Runners show spirit of Great South

The Great South Run
The Great South Run
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IT epitomised everything that is great about the south.

The atmosphere was exhilarating for race-goers and spectators alike as a record 25,000 people ran the 23rd Great South Run.

From seasoned athletes to those who conquered mammoth adversities to cross the finish line, the triumphant expressions on their faces revealed their emotions as they realised: ‘I’ve done it.’

Tears were shed as some were understandably overwhelmed at their achievement.

The air was peppered with a light drizzle and some strong winds in conditions that proved tough at times.

But for everyone who took part, the event – started yesterday by double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes – was a corker.

South African Stephen Mokoka, 27, put in a superb performance to win the elite men’s race with a finish time of 46 minutes and 40 seconds.

Meanwhile Jo Pavey, 39, won the elite women’s race, romping home in 53 minutes and one second – marking her second Great South Run victory after last winning the city race in 2006.

Some race-goers dressed up for the occasion, in fancy dress outfits ranging from cows to Superman and a rather chilly looking ‘Borat’ who covered his modesty – just – in a fluorescent green ‘mankini’ similar to that worn by Sacha Baron Cohen in the hit movie.

One race goer even dressed as Rocky – complete with a stereo system blasting out ‘You’re the Best Around’ from the movie soundtrack.

Runners were buoyed spectators who lined the route, shouting words of support to people – whether they knew them or not.

One man who claimed a huge personal victory is Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Ian Fleming, 48.

He crossed the finish line having completed the course in a 200lb diving suit over three days, joined by fellow servicemen and supporters.

Ex-Pompey star Linvoy Primus, 39, improved on last year’s time and other famous names included Olympic medallist and European and Commonwealth 400m champion Iwan Thomas MBE, 38.

And after his running efforts Phil Pollard, 70, of Tebourba Drive, Gosport, has now completed every Great South Run.

His wife Irene, 69, raced yesterday for the 21st time.

Mr Pollard, who is a member of Portsmouth Joggers Club, said: ‘I train with the club three times a week and whenever this event comes round I do it.

‘I would like to compete again next year. Though I’m 70 now I love running.’

All-told about 29,000 people took part in the Great South, Junior, Mini and 5km runs over the weekend.

Rob Campbell, 44, of Clarence Road, Southsea, watched son Aaron, 10, compete in the junior race in aid of Diabetes UK.

He said: ‘The atmosphere is great and it’s nice to see Portsmouth being put on the map.’

Ultimately credit must go to everyone who played any part in making the events a mammoth success – here’s hoping it continues to put Pompey on the map for many more years to come.