20 November 2016
Commando has run the Gosport Half Marathon several times, in wind, rain, sun and even combinations of all three at once. The route along the coast can be problematic, especially when it’s windy and with storm Angus Sweeping across the country bringing a night of torrential rain and high wind, there was some doubt it would even go ahead today. In fact, a message on Facebook told us the organisers would make a final decision at 8:30. Of course, we had to leave home before then, not really knowing if we would have a fruitless drive or a race ahead of us.
We still didn’t know when we arrived at Bay House School to pick up Commando’s race number and meet up with everyone. What we did know though, was that it was freezing cold and windy but, thankfully, not actually raining. Slowly the Spitfires began to gather in the school hall, with varying degrees of enthusiasm about the race ahead.
Soon it was time to go back outside for the team photo. Getting everyone out in the cold in their race kit proved to be a difficult task. When a fairly large number had gathered I took a few shots to hedge my bets. Some people were still queueing for the loos, others probably quite sensibly, had decided to stay inside until the last minute. While I waited for the loo queuers, I took a few small group shots. Minutes passed, very cold minutes even for me in my Arctic coat and hat. When the loo queuers finally did arrive, everyone else had disappeared, unable to withststand the cold any longer. Oh well, I tried.
Being on the move towards the start line was slightly warmer, at least for me in my coat. There was a huddle in the start pen, people desperate to share body heat. For good measure, I snapped a few more group photos. This was turning out to be the race of many group photos. Even so, I’m sure a few people escaped.
Then they were off. In normal circumstances I’d have had about and hour and three quarters before Commando crossed the line, give or take a few minutes. Because he is coming back from injury though, he’d decided not to push things and had put the word out that he’d be aiming to finish in two hours ten minutes and would be happy to act as pacer for anyone who wanted to get a PB at around that time. His Facebook message generated far more interest than he’d expected, especially from the female Spitfires. As they disappeared down the road, he had an entourage of women chasing after him. Its a good job I’m not the jealous kind!
Gerry and Teresa’s son, Mitch, had come along as a spectator too and, once the runners had all disappeared we found ourselves with a couple of hours to kill, or at least an hour and a half until Gerry was likely to cross the line. Last year I found some interesting trails and a Costa. Given all the rain over night, I didn’t think the trails would be a good plan, especially as Mitch was wearing trainers, so we headed to Costa. At least we would be warm for a little while. Even so, I couldn’t help looking longingly along the River Alver as we headed along Privett Road, thinking about the walk I could have had if the weather had played nicely.
After a coffee and a nice sit down in the warm, it was time to head back towards the finish line for some Spitfire spotting. The course is a kind of cruel double loop heading down along the shore, back towards the finish and then down along the shore again. For spectators this means two chances to spot their runner. For runners it means a tantalising glimpse of the finish near the half way point before turning and doing it all again. On a cold windy day this is probably not very welcome.
We got to the corner just as Commando and his troupe of ladies (including Mitch’s mum, Teresa) were making the turn. We shouted and waved but I was a bit slow with the camera so only caught them from behind. They looked to be on track for their two hour ten finish though and seemed quite chirpy in the circumstances.
This corner is actually a good place to stand, giving a view in both directions, plus it’s not usually as crowded as the actual finish line. We decided to stay put and spot as many Spitfires as we could. The jumping up and down and cheering did at least keep us warm and we even managed to spot some poeple more than once, although we’d already missed the really quick ones on their half way turnaround.
When we saw Andy we knew he was in his second loop and heading towards the finish, the first of the Spitfires to cross the line. Then came Daniel. After that things got a little confusing. Spitfires were coming last at a steady rate and we cheered each one but it wasn’t always easy to tell who was at the half way point and who was finishing. When we saw Gerry though, we knew he was heading for the line.
Around two hours after the start a familiar figure appeared. Commando was bang on target for the finish time he’d planned and he still had two of his ladies with him. Some had dropped back, some had even gone ahead but Teresa and Tori had stuck with him, both were on target to smash their PB’s by several minutes.
The crowd went wild, well Mitch and I jumped up and down a lot and shouted really loudly. Commando urged his followers on for a last push across the line and Mitch and I made a dash through the crowds to try to meet them there.
We found them, all smiles, spotting their hard earned medals, along with a couple more Spitfires we’d somehow missed on the course.
In normal circumstances Commando and I would have stayed around to watch every last person cross the line. Today though we had a plane to catch so we had to say our goodbyes and head off home to get warm before we set off for the sun.
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