Taking place in Portsmouth, the Great South Run is the most popular and prestigious 10 mile race in the UK – and being not a million miles from home, it usually attracts some Bournemouth AC affiliated participation. The 2022 edition was no exception, with five club members trying their luck in the spectacular south coast showdown.
Among the yellow and blue crew and taking his place in the elite pen was Craig Palmer. After a long lockdown out of action, Craig has been battling back to fitness ever since, whilst pursuing his other interests of golf and the odd pint down the pub. When he needs to though, he’s not afraid to knuckle down and put some work in, as he did for four weeks in preparation for the GSR.
Joining Craig in the race, just two weeks on from their London Marathon adventures were Richard Brawn and Julian Oxborough. Although it was quite a short turnaround time between the two events, Rich and Julian never miss the Great South Run.
Rich has done the race every year since 2013 and Julian has done 15 of them in total, with the first one being in 1991. He may not be quite as fast as was back in those days but Julian is still enthusiastic about his running and still sets himself targets and goals according to what is achievable for him in the current era.
Completing his first GSR in 1:08:20 back in 2013, Rich has been steadily improving his times, year on year, culminating in a PB of 58:43 in his previous attempt. After having his race ravaged by cramp at London and ending up having to run/walk the last 10k, Rich was keen to bounce back with a good performance in the Great South Run. At least he could then salvage something from his three month block of marathon training.
Also present in Southsea that day, big Ben Collins was competing in his first individual road race for Bournemouth AC. Often one of the quickest runners in the Tuesday night training sessions, Ben certainly had the speed to do well. He just needed the endurance to go with it so that was what he set about working on in training, getting himself in prime shape for the big event.
Targeting a sub 60 minute time, Ben had been combining some good long runs and tempos into his training, along with the speed work at club sessions. He also represented the club in the Aldershot Road Race Relays which was over a 6k distance. He was hoping to use that as a gage for what sort of pace he might be able to run at in the Great South Run but the route for the Aldershot Road Relays was quite undulating, thus not really providing a fair reflection. He still managed to complete the 6k in 21:12 though.
Now at 16 years of age, Emily Coltman can take part in adult races and wasn’t daunted by the prospect of such a large scale event as the Great South Run. The previous weekend she finished 3rd female in the Supernova 5k at the Run Bournemouth event and had also ran well in the Wessex Cross Country League fixture the week before that, finishing 5th in her category.
Rich’s brother Dave was also in the race and he knew the streets very well, being a former Southsea resident. Having since moved away to Wales though, he now had to make a slightly longer journey to get there. It was his 13th Great South Run so it was something of a tradition for him to be there.
The Great South Run course is very fast and flat, starting near Southsea Common and heading out on one loop route round Portsmouth before finishing up on the seafront for the last two miles. There is usually a sting in the tail though and that’s that quite often the participants have to endure a ferocious headwind for that last stretch along coast.
There was a pretty good line up of runners joining Craig in the elite pen including Omar Ahmed of Birchfield Harriers, Ellis Cross and Joshua Grace from Aldershot Farnham & District, Ben Connor of Derby and Callum Johnson of Gateshead. There were also some top level women in the race including Steph Twell and Lily Partridge, so as always, it was sure to be highly competitive at the front of the field.
Starting off just under 5:30 minutes per mile pace, Craig managed to keep that up for the first six miles, reaching the 10k point in 34:05. He dropped off slightly after that but held it together well, only going over 5:40 pace for the 7th mile before hitting a 5:37, a 5:38 and a 5:35 for his last three miles.
The culminated in a finishing time of 55:23, which put him in 43rd place. That was a pretty decent result for Craig considering he’d done it off only four weeks worth of training and he’d certainly come a long way since he first started running again after putting on some lockdown pounds.
It was actually still not as quick as the average pace he managed for the Berlin Marathon back in 2019, which he completed in 2:24:52 but it was another stepping stone in the right direction for Craig and he continues his journey back to his best form.
Ben’s original plan was to start off at a comfortable pace and then gradually crank it up as the race goes on. He was feeling so strong though that as soon as the proceedings got underway, he abandoned that plan. That led to a 5:37 for his first mile split and a 5:41 for his next two miles. He went through 5k in 17:32.
Despite his fast start he did well to keep the pace steady for the remainder of the race, clocking a 5:46 for his fourth mile and 5:50 for his fifth mile. Then with a 5:43 for his sixth mile, he reached 10k in 35:44. It was certainly going well for him thus far but would he have enough to keep it going over the last four miles?
A 5:51 for his 7th mile was followed by a 5:44 for his 8th mile. Rich had warned Ben about the headwind on the seafront for the last couple of miles but fortunately, on this particular day, it wasn’t there. As they turned onto the seafront, there was nothing. No wind to hold them back.
