ANDY VERNON geared up for his Bupa Great South Run assault and promised: Your support can make the difference.
Vernon attacks the world’s biggest 10-mile race tomorrow aiming to make a big impact in his home city.
The Fareham-born double European Championship medallist will be bidding to improve upon an impressive fourth-place finish in his first Great South Run last year.
That result proved the catalyst for a breakthrough year for the Pompey fan.
Vernon went on to collect a bronze medal at the European Cross-Country Championships in December, make the World Indoor Championship final and finish sixth at the Commonwealth Games over 5,000m before his Euro haul.
Now he’s calling on the thousands who line the streets of Portsmouth and Southsea to back the second-claim Stubbington Green Runner to further success.
Vernon said: ‘I’ve always wanted to do this race, and really enjoyed it last year.
‘Being a Fareham-born athlete makes it nice to be able to come and run in my home city.
‘Last year there were quite a few people cheering me on.
‘They weren’t just cheering me on – they were saying my name.
‘I’ve got Vernon on my number, but they were saying Andy. It proves that people know who I am now.
‘With the summer I’ve had and the raised profile I’ve gained, hopefully, I’ll have even more support this year.
‘I always knew the race was here and have followed it over the years.
‘There used to be the Portsmouth Half-Marathon – my dad did that.
‘But this is a big race – and that support makes a huge difference.
‘Last year I was running and people were hanging out of their windows and shouting me on.
‘I was getting the support over others.
‘It was good to have the home crowd behind me – and I’d love that again.’
Vernon will have to overcome a field with the depth the Great South Run has become renowned for.
Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie pulled out of the event earlier this week.
But it’s probable the 41-year-old would have had to play second fiddle to the likes of defending champion Emmanuel Bett.
The Kenyan will be on the start line along with Aussie Commonwealth Games marathon winner Michael Shelley and Italian European Marathon champion Daniele Meucci.
Steve Way, Chris Thompson, Scott Overall and Ryan McLeod are other domestic names who will be challenging Vernon.
The 28-year-old will also have to negotiate the renowned wind which athletes tackle down the last two miles of the race.
Despite gale-force conditions this week, the forecast is it will not reach the 40mph gusts of last year.
Vernon said: ‘There are still some Africans here and Emmanuel Bett is back.
‘It’s a strong field but I’ll be giving my best.
‘The wind makes a big difference to your overall time.
‘Last year I was running 4min 38sec for a mile and miles nine and 10 were 6.21 and 6.06. It put three minutes on my finishing time!
‘But that’s the conditions and everyone has to deal with it. You have to accept it and battle through.
‘You just get on with it – and I will.’