Simplyhealth Great South Run
THOMPSON AND McCOLGAN SHINE IN AMAZING CONDITIONS AS SOUTHSEA WELCOMES OVER 20,000 RUNNERS FOR GREAT SOUTH RUN WEEKEND
HISTORY was made at the 29th edition of the Simplyhealth Great South Run as Chris Thompson powered to an unprecedented hat-trick and Eilish McColgan followed in the footsteps of her mother to deliver on her debut.
While Thompson became the first athlete to win the famous Portsmouth and Southsea 10-miler three consecutive times, McColgan also completed a hat-trick of sorts – adding her win to the brace of titles claimed by her mum and coach, Liz, in the 1990s.
Andy Vernon and Steph Twell both put up strong challenges but eventually had to settle for second, with Petros Surafel and reigning women’s champion Gemma Steel completing the podiums.
Behind them, over 20,000 runners also took on the 10mile challenge in unseasonably warm and still conditions, while the previous day’s programme included the Simplyhealth Great South 5k, Junior and Mini Great South Run events and inaugural Simplyhealth Canine Run.
Entries are already open for the 2019 Great South Run, which will take place on
CHRIS THOMPSON is working towards what he hopes will be a marathon “rebirth” and the 37-year-old proved his preparations for next month’s TCS New York City Marathon are well on track as he ran his fastest ever 10-mile race despite being in heavy training.
The Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete clocked 46:56 to improve on his previous best of 47:23, set when winning the same event in 2016, and become the first athlete to win the race three times in a row.
Only 1990 European 5000m silver medallist Gary Staines – champion in 1993, 1994 and 1996 – also has three titles to his name and he too was guided by Thompson’s coach Alan Storey during his career.
While Thompson was feeling the effects of his marathon training, his club-mate Andy Vernon was also racing on tired legs, having claimed a halfmarathon win in Manchester the weekend before.
He couldn’t stick with Thompson’s pace in the final few miles but still ran a PB of 47:29 for second, while late entry Petros Surafel of Thames Valley was third in a 48:05 lifetime best.
Thompson and Vernon had
been joined by Libyan Olympic marathoner Mohamed Hrezi through three miles in 14:12 before the British pair pushed ahead and were clear together through five miles.
After going through seven miles in 32:52, Thompson kicked again and, without the usual windy conditions to contend with on the final two-mile seafront stretch, he moved further away from Vernon to cross the line over half a minute clear.
Behind them, another half a minute back, Surafel had moved up for third in his first race since June after injury, beating Hrezi who finished fourth in 48:32 and Ireland’s Commonwealth marathon fourth-placer Kevin Seaward, who was fifth in 48:41.
Local Southampton athletes Mahamed Mahamed and Alex Teuten were sixth and eighth respectively, split by Notts’
Doug Musson in seventh. IAU/ ITRA Trail World Championships medallist Tom Evans was ninth.
Further down the field, Nigel Gates – who is one of Britain’s greatest ever masters runners – was top M65, clocking a 62:28 chip time.
“I’m pleased - not just because I got the three-peat but because I can’t believe I’ve just run a PB,” said Thompson, who continues to enjoy an impressive return to form after years of injury struggles. “I’ve run 10 miles faster through a half-marathon, but it’s an official PB and it was my fastest of the three (wins). I can’t believe I’m this strong to have done that.
“I’ve got to recover now,” stressed the 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist and recent Great Scottish Run winner. “Andy made it tough. I actually wanted it to be quick and he did push it and I was quite surprised by the splits but I was also equally surprised that, once I got to seven miles, the strength started to come through and I just rolled with it.
“I can’t emphasise how happy I am, but at the same time – New York. I’ve got to turn my attention to that now. This is all great but I will be miserable for months if I don’t get two weeks’ time right.”
Thompson ran 2:11:19 on his marathon debut in London in 2014 but an Achilles injury which required surgery at the start of 2015 threatened to end his career. However, he returned to action that autumn and has since raced two more marathons, clocking 2:15:05 in 2015 and 2:24:11 in 2016 in the UK capital.
On his expectations now for
the 26.2-miler on November 4, he added: “It has made me go ‘okay, respect what’s possible’ but it’s one of those things with marathons – I’ve got no expectation other than execute the best race I can then I’ll deal with the result later.
“I’m doing everything I can to put myself in the best position and that’s all I can do.”
Vernon also has his eye on a marathon but will likely look to make his debut over 26.2 miles next spring.
“I tried to break him and, in the end, I broke myself,” said the double 2014 European medallist, whose wife – fellow runner Tasha – was due to give birth to their first child the next day. “It just shows what marathon training does to you. It makes you so strong and he was able to kick on in the last couple of miles and I actually slowed down a little bit.”
Racing for the first time since having been sidelined with an Achilles injury, Surafel made a strong return to build on his eighth-place finish in 2016.
