History of the Simplyhealth Great South Run

Jo Pavey
Jo Pavey
Promoted by Simplyhealth Great South Run

The Simplyhealth Great South Run is Europe’s most popular 10-mile race and started life in Southampton back in 1990 before moving just a few miles along the M27 to Portsmouth 12 months later.

The fast and flat 10-mile route takes in the iconic sites of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard including Portsmouth Cathedral, Spinnaker Tower and the HMS Victory- which plays host to the HM Band of Royal Marines, who perform for passing runners.

The final flat stretch along the seafront has given thousands of people the opportunity to get a personal best time for more than 20 years.

Every year the event attracts a plethora of athletes, celebrities and runners raising money for good causes, with over £30m having been raised for charity over the years.

The Great South Run has grown into a great weekend of running in the popular seaside location, along with the Junior & Mini Great South Run and the introduction of the Great South Run 5k in 2011.

Dutchman Marti ten Kate was the winner of the inaugural 10-mile event in 47 minutes 52 seconds, while Alison Gooderham, who surprised herself with a fast clocking of 56min 09sec, was the women’s winner.

The Diet Coke Great South Run (as it was then known), relocated to the present course in 1991. Prison officer Thomas Naali from Tanzania escaped from the field to take first place while Olga Bondarenko, the reigning Olympic 10000m champion from Russia, clinched a star-studded women’s race.

Another Tanzanian, Boay Akonay, was winner in 1992 – the first year the race was known as the BUPA Great South Run - with Iulia Negura from Romania scoring the first of her two successive victories.

Gary Staines became the first British winner of the men’s race a year later when setting a very fast course record and British best of 46:11 and he repeated the feat in 1994 to defeat world marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri as well as world cross country champion John Treacy. Denmark’s Gitte Karlshoj was women’s champion.

In 1995 Benson Masya, after having just won a third Bupa Great North Run, spoiled Staines’ ambitions of completing a hat-trick of Great South successes with a still-standing UK all-comers record time of 45:56. Liz McColgan, fighting her way back to fitness, flew in from Scotland to show a clean pair of heels to her rivals with a winning time of 53:12.

Staines won again in 1996 while Derartu Tulu set a women’s course record of 52:39, though it only stood a year as McColgan bettered the mark by 39 seconds, while Kenya’s Christopher Kelong won the men’s title in 47:40.

Germany’s Stephane Franke, the European 10,000m bronze medallist, was men’s winner in 1998, while Marian Sutton bettered her runner-up spot of two years previously to triumph in the women’s event.

Simon Kisamili and Esther Kiplagat were the winners in 1999 before the year 2000 event had to be postponed following flooding in Southsea and Eastney.

Rearranged to November, Gert Thys of South Africa and Restituta Joseph from Tanzania were the winners on a day of high winds.

Former Olympic 10,000m gold medallist and world cross country champion, Morocco’s Khalid Skah, was a convincing champion in 2001 along with Joseph for the second year running.

The following year’s race produced a new world record with the in-form Irishwoman Sonia O’Sullivan finishing in exactly 51 minutes. Kisamili notched his second win in the men’s race.

O’Sullivan was again the winner in 2003 while John Yuda, an experienced half marathoner, became yet another Tanzanian winner in Portsmouth.

2004 belonged to Hendrick Ramaala, who went on to win the New York Marathon, while Benita Willis (then Johnson), Australia’s World Cross Country champion, flew to a 52:32 win.

In 2005 Ramaala, before going on to defend his New York title, was beaten by Yuda and Tulu, after winning the Great North Run, notched a second women’s title in Portsmouth.

Britain’s Jo Pavey showed she had the ability to transform herself from a track specialist into a world class road runner and as the runaway winner of the 2006 race and compatriot Jon Brown just missed out on the men’s title when beaten in a sprint finish by Kenya’s Simon Arusei.

Kenyan’s Luke Kibet and Rose Cheruiyot were victorious in 2007 while Paula Radcliffe, setting a UK best performance of 51min 11sec, savoured success the following year when easily thwarting the ambitions of Jessica Augusto and Magdalene Mukunzi, the Portugese and Kenyan runners finishing in 53min 15sec and 53min 18sec.

