CHRIS THOMPSON admitted a target is on his back as he aims for back-to-back Great South Run titles.
And the in-form Hampshire man is confident he can he handle the pressure of being there to be shot down by the rest of the field in the world’s biggest 10-miler.
Thompson is out to become the first man to retain his crown since Gary Staines’ double-title win in the event’s formative stages 23 years ago.
The 36-year-old arrives on the start line in Southsea in fine form and quietly confident of what he can achieve.
Thompson said: ‘It’s going to be a good race and a competitive race.
‘Winning an event with so much history was a proud moment.
‘If I was to defend it, that would really stamp my memory on the event.
‘I’m looking forward to it and excited to be a target.
‘There’s pressure which comes with that, but I’m looking forward to it.
‘Hopefully the target’s on my back and that’s what people are looking at –and not running away from me! That’s the plan.
‘It’s been too many times here to count. I’ve not missed too many.
‘I’ve had some good runs, some pretty horrific runs and ugly runs. There’s been a bit of everything.
‘I came here once in really good shape and had a terrible, terrible run.
‘I didn’t run to the course. That’s what you have to do here – you have to run the course and the conditions.
‘The conditions always play a part and this year will be no different.
‘I had a bad run at the Great North Run which sparked a racing rampage.
‘After that I won a 10K, a half-marathon in Nottingham went well and the Great Scottish Run.
‘So I couldn’t have more confidence coming into the event.
‘I’ve got a job to do and I have to be respectful of that while also being confident of what I’ve got in my legs.’
This year’s race is set to be a domestic shootout, with the likes of Ben Connor and Matthew Sharp likely to feature at the front of the field.
Thompson is hoping an affinity for Portsmouth will work in his favour around a circuit he knows well.
He added: ‘I know the area well and don’t live a million miles away.
‘Portsmouth is somewhere I used to come to race a heck of a lot on the track when I was younger.
‘I’m a Hampshire lad, so it’s nice to have that on my side.
‘I moved to Poole when I was young and ended up in Fleet.
‘I run for Aldershot, Farnham & District and live just on the Surrey side now in Camberley, but my parents are still in Blackwater.
‘I used to always run in the Hampshire Leagues. Portsmouth is an area I know very, very well. Hopefully that works in my favour.
‘But I know nothing less than last year will be required to win - I may possibly need more.’