The Great South Run

21 October 2018

October came to a close with one more race, the Great South Run. This is probably the biggest race of the year in the south of England, although it is by no means the longest, being just ten miles. Yet again Commando was pacing and would be running far slower than normal. He would also be wearing bunny ears and a flag.

Getting into Southsea at all proved quite problematic. We left stupidly early but the traffic was terrible and we sat in a long jam wondering if we’d ever make the start line. We did of course, but too late to really enjoy the VIP changing facilities in Southsea Castle. 

Commando had just about got his pacer shirt, ears and flag on when the call came for official pacer photos. While the professional photographer faffed around arranging everyone in different poses and fiddling with his ultra fancy camera, I took a few shots of my own. 

After this the pacers ran off for a warm up and I grabbed a quick coffee from the VIP changing room. There are some advantages to being a pacer’s wife, although the coffee wasn’t all that great.

They all arrived back just in time to go back out again to the start line. Here there was a bit of hanging about, waiting for a TV interview that never actually materialised. Things were rather crowded and I knew there’d be no chance of start line photos so I wandered off to find a good vantage point somewhere on the course.

As it happened I found an almost perfect spot at about mile six, or maybe seven, close to the Jolly Sailor pub. Moments after I arrived the fastest runners began coming past. The lone, rather young and inexperienced marshal on the corner seemed glad of my company and we stood chatting for a while, with one eye on the trickle of runners coming past.

It was all very pleasant and companionable until a driver, who obviously believed the road closures didn’t apply to him, pulled up and began rudely asking the marshal to remove the cones and let him through. Quite rightly, the marshal refused but the large and aggressive man was having none of it. He got out of his car and began to move the cones himself. There was little the poor marshal could do to stop him. Unfortunately, in his anger, the man had forgotten to put his hand brake on and his car began to roll onto the course. In the nick of time he jumped back in, ran over the remaining cones and drove up the course towards the runners. Luckily, at this stage there weren’t many runners on the course and no one was injured but the man was extremely rude and intimidating and it could have all been far worse.

Not long after this disappointing and rather scary incident the first of the Spitfire runners began to come past. Now I was too busy taking photos to dwell on what had happened. It would be a while before Commando arrived but there were other pacer shirts and bunny ears to cheer on, including Gerry and Nick.

There were also a few pretty odd looking runners to amuse me. One was dressed as some kind of Star Wars character, at least I think that was what his costume was. It looked a bit on the hot and claustrophobic side to me. He was followed by more familiar pacer faces, Big Dave and John, who both gave me a wave.

They were both bang on their target times but no one would have blamed them if they’d been running a bit faster than they should. Right behind them was the Incredible Hulk! Behind the Hulk came two more Daves, one of whom was running under the name Daniel for some reason, closely followed by a gorilla. It was hard to imagine how hot it must have been in that furry suit. Now the sun had come right out I was roasting in my thin parka.

After a few more pacers and friends, including Pacer Rob who totally ignored my shouts of encouragement, came two ladies dressed as flowers. They looked absolutely lovely, if a little wilted by the heat.

The flowers were followed by more pacers, friends and what I’m fairly sure was a Cookie Monster. Going by the times on the pacer flags passing by I expected Commando along fairly soon. By now the runners were coming thick and fast though so spotting him might not be easy.

Then Abi came past with a one hour fifty flag. This was the pace Commando was running and I expected him to be with her but he wasn’t. Several minutes of worry passed, along with several friends and a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle, apparently called Mark. Part of me thought I might have missed Commando in the crowds, another part was worried something had happened. We have had way too many injuries and illnesses in the last couple of years and the idea of another was truly scary.

What I didn’t know, mostly because I’d left the start line before he set off, was that there were one hour fifty pacers in two separate waves starting at different times. Abi was in the first wave, Commando was in the second, more than ten minutes behind her. They were a very, very long ten minutes, filled with thoughts of all the possible disasters that could have happened. Then I spotted him in the crowd. Right behind him was Tony, the chimp and a ship called Victory with two sailors.

Of course there were still pacers and friends to try to spot but I was far more relaxed now I knew Commando was OK. Of all the weird and wonderful costumes that passed me by, the strangest came right before I headed back towards Southsea Castle. It was, of all things, a portaloo! Now I think I’ve seen everything.

So I walked back along the course, stopping every now and then to snap the last of my friends on the course. Past experience told me there was little point trying to find Commando in the crowds at the finish line. Once he’d collected his medal and got changed he’d have his phone and would call me. After a quick visit to the VIP changing room, hoping to find some coffeee left (I wasn’t in luck), I climbed up the hill behind the castle, looked out over the tents of the race village and enjoyed a snack and some water. Even though I hadn’t run a single step, it had been a long, hot day.

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