23 October 2016
As Kylie and I strode off across Southsea Common past food vans that made our mouths water and through crowds of other spectators all vying for good positions, I rang Commando. He’d had a head start on the position finding front and told me he was on the opposite side of the common somewhere near mile five, or so he thought. Given the size of the common and the number of people, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to find him.
When we’d almost made it across the common I called again. We’d seen the mile five marker so I guessed he was somewhere close by.
“Tell me what buildings you can see?” I asked, hoping to pinpoint him. “Can you see a big brown building called Queens Hotel because we’re right in front of it?”
“Um, I can see some big brown buildings but I don’t know if any of them are the Queens Hotel. I’m in front of a big white block of flats.”
This wasn’t especially helpful as the whole road seemed to be filled with big white blocks of flats but, as we were speaking I spotted Nick, one of the pacers going past and we had an almost clear view of the course in front of us so we stopped for a while to take photos.
Just as we were about to move on in search of Commando Gerry and Beth rounded the corner. Both Nick and Gerry appeared to have ditched the bunny ears or conveniently lost them and I wondered if any of the pacers would be properly dressed at this stage.
Beth and Gerry smiled and waved as they passed, and we gave them a huge cheer to spur them on. To be honest it didn’t look as if either needed much in the way of encouragement. In fact Beth looked to be having a whale of a time and, if she stuck with Gerry, was probably set for a PB.
What we should have been doing was walking along the road searching for Commando but, if we did, the chances were we’d miss lots of passing pacers as we did. It was a dilemma and while we were dithering, Dave, who organises all the pacers came past. We gave him a cheer and called his name but he didn’t hear us. Then again, being called Dave, he’s probably learned to ignore people calling his name. The world is full of people called Dave and it must get quite wearing turning around only to find you aren’t the Dave in question.
Yet again we were about to move on when a very unusual sight stopped us in our tracks. Two young men were running in what appeared to be swimming trunks. Actually, they were very skimpy swimming trunks and I couldn’t help wondering if there wouldn’t be a bit of chafing going on by mile ten. Hot on their heels was a man dressed as Where’s Wally. Then again he could just have had poor eyesight and an odd taste in clothes.
Right behind him was John and he’d somehow managed to hold onto the bunny ears, unlike the other pacers we’d seen. Kylie and I gave an almighty cheer and got John’s trademark thumbs up as he went past.
Then there was almost an unfortunate incident. For some reason John decided we looked thirsty and lobbed a bottle of water in our direction. Running and throwing at the same time isn’t easy and we watched, open mouthed as the water bottled sailed through the air and came close to hitting a small boy in the head. Luckily, it missed but we thought this was probably a good time to make ourselves scarce.
We walked along the road trying to simultaneously scan the course for pacers, the buildings for tall white flats and the crowd for Commando. I’m pretty sure we missed some pacers in the attempt but we did see Rob, clutching his bunny ears rather than wearing them. At least he hadn’t lost them.
We also saw a man dressed in a Sumo suit. He looked very hot, and not in a good way. In fact he could probably have done with the bottle of water John threw earlier. Moments later we found Commando.
Back in the summer of 2013, I spent an awful lot of time wandering around looking for rhinos. Just before we gave up pacer spotting and headed for the finish line, I spotted another one. The rhino costume was very realistic but it didn’t look like the easiest thing to run in. In fact, I couldn’t see how the runner inside could see where they were going.
We were fairly sure all the pacers had now passed so we decided to head to the finish line in the hope of catching some of the people we’d missed. As it was the crowds were so thick, seeing anyone cross the line was impossible but we did catch up with Rob John, Rachel and Kim later. From all accounts it was a good day for PB’s. The wind, which is often a challenge on the final stretch, kindly came from behind, giving tired legs a boost just when they most needed it. Maybe next year I’ll be watching from the sidelines while Commando gets a PB here? Then again, he could be running in bunny ears and a pink powder puff tail, or worse…
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