The wait is nearly over for 27,000 men, women and children gearing up to take part in the biggest Great South Run weekend ever.
On Sunday hordes of professional athletes, amateur runners, charity fundraisers and people just looking to soak up the atmosphere will descend on Southsea to enjoy Europe’s most popular 10-mile race.
And this year there really is something for everybody – tomorrow thousands are set to line up and compete in three other races which will give all ages and abilities a chance to get in on the action.
Catering for youngsters are the popular Mini and Junior events, but for the first time ever a 5k version of the famous seafront course will let beginners get their running careers off to a flying start.
This year will be the 22nd Great South Run – the 21st to be held in Portsmouth – and the main event has seen a record 24,000 people signing up to take part.
Sponsored by Bupa, the weekend supports 40 official charities and organisers are aiming to beat last year’s total of £2.5m collected for good causes.
As always there will be entertainment along the course and plenty of famous faces for celebrity-spotters to look out for.
David Hart, communications manager for event organiser Nova, says he has watched the race blossom from humble beginnings into one of the country’s top sporting events.
‘It has been an amazing journey,’ he says.
‘The Great South Run has gone from being a well-respected local road race to the premier 10-mile running event in the world.
‘And it is the only 10-mile race anywhere to be awarded an International Association of Athletics Federations Gold Label, which is a fantastic achievement.
‘I have been lucky enough to be there for all 22 of the runs and watched it go from just 2,500 people in its first year to the huge event we have now.’
The following road closures will take place over the weekend:
· Closed from 6am today to Sunday afternoon: Clarence Esplanade between South Parade and Jack Cockerill Way and Victoria Avenue Spur. Victoria Road will also close from early Sunday to late Sunday afternoon.
· Closed from tomorrow morning until Sunday afternoon: Clarence Esplanade between Jack Cockerill Way, Pier Road and Avenue de Caen; The Dell; Jack Cockerill Way and Avenue de Caen.
· Closed from 6am until 2pm tomorrow: part of Clarence Esplanade (between Avenue de Caen to Pier Road) and Pier Road (both sides South of the roundabout on Duisburg Way).
· Western Parade will be closed between 10.45am and 1pm tomorrow.
There are 10 bands playing along the 10-mile course, including HM Band of Royal Marines, who are playing outside HMS Victory, along with some folk, rock and jazz, plus brass and steel bands.
Tenor Sean Ruane will also sing on the start line and run the course.
Tomorrow there will be two bands along the 5k course and youngsters taking part in the Mini/Junior races can also get involved in activities – including football, mini golf and street dance – at the Event Village on Castle Field from 9am.
There will also be a sprint track, climbing wall, inflatable assault course and circus acts workshop included in the line-up.
Starting this year’s race will be Dame Ellen MacArthur and among the famous faces taking part in Sunday’s 10-miler will be comedian Hugh Dennis, star of Outnumbered and Mock the Week, Olympic gold medallist and television presenter Sally Gunnell, resident health editor on Daybreak Dr Hilary Jones, Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton, radio presenter Rick Jackson from Wave 105, consumer rights guru Martin Lewis from Moneysavingexpert.com and former Olympic athlete turned television presenter Iwan Thomas.
WHERE TO WATCH
There will be a giant TV screen on Castle Field so that spectators can watch all the action as it happens out on the course.
A good vantage point will be along the Esplanade towards Clarence Pier. The course also passes Gunwharf Quays, so there will be a chance to wave at runners as they head past.
The course passes close to the start/finish area from five to six miles. Spectators can simply walk north across the Common or up Avenue de Caen on to Clarence Parade. Runners will end the race on Southsea Common to the west of the skate park, but organisers are asking people to use the reunion area on Castle Field.
Over the weekend the council is recommending people use the city centre car parks, which will be open and are not on the race route.
Car parking will also be available on Southsea Common for competitors, officials, and spectators during tomorrow and Sunday, but charges of £3 per car will apply. Parking on the common will be free for displaced residents with a valid residents’ parking permit.
The city’s park and ride service will also be available from Lakeside, North Harbour.
Further information about which roads will not allow waiting or close temporarily at the weekend can be found at portsmouth.gov.uk.
· 5k Great South Run: Car parking opens – 8am
Race starts – 10am
· 1.5k Mini Run (three to eight-year-olds): Wave one starts – midday
Wave Two starts – 12.30pm
· 2.5k Junior Run (nine to 15-year-olds): Girls start – 1pm
Boys start – 1.45pm
· 10-Mile Great South Run: Car parking opens – 7.30am
Start of elite female race – 10.40am
Start of elite male race, fast-paced runners and orange wave – 10.54am
White wave start - 11.03am
Green wave start – 11.12am