DEDICATED Philip Pollard has not missed a Great South Run since it started more than two decades ago.
Tomorrow on his 24th run, Philip, 71, of Tebourba Drive, in Alverstoke, Gosport, will be joined by wife Irene, 70 – who has missed just three of the races.
The pair are members of the Portsmouth Joggers Club, and run three times a week with the group in the city and further afield.
Former semi-professional footballer Philip said he is aiming to finish the run in an hour-and-a-half, although he acknowledges he won’t be setting a new personal best.
He said: ‘We enjoy it – it’s a challenge.
‘It’s an achievement and all those people encourage us to go a bit quicker as well.
‘You like to think you can beat each year’s run but you can’t.’
Irene, who ran last year’s race just four weeks after having treatment for breast cancer, said: ‘Really, we do it to keep fit.
‘Last year I walked around the course but I was really pleased I could complete it.
‘It’s good – there’s always a good crowd supporting, it’s quite nice to be cheered on.
‘It’s nice partly because it’s local and 10 miles is a good distance.
‘In the past we have raised money for charity, but we can’t keep asking the same people.
‘Cancer Research UK is our thing as I’ve had breast cancer twice.’
The impressive runners are stalwarts in their club, and Irene started taking part in the Great South Run after Philip.
Irene said: ‘There are a husband and wife runners in the club but we’re the only two that have lasted as long.
‘We’ll go on as long as we are able to.’
Philip, who took part in the first Great South Run in Southampton added: ‘We’re already signed up for a race in Malta.’
And he has an impressive track record beyond just the Southsea run.
He has completed the Great North Run 23 times, and Irene has competed that race around 15 times.
And Philip has run the London Marathon more than a dozen times.
The pair will not run around the course together as they go at different paces and are in different waves of the 10-mile race.
But they won’t be alone, as they will be running among an expected group of 25,000 fundraisers, elite athletes and costumed runners.
Yesterday kicked off the weekend’s events, with top athletes including last year’s winners Stephen Mokoka attending a launch at the Mary Rose Museum, in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.
Portsmouth’s own Katy Sexton MBE attended the launch as she plans to swap the pool for the pavement.
She will be running with 16-year-old Emily Windsor, of Farlington, who has been mentored by the World and Commonwealth Games champion 200m swimmer at school.
The race starts on Clarence Esplanade, in Southsea, on Sunday, around 10.30am.
The route will see the dedicated 25,000 run through the Historic Dockyard where the runners will be entertained and willed on by the Band of HM Royal Marines.
And more than 4,000 people will be taking part in the Great South Run 5km, the junior and the mini run on Saturday.