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Great South Run 2019: A new Personal Best!

Great South Run 2019: A new Personal Best!

“How did that happen?” – Me, post-race.

I went into this race with having not done any decent distance training: My training runs are typically between 8-12 km, intermixed with football refereeing and speed training. Nothing that was leading me to think, “I’m going to nail 10 miles!”, for sure.

Whenever anyone asked about what my plans were, my response was always the same: I’d target the last time I ran the race (in 2016) where my notes said I treated it as a ‘long run’. Sensible.

I’ve done this a few times before…

This was the 6th time I have done this event. That has really crept up on me!

Great South Run times to date

What’s the story behind the graph?

2012 was my first stab at it, and before I was doing much running in its own right. So that’s the benchmark. I then suffered an annoying achilles injury afterwards, more of a niggle than anything else, but it really impacted any form of training. Hence 2013 was significantly slower.

2014 was a bit of a return to form.

I then lost a fair amount of weight and trained more seriously, going out regularly with Farnham Runners. This had a significant impact on my running: The routes typically involved a mixture of hills and off-road, which was a far cry from my lazily selected routes which were very flat (Especially down on the south coast where I was working).

This was shown in 2015 where I set a PB, by 8 minutes or so! Needless to say, I was very happy with that.

I entered in 2016 as well, but as I hadn’t done any particular distance training in preparation, I decided to treat it as a long run. Still, a decent enough time, and only 1 minute away from my PB the previous year.

By this point, to be frank, I had got bored of the route that the race uses. The beginning is pretty cool: The atmosphere of the seafront, the streets, and the Historic Dockyard. However, after mile 6, it becomes running in a straight line east, before turning round and coming back the other way. It’s just not interesting.


I needed a break. So I took two years off and didn’t really miss taking part.

Hello 2019!

Inspired by my running club (Waverley Harriers) having a contingent going to the race, I entered again. It was also the 30th Anniversary of the event.

I didn’t do a great deal of distance-specific training but hills were now a regular feature of my training runs, and my local ones were around 12k or thereabouts. As a result, I felt pretty confident about the whole thing, but as I said right at the beginning, my feeling was to aim for my ‘long run’ 2016 time and just enjoy it.

Waverley Harriers – ON A TRAIN!

We got the train down there. This meant I did a lot of walking before the race: Down to the train station, and then from the Portsmouth station to the starting area. I think I did around 30,000 steps during the day in total. Suffice to say, I was warmed up before the race started.

We got there in good time, and thanks to Gary from the club, we had Club Zone bands which gave us our own little semi-VIP area! Own toilets, a hut for changing and security. That was pretty cool, and not something I have had on previous occasions. Nice one, Gary!

Crowds slowly building up… Note: Nice weather!

Thankful for the nice weather, I slipped into the Orange wave starting zone, and was somewhere towards the back. It was not long before the race started, but I reckon about 5 minutes before I got to cross the Start line.

I had set my watch to pace for my 2016 time of 1:17. By the time I had got to the end of the seafront, it was already showing I was 15 seconds or so ahead of that pace. Obviously this was very early on, and I just decided to keep going steady. I was still enjoying it, although having to weave around a lot of people due to starting so far back – my fault!

As the race progressed, I was clearly putting more time into the bank. The ‘ahead of pace’ display clocked up to 30 seconds, then a minute, and by about the six mile mark had stabilised at 1:30. Now, as mentioned above, the six mile mark is around when I start to get bored on this race, and also my legs were starting to complaining a little bit as I edged towards seven miles.

However, I knew that being this far ahead put me in line for a PB… so I could be lazy and slow down (and still get last year’s time…) or sustain my current pace and PB it!

I kept going.

It did feel like a slog, for sure, especially as the 6-8 mile part of this race felt really tedious. However, it was then the turn back onto the seafront and time to get home! It’s at this point I realise I was now somehow 2 minutes ahead of pace, so no idea how that has suddenly happened!

However, this was tempered by the fact that my watch thought I was 150m further into the race than reality: It was always flashing up progress for each km before I hit the markers. This meant I had to be really careful not to be complacent.

This proved to be accurate. As my watch beeped to congratulate me on completing the 10 miles, the Finish line was still 150 tantalising metres away. I put in a sprint (in reality, ‘I ran slightly faster’) to get over the line.

1:15:24. Compared to my PB of 1:16:06.

The Aftermath

I was really happy with that. In no way was I expecting a PB, but everything aligned on the day:

  1. I had been doing a decent amount of speed and hill training, and this course is very flat! (So the lack of pure distance training didn’t hinder me too much).
  2. I did a good amount of warming up before the race.
  3. Great conditions! Wind was down — otherwise, the final couple of miles can be a real killer.
  4. Post-race, even more walking, so no evil DOMS.

