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The History and Tradition of the Great South Run
The Great South Run is Europe’s most popular 10 mile race and started life in Southampton back in 1990 before moving just a few miles along the M27 motorway to the neighbouring city of Portsmouth 12 months later. Dutchman Marti ten Kate was the winner of the inaugural 10-mile event while Alison Gooderham, who surprised herself with a fast clocking of 56min 09sec, was the women’s winner.
The Diet Coke Great South Run (as it was then known), relocated to the present course in 1991. Prison officer Thomas Naali from Tanzania escaped from the field to take first place while Olga Bondarenko, the reigning Olympic 10000 metres champion from Russia, to clinch a star-studded women’s race. Another Tanzanian, Boay Akonay, was winner in 1992 – the first year the race was known as the BUPA Great South Run – with Iulia Negura from Romania scoring the first of her two successive victories.
Gary Staines became the first British winner of the men’s race a year later when setting a very fast course record and British best of 46:11 and he repeated the feat in 1994 to defeat world marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri as well as world cross country champion John Treacy. Denmark’s Gitte Karlshoj was women’s champion. In 1995 Benson Masya, after having just won a third Bupa Great North Run, spoiled Staines’ ambitions of completing a hat-trick of Great South successes with a still-standing UK All-Comers record time of 45:56.
Liz McColgan, fighting her way back to fitness, flew in from Scotland to show a clean pair of heels to her rivals with a winning time of 53:12. But Staines won again in 1996 while Derartu Tulu set a women’s course record of 52:39, though it only stood a year as McColgan bettered the mark by 39 seconds, while Kenya’s Christopher Kelong won the men’s title in 47:40. Germany’s Stephane Franke, the European 10,000m bronze medallist, was men’s winner in 1998, while Marian Sutton bettered her runner-up spot of two years previously to triumph in the women’s event.
Simon Kisamili and Esther Kiplagat were the winners in 1999 before the Year 2000 event had to be postponed following flooding in Southsea and Eastney. Rearranged to November, Gert Thys of South Africa and Restituta Joseph from Tanzania were the winners on a day of high winds. Former Olympic 10,000m gold medallist and world cross country champion, Morocco’s Khalid Skah, was a convincing champion in 2001 along with Joseph for the second year running.
The following year’s race produced a new world record with the in-form Irishwoman Sonia O’Sullivan finishing in exactly 51 minutes. Kisamili notched his second win in the men’s race. O’Sullivan was again the winner in 2003 while John Yuda, an experienced half marathoner, became yet another Tanzanian winner in Portsmouth. 2004 belonged to Hendrick Ramaala, who went on to win the New York Marathon, while Benita Willis (then Johnson), