Andy Vernon reflected on an impressive 2013 Bupa Great South Run debut and admitted: I wanted to be top Brit.
The athlete, who came through the ranks at Stubbington Green Runners, lived up to his billing as Britain’s premier 10-miler as he crossed the line in his home city in fourth place.
The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete ran an all-time European best over four miles two weeks ago in Groningen, Netherlands, and impressed again with a time of 49min 21sec on Sunday.
Fellow Brits Chris Thompson (50.04) and Ryan McLeod (50.06) were separated by just two seconds in sixth and seventh respectively, as Vernon achieved his pre-race aim to be first domestic man home.
Kenyan Emmanuel Bett took race honours in 48.03, and was joined in the medal positions by 2012 champion, South African Stephen Mokoka (48.22), and Ugandan Thomas Ayeko (49.08).
Vernon said: ‘Looking at the start line, I wanted to be top Brit – that was my first goal.
‘Then I thought: “I can probably mix it with the top five here”.
‘If I could’ve picked up a medal and a bit more prize money, that would’ve been great, but I am happy with fourth place.’
Despite supporting Pompey and attending Cams Hill School in Fareham, Vernon, who hopes to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the 5,000m, was embarking on the Great South Run for the first time.
The long-distance expert was impressed with both course and support – and even had time to take in some of the city’s landmarks.
The 27-year-old said: ‘It was my first Great South Run.
‘The course was nice – there werent too many sharp bends.
‘There were a couple of twists and turns but, thankfully, nothing to slow you down too much – the wind took care of that.
‘I took in a couple of the sights and obviously had a look at the Victory, Spinnaker Tower and Mary Rose Museum.
‘There was a lot of support along the whole way, so credit to the people who came out and lined the streets in those conditions.
‘I had my old club-mates there for a bit of personal support and one of my mate’s mums was out on the course as well.’
For Vernon, though, there was no getting over the weather conditions that ensured a tactical race as he outsprinted USA’s Abdi Abdirahaman (49.23) to the line.
‘I caught up with Abdi at about mile seven and we ran the last few miles together,’ said Vernon.
‘We wanted to keep an honest pace, so we both surged now and then to keep it going.
‘One of us took the lead and then the other one took the lead.
‘When we started coming to South Parade pier there was noticeably less wind.
‘Then we were able to pick up the pace and it was a case of whoever had the most left at the end.
‘That was me – which was good!
‘After the race, the athletes just kind of joked about the conditions.
‘We were almost having a competition as to who ran the slowest!’
Vernon is back in action this weekend as he competes in the National Cross Country Relay.
CREDIT TO VERNON n Page 44