Goater remains upbeat about Great South Run field

Australia's 2014 Commonwealth champion Michael Shelley
Australia's 2014 Commonwealth champion Michael Shelley
Andy Vernon. Picture: Malcolm Wells

Vernon misses out on medal in Commonwealth Games

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Colin Goater believes there is still plenty of talent in this year’s Great South Run despite the disappointment of Haile Gebrselassie’s withdrawal.

The Ethiopian legend this week revealed he will not be fit for the race after failing to recover from injury.

That news came after popular Great Britain star Jo Pavey also had to pull out of the women’s field.

However, Goater remains confident the 25th edition of the race will be a big success, with many top athletes in action.

He said: ‘Unfortunately Gebrselassie pulled out of an event last week because of an injury, so it didn’t come as a complete surprise to me.

‘He would have been a great draw and a lovely man to have around.

‘I was certainly looking forward to seeing him run, as were a few young athletes.

‘We’ve also lost Jo Pavey to injury but these things happen with top-class athletes.

‘They walk a rather fine line.’

Great Britain athlete Andy Vernon, who grew up in Stubbington, will hope to continue his good form.

He will be joined on Sunday by Commonwealth Games marathon champion Michael Shelley and British long-distance specialist Steve Way.

Kenyan Linet Masai, a former world 10,000m champion, and Gemma Steel, who finished second in the Great North Run this year, are two of the top names in the women’s line-up.

‘It’s lovely to see Andy, I know him very well,’ said Goater.

‘He’s had a wonderful year and I look forward to watching him.’

The 10-mile race, which begins and ends on Clarence Esplanade in Southsea, celebrates its 25th anniversary this weekend and Goater has been there every step of the way.

He said: ‘I was involved with the very first one.

‘I’m very proud to have been involved in every race.

‘We have such a marvellous crowd in Portsmouth and they’ve supported the event for 25 years and I’m sure they will continue to do so.’

Goater, who manages the Hampshire cross country team, is a grade one course measurer and has designed many cross country courses over the years.

He said: ‘I created the course, which was originally in Southampton but then moved to Portsmouth the following year.

‘It took some months to create. I was running around the roads in Portsmouth and eventually came up with it.

‘The course hasn’t changed much.’

Goater believes fast times are on the agenda if the weather is kind.

He said: ‘It’s a race that lots of athletes like to come to because the course is completely flat.

‘If the weather is right, we could have some very fast times again.’

There have been some significant records set in Portsmouth over the years.

Marathon runner Paula Radcliffe broke the British 10-mile record when she finished in a time of 51min 11sec in 2008.

Irish star Sonia O’Sullivan also set a new world record when she won in a time of exactly 51min in 2002.

World cross country champion Joseph Ebuya produced the fastest 10-mile run ever seen in the UK in the 2010 event, racing to a stunning time of 45.16.