ORGANISERS have hailed the 22nd Great South Run as the most successful in the event’s history.
A record number of runners set off at 10am yesterday to test themselves against the city’s 10-mile course.
Among them were amateur athletes from 20 countries – including Australia, Bermuda and Japan – racing to raise money for dozens of charities.
Started by round-the-world sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur the race included runners of all ages and abilities, dressed in an incredible range of costumes.
Director of communications for event-organisers Nova, David Hart, said the response to the event had been ‘spectacularly positive’.
‘I am delighted with how everything has gone,’ he said. ‘The weather was on our side and as always the enthusiasm of the runners was just amazing.
‘The Great South Run has truly arrived on the world’s stage as one of the world’s premier international running races.
‘It is the most popular 10-mile road race in the world for a reason; Portsmouth should be proud of hosting such a consistently successful event.’
Broadcast live on Channel 5 the race was also attended by many thousands of spectators, creating audiences that organisers declared the biggest in the event’s history.
The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Cheryl Buggy, even said one of these days she would get involved and run herself.
She said: ‘It’s been a fantastic event for all the participants, wonderful for the spectators and so important for all the charities, which millions are raised for.
‘It’s been my favourite event to come to since I became Lord Mayor.
‘It really brings out the best in people.
‘The spirit and atmosphere on the seafront was amazing and my jaw is aching from smiling so much.
‘It has also been a hugely emotional weekend for everyone, and so well organised. It’s been flawless.’
Looking forward to next year’s event council sport and leisure chief, Cllr Lee Hunt, said he had plenty of ideas to build on the weekend’s success.
‘I am looking into maybe holding qualifying heats in schools,’ he said.
‘With the winners going on to a race on the Saturday.
‘And as it’s 2012 and the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birthday we should have a Dickens team running, complete with Oliver Twist!
‘It is such a great way of getting youngsters involved, and while they might not all become runners they could be inspired by it to do any number of things.’
Among the celebrities taking part in the race were TV comedian and sit-com star Hugh Dennis, Daybreak health expert Dr Hilary Jones and former Olympic athlete turned television presenter Iwan Thomas.
Dr Hilary Jones said: ‘It was fantastic, this is my third time and I think that was the fastest I’ve done it.
‘My wife pushed me to go faster than I would have otherwise, but I’m happy with how I did.
‘Running is so good for you it’s great to see so many people doing it.’
And rubbing shoulders with thousands of runners, kit man Kevin McCormack ran with fan-favourite Linvoy Primus and ‘Touchline’ Tony Male in Pompey’s team for Faith & Football but finished well ahead of his team mates.
He said: ‘I loved it and it was definitely my fastest time ever.
‘I’ve lost loads of weight so that’s what made the difference. I’m going to keep coming back, it’s a great event.’
And yesterday entry officially opened for next year’s event, which will once again take place in Portsmouth on October 27 and 28.