By David Hart.

Applauding Ann, who won’t mind me describing her as elderly, laden down with overflowing collection bucket as she crossed the finish line at the Great South Run last month, was a moment for reflection and emotion, as she became the last finisher in our 2014 Great Run series.

Finish lines of our Great events are a sea of elation, sweat and tears and as an organiser I have had the privilege of welcoming a significant number of our 220,000 participants this year home.

From the very fastest in the world to some of the slowest, the gnarled club runners to the fresh-faced first-timers, and the Scooby Doo’s to those who prefer to carry white goods on their back, there is never a dull moment.

First home, unsurprisingly, are the elites, who hastily have to be arranged into a one, two, three picture for the cameras. Sounds a glamorous part of the job? You try getting three exhausted athletes, two of whom are disappointed, into order 15 seconds after running a half marathon in front of the nation’s cameras!

And then there are the fast paced runners, straining every sinew to record a personal best time, eyeballs out…no pain no gain. The sanctuary of the finish line often becomes an attractive place to lie down. Trip hazard.

Here come the joggers, with the odd celebrity face thrown in; some odder than others. Tired but happy, they’re the people who look up expecting to recognise me when I shout “Well done Kevin” and “Great effort Elizabeth”…clearly having forgotten that their name is emblazoned on their run number.

Like a turning tide, the joggers (do NOT call them fun runners) become slower and are increasingly infiltrated by the fancy dress participants. I can confirm that Superman is not super-human and bear outfits look unbearably hot to run in.

We love the stragglers. Groups of people, usually women, hand in hand, cross the line before almost invariably hugging.
 The sense of achievement palpable and it often takes just a quick glance at their tee shirts to know that the tears that follow are in memory of a loved one.

At the back of the stragglers are the most humbling moments of all. Brave people, helped out of their wheelchairs to defiantly take the last few steps themselves. A slap in the face for the condition that has forced them into their predicament.

It’s a special place, a Great Run finishing line.