It’s now over a week since the crowds lined the streets, the bands played and thousands of runners pounded the pavements along famous streets and past familiar landmarks.
The spirit of human kindness and endeavour came together on a grey Sunday in April as friends and families gathered to support and run around one of the greatest cities in the world.
I am of course talking about the ABP Southampton Half Marathon and 10k. What did you think I was talking about??
While there may have been another race happening in the big smoke, as a Sotonian I was proud to be heading out of the capital on Friday night on that familiar, slightly delayed, South West Train service from London Waterloo.
It had been a while since I had signed up but there was now a good pack (should be a better collective noun for runners) including my brother, mother, former football teammates and girlfriend.
There had been one notable pre-race casualty amongst my friends as an unnamed officer in the police was forced to withdraw from the race due to a full-English breakfast related ankle injury or at least I think that’s what he said.
The rest of us met the night before in Piccolo Mondo to eat carbs and discuss times, last minute tips and the likelihood of needing a toilet break after consuming energy gels – unpleasant dinner chat at the best of times.
Due to the10k start time of 8.30, I was forced to get up much earlier than I would normally like to and had to skip breakfast apart from a banana.
Hoglands Park was doing its best to keep the runners and spectators ice cold in the lead up to the race as a chilly morning wind whipped around bare legs.
As we met my mum (whose running gear was probably classified as unconventional), I spotted a familiar gait walking into the park.
My heartrate began to quicken and my voice dropped to a whisper as I turned to my girlfriend and croaked “it’s Matt”.
Matthew Le Tissier, my footballing hero, scorer of over 100 Premier League goals, some of them the most beautiful moments I have seen on a pitch including the last competitive goal at The Dell, was walking past me in his running gear.
This could only mean one thing. “Eurgh I bet you want a picture” my girlfriend groaned as I whipped out my phone and headed towards him.
Ever the gent, Matt was still kind enough to have his picture taken with me and the other fans who got there before and afterwards.
Already this was the best event I had ever done and I wasn’t due to start for another hour and a half.
I can’t really comment on the actual 10k race as I was only there to cheer at the beginning and briefly again at Above Bar.
My girlfriend beat her target of finishing under 1:10 and my mum beat her twin targets of continuing to run throughout and not being last so it must have gone pretty well.
Both of them mentioned “the bridge” though which was worrying…
Before the half started, I met up with some of the old footy team and bumped into ex-colleagues.
We again discussed times, clothing, number bib fails and training but there was an over-riding sense of growing anticipation and nerves as quite a few had never run 13 miles before.
As such, the aim was just to finish so we filtered into the back of the pack and waited for the start gun.
Like most races, the gun went off and…nothing happened. We waited for the concertinaed runners to expand then slowly made our way out and over the start line.
The route made a loop up, round and past the finish line which, although nice to see, reminded you that there was another 12 miles to go before you would see it again.
After that it was down the high street and down to Ocean Village.
As I tried to help a couple of my friends make it under 2 hours, I tried to keep an even pace but Paul, who was worried about slowing in the final miles, was racing ahead.
That was until we hit…”the bridge”.
Itchen Bridge is 800 metres long, roughly 10 storeys high and probably the worst thing you could see four miles into a race. It isn’t steep but it does go up and up and up.
I had discussed this obstacle earlier with a couple of people and had decided that the best way was to get it over with quickly.
For the up, up, up there was also a down, down, down so I tried to maintain my pace on the way up and then go as fast as I could on the way down to maximise gravity’s helping hand.
Once this was accomplished, we were on flat terrain for a while.
Past St Mary’s Stadium (and a cheering Sammy Saint), past my first house in Southampton and past the end of my road, the amount of landmarks was almost endless…
From the halfway point, we saw Martin’s family, Paul’s wife and family and my dad who kept popping up like a Whack-a-Mole game brandishing carb gels every time we thought we had left him behind.
And just after we had scaled Burgess Road, we saw Paul’s dad, Clare and then at Highfield Church, Cantell alumni and partners too numerous to mention.
What I can say is that we needed and appreciated all of your support so a MASSIVE thank-you for turning up and cheering.
The last few miles were a slog but our little motley crew kept plodding away and the finish line got closer and closer.
Toby ran off with a mile to go and made it in 1.53. Me, Paul and Martin made it under 1.55. Big shout to Shaun who made it just 14 seconds outside the 2 hours. Just means you have to do another one!
So I guess this has been less of a review and more of a celebration of everything I love about my hometown – friends, family and the Saints.
In terms of the organisation, it was very well run but the finish line could’ve been closer to the bag drop/t-shirt collection.
The route was a little too “loopy” around the town centre, especially at the end of the race and in Ocean Village there was a bit of a bottle neck but nothing major.
Southampton is a lot more hilly than I remember when driving around and it is definitely something to consider if you run it in 2016 but overall I thought it was a great event with fantastic support throughout and I can’t wait for the next one.
On a high from the earlier picture, I couldn’t resist the chance of a running selfie (or runfie) with MLT as I saw him about 500 metres from the end.
The result was an awkward, tired selfie-fail as I knocked into him and almost finished his race.
One thought on “ABP Southampton Half Marathon: Race Report”
Great review Sam! I feel like I almost ran it myself 😀