This year’s Great South Run was as epic as it is every year, but the completion of the course by one very special and very strong woman, Claire Lomas, made it a completely unique year for the event. While most runners set off, knowing that Storm Brian would buffet them at least some of the way over the next few hours, Claire’s target of finishing the race in 24 hours, walking in her bionic suit, required her to dig deeper than all the other 20,000 runners put together.
While the fastest female, Gemma Steele, finished in an incredible 55 minutes, Claire, who was left paralysed from the chest down 10 years ago, crossed the finish line of the world’s leading 10 mile run in Portsmouth on the morning of Monday 23 October.
Claire started her #10in24 challenge from the Simplyhealth Great South Run start line on Sunday 22 October along with the 20,000 other runners, but continued throughout the day and night with no sleep to finish within her target.
It takes a very special lady to try this challenge to raise money for other paralysed people, and Portsmouth was the perfect host city for her challenge. The Great South has long been recognized as the world’s leading 10-mile running event.
As the 20,000 runners who covered the course before Claire will testify, it’s a fast, flat and scenic tour of the city that boasts being the home of the British Navy.
The event, staged in the city since 1991, offers runners a unique opportunity to run through Portsmouth’s historic dockyard, passing iconic landmarks such as HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose Museum.
It’s more than just a historical tour though. As the race has matured it has captured the hearts of the people of Portsmouth, and now the whole 10-miles is lined with supporters. The party atmosphere felt electric for runners, with thousands of local south coast runners returning year after year to soak up this fantastic event. You can spend the whole race high-fiving children who line the streets to support the runners, and a good part of the second part of the race eating the sweets they generously hand out.
Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes was the official starter of the 10-mile event and was joined on the podium by D-Day war veteran John Jenkins MBE; the runners applauded John as he was introduced at the start.
Blind runner Dave Heeley also completed the UK-leg of his huge quest to run all 25 events in the 2017 Great Run series by crossing the Simplyhealth Great South Run finish line with his teammates.
There’s probably a good chance that next year’s race will be windy. Will that deter the thousands who have fallen in love with this unique race, made so by the people of Portsmouth who rally to give their support to every runner? Every year you know that the last few miles, often into the wind, are tough, but you can’t stop yourself coming back for more!
Despite less than pleasant weather Claire, who has already raised over £500,000 for the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation, carried on through the night. Help her add to this total by supporting her: text Legs60 £5 to 70070 or donate at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clairelomasgsr
Entries are now open for the 2018 Simplyhealth Great South Run, which will take place over the weekend of 20-21 October: Greatrun.org/South