The Great South Run 2019- Pacers, PB’s and my #Breaking2 challenge

With the Berlin marathon ticked off and my legs fully recovered it was time to start working on my remaining goals for the rest of the year. I’ve been totally inspired by Eliud Kipchoge’s historic INEOS 1:59:40 marathon last week, so much so that I’ve decided to set myself my very own #Breaking2 challenge. Obviously a sub-2hr marathon is somewhat out of reach for me, but I would absolutely love to be even half as fast as Kipchoge, and complete a half marathon in the same time that he runs the full 26.2 miles. My current half PB stands at 2hr17min, set at Hackney earlier this year. I know that I have improved a lot since then thanks to all my Berlin marathon training, but a sub-2hr half still represents a huge step up from my current long run pace.

My final race of the Autumn was today’s Great South Run, a massive event with over 20,000 participants, set along the Portsmouth seafront. At 10 miles long, this seemed like a perfect distance for my half marathon training. I decided to go all out and try to follow the 1h30min pacer, bearing in mind that my previous best 10 mile time was 1hr42min, I would soon find out if this was a bravely optimistic or somewhat foolish strategy!

The start of the race did not go entirely according to plan. There were so many runners that I hadn’t managed to get next to the 1h30min pacer in the starting pen, and I saw his red flag bounding away 100 metres ahead as I struggled to get across the starting line. It took nearly 1km to catch up, by which time I had put in an uncomfortably fast first split. I was finally able to relax a little as I put myself shoulder to shoulder with Rob the pacer, focusing entirely on matching him step for step, as he took care of the speed.

The miles ticked by as we were treated to a scenic tour of Portsmouth, around the beautiful dockyards and along the blustery seafront. I was starting to feel the effects of the challenging pace as we passed the 7 mile water station, and by the time I had wrestled with collecting a water bottle, I realised that I had started to slip back from the pacer pack. Without the support of my little team of runners that I had been buoyed along by, my confidence took quite a knock, and once again I started to see the red pacer flag slipping further and further ahead.

The 9 mile marker came into sight and I remembered the headstart that Rob had over me. If I could just stay within 100 metres of him, then I should finish just about on time. I was really really suffering by now, desperately trying to hang on. I could see the clock over the finish line ticking away as I gritted my teeth and kicked on to finish in…..1h 30 minutes and 3 seconds!

I couldn’t believe it! That was a massive 12 minute improvement on my PB! I had managed 10 miles at sub-2hr half marathon pace, and whilst it was incredibly hard going at times, it has really filled me with confidence for my spring races. Just one thing remained, to catch up with pacer Rob and give him a huge hug and thankyou. Just like my idol Kipchoge, I massively appreciate the effect of pacers, and I always achieve my best times with someone else there to spur me on. If you ran the Great South Run today, I love to hear how you got on! Drop me a line in the comments below or on Twitter.

On a different note I’m delighted to say that Monday Running has been nominated for best personal blog at the 2020 Running awards! If you’ve enjoyed reading, I’d be absolutely honoured if you would vote for me on the Running Awards website here, in the Blogs -> personal Blogs category, it only takes a second to register. Thank you so much!

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