As a result, Ben was able to crank the pace up to a 5:41 for his 9th mile before ending with a 5:42 for his last mile. That led to a tremendous finishing time of 57:30, which had far exceeded his expectations. That put him in 66th place and it was an outcome that Ben certainly deserved as well after putting the ground work in in training.
Following his difficulties in the marathon, Rich decided to try and modify his running style and be more on the front foot instead of leaning back. He was also aiming for shorter strides and a higher cadence. He found it quite a tiring way of running though. After getting through the first mile in 5:45, which was the pace he was aiming for, he then slowed to 5:50 for the second mile, deciding that his earlier pace wasn’t comfortable enough.
He went through the first 5k in 17:44, before reaching the 10k point in 36:08. For his sixth mile, he’d gone down to 5:55 and he followed that up with a 5:53 for his 7th mile and a 5:52 for his 8th mile. He was convinced his splits had been slower than they were in the previous year so he thought his chances of a PB were gone. But he wanted to keep pushing as hard as he could.
He could scarcely believe it when he turned onto the seafront and there was virtually no wind. Now he had a real chance to claw some time back. Getting through the 9th mile in 5:54, he then had one more chance to crank it up a notch and finish strongly. Registering a 5:43 for this 10th mile, Rich raced toward the finishing line and was astonished to see the clock ticking down just past 58:20.
Recording an official chip time of 58:22, Rich had come in in 77th position and was 11th in his age group. It was a PB but 21 seconds and Rich was ecstatic about that. Considering he hadn’t been feeling particularly strong throughout the whole race, he was really surprised at the outcome.
Putting in a magnificent display in her first official 10 mile race, Emily Coltman went through the first 5k in 24:01. She continued on to reach the 10k stage in 49:08 before going on to reach the finish line in 1:19:43.
That put her in 1,875th position overall and she was 5th in her age and gender group. Out of all the women in the race, she was 242nd, and for her first proper stab at the distance it was a really good effort from Emily.
She’d had her dad Jason running with her as well and they’d been together most the way round before Emily extended away towards the end, finishing very strongly. Jason reached the line in 1:20:20 which put him in 1,993rd place and 210th in his age and gender group. Jason has been helping out with the juniors on coaching nights at Bournemouth AC recently and is certainly keen to give Emily the platform she needs to thrive.
Getting off to a good solid start, Julian Oxborough then settled into a comfortable pace. Going through the 5k checkpoint in 37:31, his original aim had been to get in under two hours. After getting ill in the build up towards the London Marathon though and having been on antibiotics, Julian decided to take it steady instead, reaching the 10k stage in 1 hour 10 minutes and 40 seconds.
Making it to the finish in 2 hours 13 minutes and 13 seconds, Julian came in 12,243rd place overall and was 628th in his age and gender group. He was pleased with that time, given that the conditions were quite warm on the day which made it tougher. It was a big improvement on his time of 2:36:13 from the previous year as well.
Ben Connor picked up the race win, getting round in a ferociously fast 47:19. That meant Ellis Cross had to settle for a runner up spot with his time of 47:32, with Omar Ahmed completing the top three in 47:49. Ross Millington of Stockport Harriers took 4th place in 47:51, with Callum Johnson coming 5th in 48 minutes exactly.
In the women’s race, it was Lily Partridge who narrowly edged out Natasha Cockram to seal the victory. Lily’s time was 54:29, which made her 37th fastest out of anyone on the day. Natasha was next over the line, arrived just 6 seconds later in 54:35. Steph Twell was 3rd female clocking a time of 54:51, which was 40th fastest overall.
Former Bournemouth AC man Harry Smith was there as well, having recently transferred his first claim status to City of Salisbury. He whizzed the course in 52:16, which put him in an impressive 24th place overall. It was a good PB for Harry but he had had flu at the beginning of the week so didn’t think he’d be at the top of his game.
Even though it was a great time, it still felt to Harry that he had the potential to go much quicker and should perhaps be capable of a sub 51. Poole AC man Dom Willmore was there as well and he completed the course in 54 minutes 59 seconds which saw him come in 40th place.
Rich’s brother Dave, who now runs for Griffithstown Harriers, got round in 1:05:51, which put him in 337th place overall and 53rd in his age group. That put him just 12 seconds off the PB time he recorded in the same race the previous year.
After the race, Rich and Ben went for lunch with Dave and his partner Gabrielle, who was there supporting, before making the journey back to Bournemouth and they’d had a fantastic day, all things considered.
It was only a few weeks until Rich was due to be back in action in another 10 mile race as would line up in the Hayling 10, which was the next fixture in the Hampshire Road Race League.