There a very few races in the UK that can top the Great South Run in terms of spectacle and magnitude of the event. With 11,500 athletes lining the streets of Southsea ready to tackle the iconic 10 mile route, it really is quite a sight to behold.
It’s a race that welcomes runners of all abilities as well and usually features some of the top runners in the country and some very high standard club runners towards the front of the field.
The likes of Eilish McColgan and Chris Thompson are regulars at the Great South Run with Eilish winning it the previous two years and managing to reduce her time down to a phenomenal 51:38 in 2019.
Chris Thompson had won it three years in a row from 2016 to 2018 and he would have dearly loved to add to the tally in the 2021 edition.
The field also includes many slower runners and joggers as well, many of whom are just happy to get round. There is also a fun side to the proceedings with many of the participants wearing fancy dress including some very creative outfits.
Many of these runners will be raising money for various different charities and great causes as well so the race serves plenty of different purposes.
What all the participants have in common though is that they all have to complete the same 10 mile course, no matter what their speed, age, gender or background.
Being reasonably close to home as well, it usually attracts a decent quota of Bournemouth AC runners as well. This year’s event featured six members of the yellow and blue army.
After a solitary saunter round the seafront in the Run Bournemouth Half Marathon that saw him seal a comfortable 3rd place the previous weekend, Rob McTaggart was back in action again.
Despite producing a scintillating time of time 1:11:49, Tag was still four minutes behind the top two in the race so he knew he was going to have to settle for third. At least it meant he could conserve some energy for an all out assault at the GSR though.
He’d been in good form of late, recording a spectacular 15:33 time in the Friday Night Under the Lights 5k at Highgate and a 33:17 at the Lordshill 10k a few days after.
It had been quite a while since Tag had last competed in the Great South Run. In fact, the last time he did was in 2015 when he ran his current 10 Mile PB of 52:42. He also ran it a number of years from 2006 to 2010.
It was Harry Smith‘s first ever Great South Run but equally, in the form he’d been showing recently, he had the potential to do very well.
It had been a tremendous year for Harry thus far and he’d really been flourishing since joining the BAC ranks. Managing a superb 10k PB of 31:55 at Eastleigh, he’d also recorded a ferociously fast 5k of 15:02 which saw him pick up the win in the MK Rocket 5k.
On top of that he also boasted Triathlon and Duathlon victories to his name, proving that his cycling is also top notch and his swimming isn’t too bad either.
Having competed in the Great South Run in each of the last six years, dating back to 2014 when he first got back into running, it was business as usual for Richard Brawn.
On almost all of those years he’d managed to produce a new 10 mile PB as well, eclipsing his time from the previous year. Hence, he’d always loved participating in the race.
His best time thus far was the 1:01:22 he recorded in 2018. He’d already ran a sub-60 minute 10 miler though according to Strava during the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon back in July. That was a race in which he went to secure a magnificent new PB of 1:18:49.
Just two weeks before the Great South Run he’d registered a terrific new PB of 2:48:29 at the London Marathon so he was clearly in good shape for a new 10 mile best, provided he’d recovered well enough.
Having done the Great South run on a couple of occasions before, Trev Elkins‘ best time was 1:05:42 which he set in 2017. His form had been pretty good for the most part in the weeks and months building up it though and he’d recorded a 10k PB of 37:24 at Eastleigh along with a 5 mile PB of 29:52 at Romsey. Plus a parkrun best of 17:39.
Only just recently returning to the racing circuit after a long absence, Chris O’Brien came off the back of a very good time of 1:28:47 in the Run Bournemouth Half Marathon the previous weekend.
That proved he could still produce decent times on the day if everything goes well for him and he was hoping that would be the case at the GSR this year too.
Competing at the Great South Run in each of the last five years, dating back to 2015, Julian Oxborough was another mainstay in the race and knew exactly what to expect.
A couple of weeks before the event though, he’d been left disappointed and frustrated at his attempt in the Salisbury Half Marathon, pulling out before even getting to the half way point.
The Great South Run would be his opportunity to demonstrate he had the character to bounce back from a bad experience and ensure he made a better fist of it next time round.
Starting off in the elite runners pen, Rob McTaggart made an extremely quick start, getting through the first 5k in 16:06. Unfortunately he blew at the four mile point though and began to suffer for the remainder of the race.
He was still going at between 5:23 and 5:27 pace for the next four miles though before hitting the headwind on the seafront for the last two miles.
That slowed him down further but he rallied well to cross the line in a time of 53:44 which put him in 32nd place overall. Although he considered it to be an off day, it was still an excellent time from Tag and showed that his speed and fitness is in a very good place at the moment.
Harry Smith, Rich Brawn and Trev Elkins started off with the fast paced club runners in the pen behind and although his intention was to run it at as a tempo, Harry soon got sucked into a much quicker pace.
He did actually have a 47 mile ultra to run six days later which was why he was intending to temper the pace slightly. Going through the first 5k in 16:34, it was clear that he wasn’t holding back too much over the early stages.
Working as a vet though, Harry often encounters unpredictable behaviour from animals and it has been known to cause him concerns going into races.
He was unfortunately kicked in the leg by a cow in the week leading up to the race and at the half way point he began to feel his knee flare up from where he’d been kicked so he took it a touch steadier from that point on.
Reaching the 10k marker at 33:26, Harry managed to keep the pace up very well over the latter stages of the race, despite the tough headwind, and he felt pretty comfortable.
