9.2 – I’d be interested to know if that’s a Garmin anomaly or if it’s the result of 5-6 miles of hopping about all over the place trying to find some clear space to run!
Suddenly I only had 400 metres to go and everything finally clicked back into place as I picked up my pace considerably. I crossed the line with 1:40:39 on my watch but knew the chip time would be slower because of my comfort break. When the text came through it showed 1:42:33 – my previous time here was 1:48 so I know I should be happy with that. Typically for me though, all I could think was that if I had just tried a little bit harder I could have got the time I wanted.
On reflection, whilst I do harbour some disappointment about my time, there’s always another race (or next year)! As brilliant as the GSR is I do have mixed feelings about it. It’s incredibly busy and, despite (or maybe because of) the massive crowds, there isn’t the team camaraderie found at smaller races. In fact, I only saw three other Hedgies during the whole race! Yet these types of races always make me emotional, like when I watch the London Marathon. They’re the kind of races that attract such a wide range of runners all running for different, and often very personal reasons. And sitting in the pub afterwards with my pint and scrolling through Facebook, it was awesome to see so many people achieving amazing times or other personal goals, raising hundreds for various charities and just generally buzzing about their race.
Well done everyone!