Lots of success from the rest of the club as well, which was really pleasing to see. Pub lunch afterwards very well earned by all!

Now I just need to decide whether to go for it again next year… and perhaps really train for it, to see if I can throw another PB on top of this one… Decisions, decisions?

As a post-script, the really impressive achievement from the race were these guys:


‘Operation Pulled Pork’ – They pulled a Police Car round the entire course ! They were successful and the above link is their Fundraising page. Help them out!

Cross Country: 58 days of training later…

Cross Country: 58 days of training later…

I took part in the MABAC Wimbledon Common cross-country race this week. It was a perfect opportunity to assess how my fitness has improved over the 58 days since the last MABAC event (which was near the start of this blog kicking off).

Cross-country races are great fun and each course has its own challenges. This was my first time doing the Wimbledon course, although I checked it out on Strava beforehand: Straight out, two loops round the woods, then back again. Oh, and with a hill climb in the woods, but ‘nothing too bad’ according to those I spoke to within Waverley Harriers.


I felt strong in this race, although I really worked hard from the second loop onwards. I was determined not to end up walking up the hill (which 58 days ago, I can pretty much guarantee would have happened) and then I was determined not to lose my placing all the way back to the finish. It was evident as I re-entered the large field near the start that there was a large group of runners right behind me, so it was ‘engage afterburners’ at that point and I somehow (SOMEHOW) had a sprint finish right at the end.

Performance analysis

OK, so I felt strong, but how did it rack up in comparison to the last race?

I ran at a pace of 4:33/km, compared to the previous pace of 4:55/km. So, a clear 20 seconds faster per km overall. In addition to that, my heart was less stressed: a Heart Rate Stress Score of 46 – last time, 57. In summary: I ran faster with my body not having to struggle as much as it did when running more slowly 58 days previously.

This is a good confidence booster going forward!

Wombles absent.

However, much as my recent hill training has helped, I still feel that hills are a weak point for me. In this race, I’d typically see people pull ahead on the hill, only for me to catch them on the downhill afterwards. I want to work on this more. Historically, this has been due to my training routes being flat, so I am needing to make a conscious effort to get climbing!

One thing is for sure: I’m looking forward to the next race!

J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge: Flying round Battersea Park

J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge: Flying round Battersea Park

I was happy that my employer put together a team for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge this year. This is a 3.5 mile / 5.6 km that has been going for many years, and now has thirteen events across seven different countries. For us, it was going to be Battersea Park in London.

I entered a while back, putting my finishing time at an optimistic 21 minutes. That was an error, as I thought it was a straight 5k race, rather than the 5.6 km reality! Oops. As a result, I was a bit nervous when this resulted in me being placed in the Red Wave, who would be heading off first.

No! Not the RED WAVE!

To put that into context, the winners are typically beasting out times of seventeen and a half minutes to do the whole distance.

Based on recent performances, I set a personal goal of getting round in 24:30. I based that on a 22 minute 5k (my next milestone) and an appropriate amount added on for the remaining 600 metres. I was also determined not to disgrace myself given that I felt I was in the ‘wrong’ wave.

Team StepStone UK!

We all met up and got the train over to the event. It became very apparent just how popular this event was (over SIXTEEN THOUSAND runners each night!).

These were the crowds for just the baggage areas

The organisation was excellent though. Although there were so many people around, it never felt too crowded and there were plenty of Events Staff on-hand to help point us in the right direction.

It was soon time to line up in the starting pens. I went all the way to the back of the Red pen, and could see all the other Waves stretching out behind me.

The PROPER FAST runners ahead of me
Many, many runners behind me

Then we were off, via a staggered start.

The course was very fast and flat. Perhaps due to the more undulating training that I have been doing recently, this had the weird effect where it felt like I was going downhill most of the time. I am happy that I managed to hold my own in the Red wave, keeping a strong pace and lots of overtaking.

I came in with an official time of 24:40. That is a bit slower than I was hoping (remember my goal was 24:30) but my GPS reported I ran an extra 40 metres, so I’ll take it!


The important bits to remember with this time:

  1. Strava reports that I ran the first 5k in 21:58, thus successfully hitting my ‘Run 5k in 22 minutes milestone’.
  2. I ran the first 2.7k in 11:32. My upcoming refereeing fitness test requires me to run 2.7k in 12 minutes, so this race has served as a good practice run.

And, of course, I kept running after hitting both of the above targets.

A really enjoyable and successful race in a beautiful environment. Now I just need to plan the next one!

Time to cool off?