The weekend of 24/25th October had long been marked on the calendar in the Farmer household.
A year before, I had achieved a tick on my bucket list and completed my first Great South Run, with a time of 1:40.45, and when I arrived home that day, proudly displaying my medal, my two children, Megan & Jake asked: “How can we get one of those?”
A plan was hatched: In 2015 we would all be involved with the Great South Run weekend, both kids would be taking part in the junior event, and I’d have another crack at the 10 miler.
The kids got started with their training by going along to junior parkruns, and more recently “Grown up parkrun” (though it’s clearly not just for grown ups – they let me take part after all…) I continued to run on my own until I joined FCRC in April this year.
Saturday 24th October arrived, and the kids wore their new Crusaders T-Shirts – they looked fantastic. We parked on Southsea common, about 15 minutes before the first Mini GSR kicked off, found a good viewing spot and waited for the first race. As the wave of Mini GSR runners went past, Meg spotted another “future Crusader” with their new T-shirt. Her response was instant and immediately followed by the same from Jake: “GO CRUSADER!!” repeated each time we spotted a member of the FCRC gang.
Meg got ready for her race by joining in with the warm up, soon after it was time for the start gun, then she was off… round the 2.5k course and back through the finish line in a flash, big grin on her face and a high 5 for me. Brilliant. Jake was up next for the boys race, which followed the same format, complete with the same grin and feeling of accomplishment. Both kids commented on the shouts of support they got from the crowds, and how special they felt in their t-shirts. It was clear to see as they put on their new medals, they had caught the running bug. The only thing for it was an ice cream treat to celebrate, so off we went to the Blue Reef Café…
Kids & their Dad beaming with pride,
Meg & Jake caught the bug,
2 x Bling earned ,
Day one: mission accomplished. POW!
Move forward a day to Sunday 25th, and it was my turn to run. With a target time of 72 minutes in my mind’s eye, I jumped on the ferry from Gosport and wandered down to the D-Day Museum to meet the rest of the gang – it was the usual warm smiles and good luck wishes from all, which always boosts your confidence. I quickly took care of the pre–race routine… bag drop etcetera, and hustled my way in to the orange wave holding pen. Having taken heed of the advice of a number of Crusaders to avoid getting stuck in traffic in the first few miles, I headed towards the front of the pen, where I met up with Mike Gilmour, Pete Abrahams, Brian Wright & Paul Turner, feeling somewhat out classed by my company, I got stuck into the banter and clapped the elite runners who were being introduced to the TV audience less than 30 yards in front of us (claim to fame; Mike’s headband and my forehead made it onto the Channel 5 coverage…).
3…2…1…BANG! The race was on. It took less than 30 seconds from the starting gun to get through the start funnel and across the line… Pete and Mike were running like their shorts were on fire, Brian ran past me, I wished him all the best and off he went. I sat on Pauls coat tails for the first mile, which was a blur, I was comfortable with the pace and tried to settle in and soak up the atmosphere through Old Portsmouth where a side-line call of encouragement from Jon Ellard was very welcome.
Just before Gunwharf Quays I noticed Paul swerve from mid road to the far left – I was worried he might be pulling up to the side with some sort of problem, he raised both arms waving, and then I heard what Paul had spotted and was heading towards… WALL… OF… SOUND! BOOM!! This was the first gathering of what can only be described as a phenomenal support network of fellow Crusaders out to scream positivity at their team mates and, brilliantly, at other local club runners too. I pulled my standard “embarrassing dad” comedy pose, reached out for a high 5 and continued on with a smile towards the dockyard.
I was running at 6:40/mile for the first two miles, and whilst I was still feeling comfortable, I steadied off to my planned pace of 7:10/mile for mile 3 as I didn’t want to burn out. My start line companions were way off in the distance so it was all about me running my race now. As I reached the top of Winston Churchill Ave I saw the guys heading back for their return leg – It always amazes me that they have enough lung capacity left to shout words of encouragement, but each of them did. Thanks guys!!
At the turn point, I felt my left knee “twinge” far more than was comfortable. Not good. I have a bit of an historic issue with my knees, and although “Lefty” had been playing up in the last few weeks I had invested in lots of rest and a Rural Retreat “leg fixer” session. Having assessed the situation over 50 meters or so, I concluded that I had to ease off, but was ok to continue, for now…
Pace now slowed I pressed on, the Crusader support crew were spread over the whole course and the lift I got from hearing “GO CRUSADERS!” was immense. I’m certain that I got shouts at every mile and with a personal battle between my knee wanting to quit and my head wanting to race, each cry of encouragement made a tangible difference.
I had been focussed on a 72 minute finish for months, but I didn’t want to achieve it and then find I was too broken to run again – especially with Gosport Half only weeks away. The miles were tumbling, and I continued to push on but had to steady off more each time my knee twinged. By mile 8 I was feeling low. I knew my target time was off the cards, and to be honest I was hurting. I just needed to finish. But I needed a boost of some sort…Time for Crusaders wall of sound Part 2 – featuring our very own custom inspirational soundtrack belting out of a PA system… Amazing. Screams of encouragement (and some criticism of my “embarrassing dad robot dance” it has to be said…) was the exact requirement to push me along the last 2 miles and across the finish line.
Overall I averaged 7:30/mile, completing the 10.10 mile course in 75:46. Nearly 4 minutes off the result I had aimed for. I was tired, I hurt, and with the post race emotion hitting me, I felt disappointed…
I’d finished the race, achieved a 25 minute improvement on my GSR PB and a 10k PB (44.50).
I came to realise, I would not have managed any of this without being a Crusader…
Firstly due to the top class coaching over the last few months that have helped me improve technique and pace; plus the words of advice, support and encouragement from many that got me to the start line and helped me react to the situation I found myself in and not make my knee worse; finally, the unparalleled level of support on the day, which pushed me (and without a doubt many others) on to crack on and get going.
Disappointment gone. Inspired, humbled, grateful and encouraged to do it all over again.
Sub 70 next year. #unstoppable