The Mick Woods-coached athlete had also suffered food poisoning a couple of weeks before and decided to race just a couple of days ahead of the event.
“Two years ago I ran 49:35 when I was under-20 so I was hoping to PB and get top five but as the race went on I felt really good,” he said. “When I saw third dying off, from five or six miles it just kicked in and I went from there.”
IN THE days leading up to her longest ever race, European 5000m silver medallist Eilish McColgan had admitted that she was pushing herself out of her comfort zone and had no expectations of what she might be able to achieve. However, with a marathon in her sights at some point in her future, the Scot was keen to take the next step and it proved to be a successful one.
Racing on the same streets as her mum and coach – 1991 world 10,000m champion and Olympic medallist Liz, who won this event in 1995 and 1997 – McColgan clocked 54:43 to win ahead of her fellow Scot
Steph Twell’s 55:16 and reigning champion Gemma Steel’s 56:56.
Twell had been pushing the pace and a lead group of five went through two miles in 11:17. The four-mile mark was passed in 22:28 and the 2016 European 5000m bronze medallist looked strong as she kicked on through six miles in 33:53.
Twell then created a gap on her rivals but McColgan started to reel her in and as they turned back along the seafront for the final couple of miles the two Scottish runners were side by side.
Still feeling good in the closing stages, McColgan – wearing the colours of her club Dundee Hawkhill Harriers in the absence of a kit sponsor – strode away to add her own name to the event’s roll of honour.
“I don’t even feel that tired because I’m just so happy,” said the delighted 27-year-old, who had not long returned from her break following the track season. “That was such a strange experience. I didn’t know what to expect and to be honest that was probably what helped me in a way.
“My mum said to me: ‘Don’t look at your watch, don’t look at times, just be competitive and race the other girls’, and that’s what I did today,” she added.
“I was almost waiting for my legs to give up. I got to about 10km and I thought ‘right, now we’re going into a bit of unknown’ and I almost felt like it was going to happen at some point – I felt they were just going to seize. But they didn’t!
“I got to eight miles and when I caught back up with Steph I thought I could slow it down and try and overtake on the last little bit or just go for it and I felt really good.
“It was definitely a much more pleasant experience than I suppose I was expecting!”
On following in the footsteps of her mum, who ran 2:26:52 for the marathon in the same year as her second Great South Run win, she added: “It’s so special. I was excited just to run the same course as her. I’m very lucky to race on tracks all across the world but this is probably the first road race that I’ve done where I’ve literally followed in my mum’s footsteps and ran exactly what she did 20 years ago.
“I never thought I’d come here and win it – that makes it even more unique.”
McColgan’s main aim this winter is the European Indoor Championships on home soil in Glasgow and the 2017 European indoor 3000m bronze medallist also believes a step up
in endurance work will help her on the track in future.
“If I want to start winning more medals on the track, I need to improve my endurance,” she said. “Now is the time to start building the endurance and racing the longer distances and seeing how much of that can help me improve on the track.”
Twell has had a busy couple of months as she got married to fellow runner Joseph Morwood and then raced at the Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff before going on her honeymoon, from which she returned just ahead of the Great South Run.
She is also eyeing a marathon debut and will now sit down with her coach Geoff Wightman to decide when that might be, though she added that stepping up later this year is not out of the question.
“I’m a bit gutted but obviously I’ve had a lot going on,” she said on her runner-up finish. “It was a good performance, a proper race. I felt good but maybe I went through the gears a little bit too quickly. I thought that would be a winning tactic!
“I’ve just been on honeymoon but I was still thinking about my training and I was still exploring trails and for me that was a good way to enjoy it. Maybe that was one step too far right before a big race. But I’m happy with that. Not really, really happy, but I’ve got a bigger picture to look at.”
The event incorporated the England Athletics 10mile Championships and the women’s title was won by Steel after her third place overall.
The 32-year-old, who like McColgan is also coached by
Liz McColgan-Nuttall, continues to work towards full fitness after some health issues and was reasonably happy with her performance.
“There’s a bit of race rustiness there from the setback that I had,” she said. “I did expect the girls to take off, especially with no wind at the end.”
Wales’ Clara Evans was fourth overall in 57:44 and so silver in the England Championships was secured by Calli Thackery in 58:48, while Laura Brenton bagged bronze in 59:58.
Top W50 Maria Heslop went off with the leaders in the opening mile, and though slowing on the second half and missing her PB, only four UK W50s have ever gone quicker.
The top three in the men’s race claimed the England Championships medals.
Chris Thompson: three is the magic number for himat the Great South Run
Chris Thompson and Andy Vernon had a good duel before the Aldershot athlete pulled away
Steph Twell leads the way withEilish McColgan, Clara Evans and Gemma Steel for company
Podium places (l to r): Steph Twell, Eilish McColganand Gemma Steel
Miles and smiles: Eilish McColgan savours her win which followed in her mother’s footsteps