It’s Friday 20 October and the Blind Dave Team bus is ready to hit the motorway, heading to Portsmouth, the Simplyhealth Great South Run and the final UK event of the latest Blind Dave Challenge.
We were a bit later setting off than we had anticipated which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We weren’t too far down the M5 when we received a message that due to worsening weather conditions, the Saturday events had unfortunately been cancelled, meaning no 5k for us. So a quick about turn and we headed back home for the evening.
Saturday evening rolled around and saw our journey start all over again. Travelling down I got to catch the commentary on the match, but it wasn’t playing out as I would have liked! Southampton were beating my beloved Baggies one nil and the next morning in Portsmouth I’d be running surrounded by Saints fans!
After arriving in Portsmouth around 9pm, we located the event parking area on the Common near the start and parked up alongside a couple of lorries, which helpfully acted as a wind break for us. The normal routine came into play, generator out, kettle on and that was us sorted for the night. Or so we thought!
It wasn’t until we were bedding down for the night that we realised one of the lorries must have been a refrigeration vehicle, as its generator came on, then went off, then came on, then went off – all night long! The wind had picked up too and although it’s been a good few years since I was last rocked to sleep, sleep came eventually.
Sunday morning and we were treated to a lie in, not getting up till 8am. The porridge and toast came with a bonus too - the sun was shining, the wind wasn’t too strong and there was no rain! Over our last breakfast in the team bus we reflected on the fact that this was the penultimate run before Ethiopia, that back in Edinburgh in January when it all began we had joked that we only had 24 runs left to complete. Now here we were, wondering where the year had gone!
Soon we were out of the van for the last time and we wandered across to the start area around 200 yards away. The crowds of both supporters and runners were gathering, the PA system pushing out information, music was playing and interviews were taking place. We had our interview with Channel 5 then I heard Claire Lomas start her amazing journey.
I had to smile as Jenny, one of the Great Run team, led me back to the lads telling me there was a step but forgetting to tell me which way. I went to step down, the step was up, my eye collided with her head with the outcome being lots of laughter and her promising to never be my guide!
After a quick chat with Chris from Emmerdale I was suddenly pulled to the start line; the hooter went and Team Blind Dave were enjoying another fantastic send off.
This time we had planned for a relaxed run, no checking watches and keeping to a time, just to simply run and enjoy the experience. As we passed Clare and her team after about half a mile, we were still laughing at Garry who seemed to be fighting with the bag of running jackets he was carrying for us.
Within a couple of miles Tony and the lads were giving me the run down with regards to the sights around us. Tall ships as big as flats, we passed the historic Mary Rose, they described an enormous aircraft carrier, I heard what I presumed to be a military band and with the crowds out in force we were getting some great shout outs.
At around four miles, still running strong, we turned and began heading down the opposite side of the road where we caught the first signs of the elite runners coming upon us. At five and a half miles we past the point where the local radio station was playing, shouting out to us as we ran by.
By now the elite runners had started to pass us in their numbers, many giving us a shout but especially the Southampton supporters once they saw our Albion Foundation shirts. The banter had started but mind I gave as good as I got!
Before we knew it we had turned and at the eight mile marker we hit the seafront with the wind hitting us! Up to this point we had all had a great run, our pace not faltering which we were quite surprised about having just done a marathon and half marathon the previous weekend.
We ran through the 800 yard mark, then the 400 yard mark, the crowds now so intense. At one hundred yards to go, we linked arms and for the last time on this challenge in the UK crossed the finish line together to shouts, cheers and applause.
After the finish interview with Channel 5 and the obligatory team photos we collected our finisher’s packs and made our way back to the team bus. We caught our breath, made ourselves respectable then headed off to the VIP area for a hot meal, a good chunk of pudding and a great end to the Great South Run.
As the team bus made its way back up north we recalled all our favourite Great Run memories so far. We all agreed what a fabulous year of runs it has been, meeting so many great people, visiting so many different places, but as well a kind of sadness that it’s all coming to an end.
But for now there’s still the small matter of the Great Ethiopian Run to come and then, of course, there’s always next year!
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