Finishing in a time of 54:04, Harry took 36th place in the overall standings which was a fantastic result for him. He now had less that a week to recuperate before the Thames Trot Ultra.
As for Rich Brawn, he was a little unsure of what pace to go for initially but he though he’d try something in the region of 5:45 minutes per mile.
That seemed like it might be a bit too fast though once he got into the second mile so he decided to instead switch to a plan of keeping every mile split under six minutes.
Going through the first 5k in 18:10, it was certainly a good solid start from Rich. He then clocked a 36:23 for 10k. The course usually tends to get a bit tougher over the last four miles though so he was expecting to have to work for it.
At the nine mile point when he turned and headed for the seafront he felt the full force of the headwind for the first time. He knew then that the last couple of miles were going to be a grind.
With the pace dropping to just under 6 minutes per mile, he had to dig deep to find the resolve to stabilise it. Most of the other runners were slowing down too much at that point so he couldn’t tuck in behind any of them. He had to go it alone.
It was a very tough ninth mile but Rich was absolutely determined not to blot his sub-six copybook at that late stage. Thus he was relieved to go through it in 5:56.
That meant just a mile and a bit to go and he’d made it. Completing the final one in 5:51 pace, he arrived on the finishing straight knowing he’d secured a massive PB.
Crossing the line in a time of 58:43, it was a fantastic result for Rich, putting him in 62nd place overall and 6th in his age group. The primary goal was to get in in under 60 minutes and he’d achieved that very emphatically, with an average pace of 5:49.
Making a decent start, Trev Elkins went through the first 5k in 19:22. His pace dropped a bit after that but he still went through 10k in 39:08.
It got a bit tougher for him over the last four miles, especially when he turned onto the seafront in the 9th mile to face the ferocious headwind.
That disrupted his pace further but he soldiered on to complete the course in a time of 1:04:17. That put him in 229th position overall and 37th in his age group. Although it wasn’t quite the time he wanted, it was still a pretty solid 10 mile PB for Trev.
He had been hoping to get much closer to 60 minutes though so from that perspective he was a little disappointed. No sooner had he finished and cooled down and Trev was eager to get out there and give it another go, demonstrating the immense hunger he possesses to achieve the goals he sets himself.
Also making a fairly strong start to the race, Chris O’Brien went through the 5k mark in 20:41. That was at roughly 6:30 pace. For the next 5k he was going at around 6:40 pace and got to the 10k point in 41:28.
He was on course for an excellent time and it was all going pretty smoothly. Then, out of nowhere, he suddenly felt a searing pain in his foot. That stopped him in his tracks and he lost almost a minute over the last two kilometres.
Finishing in a time of 1:07:06, it had been a disappointing end to an otherwise promising run for Chris. He’d come in in 356th place overall and he was 24th in his age group.
Julian Oxborough had had numerous issues in the past few weeks leading up to the race including a soar throat and ongoing stomach problems.
The weekend before the Great South Run Julian had attempted the Salisbury Half Marathon but hadn’t even made to the half way point before having to pull out. A was a big disappointment but he was determined to bounce back at the GSR.
Instead of going all out to get round as quick as he could, Julian decided to take it really easy and just enjoy the run. With the pressure off, he was able to just relax and appreciate the race for what it is.
Crossing the line in a time of 2:36:143, Julian had arrived in 11,289th position and 1,069th in his age group. Although it was his slowest ever recorded time, he’d done what he set out to do which was just to complete the race and have fun in the process.
At the other end of the field it was Jack Rowe of Aldershot Farnham & District who picked up the win in a lightening quick time of 47:20. He was followed closely by Emile Cairess of Leeds City who came in at 47:38.
Daniel Jarvis of Bedford County took 3rd in 48:48 forcing Chris Thompson to have to settle for 4th place in a time of 49:01. Southampton man William Bryan notched 5th place in a time of 49:05.
Eilish McColgan smashed the Great South Run course record which was previously set by Sonia O’Sullivan in 2002. She ran 51 minutes exactly 51 minutes that day and Eilish produced a phenomenal time of 50:43 to eclipse that.
It also wiped out Paula Radcliffe’s UK record of 51:11 which she’d held since 2008. That put Eilish 14th overall and showed why could well be considered Britain’s best ever female distance runner.
Jess Piasecki of Stockport Harriers was 2nd female, crossing the line in 51:50 which put her in 27th place overall. Then it was Verity Ockenden of Swansea Harriers who was 3rd female in 54:07 which put her 37th overall, just behind Harry.
It has become something of a tradition for Rich Brawn and his brother Dave to meet up and do the Great South Run. It was Dave’s 12th consecutive year at the GSR and he also managed to secure a terrific new PB, finishing in a time of 1:05:39.
After the race the Brawn brothers went to the common where Rich had parked to get some stuff out of his car. To get over to the common, they had to pass the start line again and they discovered that some of the runners were only just going over the start line.
The waves were more segregated this year and there were quite big gaps between start times meaning that it was going to take a very long time for all the runners to finish.
Rich and Dave then went back to cheer on the other runners who were still out on the course and they were hoping to catch Julian when he came round onto the finishing straight.
There were plenty of wonderful and wacky outfits on display amongst the runners who were still making their way round the course and approaching the finish.
The race had a fantastic vibe to it and the crowds of people who had come out to support all the way along the route made it extra special. It was great to see such a large scale race take place in the way that it should be, with runners competing alongside one another and spectators mixing together to generate a terrific atmosphere.