Radcliffe, until the six miles marker was still well on target to smash Lornah Kiplagat’s world best performance of 50min 49.6sec but decided because of the gusty wind to keep something in reserve.

ad down the sea front as I was psyched up for

it to be."

In 2008 Kenya’s Bernard Kipyego added the men’s title to his success at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run in May, destroying the field very early to win in 46min 43sec. Irishman Martin Fagan produced a storming finish to snatch second spot just three seconds ahead of the winner’s fellow countryman and defending champion Luke Kibet in a time of 46min 58sec.

In 2009, Mo Farah scored the first victory by a British male athlete since Gary Staines achieved his third and final success 13 years earlier. Farah, in the best ever finish to the 10-mile race, recovered to win ahead of Stephen Mokoka by a second in a time of 46:25 with Luke Kibet, the 2007 champion, third in 47:16. Ines Monteiro took a leaf out of the book of fellow Portuguese Jessica Augusto, winner of the 2009 Great North Run, when spreadeagling the field after two miles to win the women’s event.

The European cross country bronze medallist, clocking a national record of 52:32, finished 86 seconds ahead of

fellow countrywoman Ana Dulce Felix with Australian Benita Willis, the 2004 winner, third in 54:41.

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 on a lovely sunny and calm day in Portsmouth. The 23-year- old Kenyan raced clear of eventual runner-up Saif Saeed Shaheen of Qatar and fellow countryman Vincent Yator, who finished third, with around three miles to go and comfortably overhauled Benson Masya’s 15-year-old previous best mark by a huge 40 seconds.

Grace Momyani, who had won the 10,000m gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi at the start of the month, made it the first Kenyan double for the three years when taking the women’s title in 52:03. Britain’s Freya Murray produced a great performance to record 52:27 and seal the seal the runners-up berth with Aniko Kalovics of Hungary third in 53.01.

In 2011 World 10km and 15km record holder Leonard Komen plan to attack Haile Gebrselassie’s world 10-mile best performance saw his attempt fall well short of his target of 44:23. Komen who made his intentions publicly known beforehand but went off too quickly, covering the first mile in 4:12, and won in a time of 46:18. He was followed home by fellow Kenyan and World marathon champion Abel Kirui, who he beat by 22sec, with Ireland’s Alistair Cragg third in 47:14.

Ethiopia’s former World half marathon runner up Asselefech Mergia won the women’s race in 52:55 ahead of the Kenyan pair of Commonwealth 10000m silver medallist Doris Changeywo and the Games marathon champion Irene Jerotich, who clocked 53:34 and 53:43.

In 2012 Mokoka toyed with the opposition from start to finish before sprinting ahead of Ayad Lamdassem and Tariku Bekele with just under 250m remaining, to win the men’s race in 46:40.

Throughout the race he kept hitting the front, opening a gap of a few yards before constantly falling back to the pack and asking them to speed up which saw Kirui try and inject some pace, which had slowed after a fast opening mile of 4:34.

Pavey hammered her rivals when hitting the front from the beginning and claiming a runaway success ahead of Jess Coulson and Berhane Adere in 53:01.

The women’s race, beginning 20 minutes before the mass event which had a record 25,000

entries from 45 different countries and was led by the elite men, saw Pavey produce a ruthless performance when triumphing by 42sec from the vastly improving Coulson with Ethiopia’s Adere recording 53:55.

2013 saw Kenyan’s Emmanuel Bett and Florence Kiplagat defy gale force conditions to score

convincing victories and capture their respective titles.

Bett had the tougher contest in his 10-mile race before destroying the threat of South Africa’s defending champion Stephen Mokoka, who pushed him throughout the encounter.

However the 30-year- old, with one last major break, finally pulled away in the last mile winning by 19 seconds in a time of 48:03 with Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko a distant third in 49:08.

Kiplagat enjoyed a much easier success clocking a time of 53:53 to win at a canter ahead of fellow Kenyan Polline Wanjiku, who recorded 56:43 with Great Britain’s Charlotte Purdue an excellent third in 56:57.

Kiplagat, a former World Cross Country and Half Marathon Championships gold medallist, broke the field almost from the start and a speedy second mile of 5:04 took her into an unassailable lead which just got longer and longer.

In 2014, the elite women’s race got underway first - in conditions that were windy but thankfully not of the hurricane nature that affected the 2013 race.

Gemma Steel and Belaynesh Oljira batted it out over the last three miles of the course. Turning into the home straight, Steel glanced over her left shoulder but Oljira nipped past on her inside. The Briton gritted her teeth and launched a counter-attack but could not quite close the gap.

Oljira prevailed in 52 minutes 40 seconds, with Steel second in 52:40 and Changeiywo third in 54:18.

The elite men’s race was blessed with a strong field and five contenders emerged from the early stages: Rungaru, who finished sixth in the junior race at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships; Kiplimo, who took bronze in the Commonwealth Games marathon in July; Michael Shelley, the Commonwealth marathon champion from Australia; and Joel Kimutai and Emmanuel Bett.

The five were still together at the halfway mark, but then the race started to take shape. By 10km it was down to Kiplimo, Rungaru and Bett but then Bett dropped and at seven miles Kiplimo started to pull away from Rungaru.

The race looked over as the Ugandan turned on to the seafront, but bit by bit Rungaru started to peg pack the gap. With 800m to go, the 21-year-old Kenyan pulled level. Then, with 150m remaining, he sprinted clear, winning by seven seconds in 46 minutes 31 seconds.

Kiplimo finished second in 46:38 with Kimutai third in 47:21, Shelley fourth in 47:39 and Bett fifth in 48:07.

Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot produced a dominant front-running display to win the 2015 Great South Run in near perfect conditions. The world 10,000m champion clocked 51:17, beating Britain’s European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey by one minute and 27 seconds.

After two steady opening miles in which the leading group comprising Cheruiyot, Pavey, Britain’s European cross country champion Gemma Steel and the Kenyan duo Betsy Saina and Doris Changeiywo, stuck closely together, the 32-year- old Olympic silver medallist then made her move.

Of the others, only Changeiywo tried to maintain the searing pace, but soon fell back, especially when Cheruiyot clocked 4:53 for the fifth mile.

That left a close battle for podium positions, which the 42-year-old Pavey won, taking second place with a sprint finish in 52:44, a world W40 best performance, with Changeiywo seven seconds behind.

In a competitive men’s race, pre-event favourite Moses Kipsiro clocked 46:00, prevailing over Kenya’s Emmanuel Kipsang and 2013 winner Emmanuel Bett, with a total of seven men running under 47 minutes.

In the end it was Bett, winner of the Great South Run in considerably worse conditions two years ago, who tried to make a break, but Uganda’s Kipsiro and Bett’s Kenyan countrymen Kipsang, Kirui, Mathathi and Korir soon joined him again at the front.

In the closing stages, Commonwealth 10,000m champion Kipsiro finally pulled clear to take a hard-earned win, with Kipsang and Bett eight and 11 seconds adrift respectively.

In 2016, it was a case of fifth time lucky for Chris Thompson who finally tasted victory in the

Great South Run, when triple Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba won on her 10-mile debut.

The 35-year-old Thompson had fallen short on his previous four attempts over the 10 miles in Portsmouth, but used his experience of the course to spoil Andy Vernon’s homecoming party and take his first victory on the South Coast in style.

Camberley’s Thompson clocked 47:23 with Vernon, from nearby Fareham, finishing in 48.09. Matt Sharp was third over the line in 48:18.

While Thompson was made to wait for his win, it was instant success for Dibaba. The nine-time world champion cruised home to a maiden victory on the South Coast, sealing an Ethiopian one-two with Dibaba taking victory in 51:49 and compatriot Senbere Teferi more than a minute behind in 52:51.

Elizeba Cherono was third in 53:54 and Lily Partridge was the first British female over the line in 54:41.

To follow in their footsteps,go to Great South Run