The world’s leading 10-mile running event, the Simplyhealth Great South Run, returns this year on the weekend of October 21 and 22.
More than 20,000 runners pound the pavements of Portsmouth and Southsea every year across a fast and flat course that has been graced by world-class athletes for more than 25 years.
The 10-mile route features a beautiful and scenic route that grants runners exclusive access to the naval base and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, allowing them to pass the HMS Victory.
The weekend is a festival of sport for all abilities, with the Great South 5k – and the Junior and Mini Great South Run – taking place the day before the 10 miles, making the day perfect for all abilities.
If you’re feeling inspired to get moving, have a read of the journeys of four runners and read about why they’ve decided to pull on their trainers for this year’s run.
If you want to join the thousands on the start line, enter at greatrun.org/South
PENSIONER Eric Pollard thought he would never be able to run again after he was struck down with nerve damage following a chronic back injury.
However, thanks to pioneering surgery, he is celebrating a new lease of life by taking on the Great South Run.
Eric, 68, of Hayling Island, said: ‘I called time on my running with a recurring back injury causing chronic pain and I tried out cycling instead.
‘When the pain became too much for even that, I was referred to the pain clinic at the Queen Alexandra Hospital where an MRI scan showed long-standing nerve damage.
‘I underwent a procedure called radiofrequency lesioning to the joints on my back.
‘It’s made a tremendous difference. After thinking I wouldn’t be able to take part in anything like this again, it’s incredible.
‘I used to run a long time ago. I used to run for Hampshire when I was at school, I did cross-country running, all different events.
‘I ran the Great South Run around 20 years ago, but went off it a bit because I was getting pain in my back, and my legs, so it dropped away.
‘A couple of years ago, if I was walking for more than 15 to 20 minutes I would have to sit down because I was getting so much pain in my legs. It turns out I had damage to my lower spinal cord which was probably caused in adolescence through gymnastics and running.
‘I’ve grown up with that injury all my life and that has been what has caused so much pain. Those MRI scans show such amazing detail and it was easy to see what the problem was. I was 65 when I had the procedure done. I didn’t think I’d be able to run again.
‘I am so proud to be running at my age. I was surprised how many runners over the age of 60 there are taking part in these events.
‘I didn’t think I’d be running now. It’s good because I’m enjoying life, running to get ready for this event. It makes you feel better, it’s a healthy thing to do.’
NICK Lang and his wife Lydnsey lost their daughter Evalyn when Lyndsey was 37 weeks pregnant. After going through the heartache of their child being stillborn, they decided to turn Evalyn’s passing into a legacy.
Nick, who has a four-year-old son Ieuan, will take on the Great South Run with a team of friends to raise awareness about stillbirth and research into neonatal death.
Nick, 36, said: ‘On November 8, 2016 our daughter, Evalyn, was stillborn and we were granted entry into a surreal new world of the “in-between parent”.
‘This is where you are allowed to experience everything the prospect of becoming a parent to a new baby brings.
‘Growing your child inside you, attending scans, choosing names, announcing to friends and family, buying baby clothes and supplies and spending a rather warm October day decorating the spare room to transform it into her bedroom.
‘You have done it all, but then life decides you can never bring her home.
‘From walking into the Queen Alexandra Hospital to being told our news and then placed within the safe, comforting care of The Nightingale Suite, a private bereavement maternity suite, we received exceptional care from the staff at the QA.
‘Being a parent to a stillborn child has been a struggle on many different levels. We have had to adjust to a new normal.
‘We had to announce to friends and family that Evalyn wasn’t coming home, take down a nursery that was ready and waiting for her homecoming and carry on living in a world where there are reminders of what we have lost around every corner.
‘On average, there are 10 to 15 stillbirths in the UK every day. It comes as no surprise that few people know this – even the Channel 4 programme One Born Every Minute manages to evade the fact that some of these babies are born sleeping.
‘Stillbirth is somewhat of a taboo subject in society.
‘No one likes to discuss the idea of a babies life ending before it’s begun.
‘But this leads to lack of awareness, then a lack of funding, which in turn goes towards a lack of research.
‘Since Evalyn passed away, we have received support by attending Southampton SANDS and meeting other parents who have shared a very similar journey with ourselves and we decided we wanted to raise funds to ensure that support for other families could continue.
‘By running the Great South Run, we aim to raise awareness of stillbirth so that it becomes less of a taboo subject and that by hearing our story, people start to talk to each other about it.
‘We also want to raise money for SANDS so that the parents who are suffering have the support and help they need to get through one of the biggest challenges of their lives.’
Support Nick’s fundraising at justgiving.com/fundraising/stillbirthawareness
BECKY Holman is running for Target Ovarian Cancer after she lost her mum Christine, pictured, to Ovarian Cancer in June 2016.
Becky, 30, from Fratton, said: ‘I started running in May 2015 after my mother Christine was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
‘She had been experiencing bloating and back pain for a few months, but was told it was nothing to worry about multiple times by her GP.
‘She then received a second opinion and after having a scan at the hospital she was told she had stage 3 ovarian cancer.
‘Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer due to the symptoms being common issues woman might usually have, like bloating, feeling full, abnormal bleeding, and is commonly misdiagnosed until it’s too late.
‘When mum was diagnosed I felt compelled to do something to raise awareness, so I started running and began raising funds for Target Ovarian Cancer, which works to not only fund research, but to make both women and GPs aware of the early symptoms.
‘Mum sadly died in June 2016, two months before my wedding, but right from when she was diagnosed to her very last days she was nothing but brave, funny and dignified. I am finally taking the plunge and running the 2017 Great South Run.
‘I will continue to run in my mum’s memory and endeavour to make as many women aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer as possible.’
Support Becky’s fundraising at justgiving.com/fundraising/BeckyGSR17
LOUISA Elliott is a 24-year-old student mental health nurse and has run the Great South Run four times after losing four stone.
She has set herself a fundraising challenge to raise awareness about mental health. Her run will also raise money for the Mental Health Foundation, as she says running has a positive effect on people’s mindsets.
Louisa, of Waterlooville, said: ‘In 2013 I was overweight, 15 stone to be exact.
‘I was depressed, suffered from very low self-esteem and had no self-confidence in my abilities to do anything.
‘I watched people running marathons on television and I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. Having hardly ran at all I knew it was going to be a massive challenge.
‘After a year of training, I completed my first marathon and it was the proudest moment of my life. Nothing has ever compared to crossing a finish line, the celebration on finishing a run is the proudest achievement to show that all that your hard work has paid off.
‘As a nurse, I work with people and have experience of mental health issues so I try my best to support people and raise awareness for mental health which is a subject that is so overlooked.
‘Running is something that has changed my life, without it I do not know where I would be, I am definitely more confident and have belief in my abilities.
‘I remember my first run that consisted of going round the block a few times, which was impossible. I had to stop for breaks but I eventually got better.
‘I kept going and I finally made improvements. When I did it was such an achievement and a sense of satisfaction. I have now completed seven marathons and four Great South Runs.
‘I want to prove to people how powerful your mind is and what it can achieve, by showing that having the mental strength to push through something like a 10-mile run will hopefully show people that anything is possible. When I first started training, I would follow people on social media accounts and I feel blessed that people follow me for advice, I now have 23,400 followers on Instagram and it feels so surreal.
‘All I have ever wanted to do is to encourage people to look after their physical and mental health and show them how amazing life can be when you find a hobby that you love. To anyone who is just starting running or wants to start running, you can do it!
‘Every training run in the cold, rain, frost, burning heat or when I’m tired has all been worth it to understand that I matter, my mental health matters and looking after myself matters.’