MORE than 20,000 people zipped along the streets of Portsmouth yesterday for the Great South Run.
The annual event returned in full force as Storm Brian’s troublesome high tides from the day before subsided, allowing a technicolour wave of smiling faces to take centre-stage in his place.
Much of the fixture’s footfall concentrated in Southsea – where klaxons sounded the race’s start and the congratulatory embrace of scores of families marked its 10-mile conclusion.
But just 24 hours before the fun got under way, a storm was afoot – wreaking havoc across the south with flood warnings, rough tides and gusts of up to 80mph.
The conditions were so dire that Great South Run organisers cancelled their Saturday events, which would have seen more than 3,000 junior and wheelchair racers take to the track.
While coastal winds persisted, what followed on Sunday morning was a success by all accounts, said the race’s communications director David Hart.
He said: ‘The weather has held off, we’ve had great racing at the front of the field and we’ve seen some incredibly inspiring stories. After the disappointment of yesterday, this has been a top day.’
Addressing the choice to write-off the Great South Run’s Saturday calendar, he continued: ‘It was unfortunate, but it was the only decision we could possibly make.
‘It would have been irresponsible of us as event organisers to put people out on the course in that kind of weather. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions, but we always try to make the right one.’
The remnants of Storm Brian were no match for Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton.
A former member of the Portsmouth Athletics Club, the Isle of Wight-born 40-year-old said: ‘Everyone was anticipating the wind throughout the race, but it wasn’t too bad. Because this course is nice and flat it was fine. It was a really inspiring run to take part in and it was lovely to be able to help aspiring athletes get to the finish line.’
While some set their sights on a new personal best time, others donned charity vests as they raised cash for good causes.
But it is the race’s overall support that cements its worldwide reputation, said David Hart: ‘This event started life with 2,000 people in 1990 and now it’s the world’s leading 10m race. It’s fantastic to see.’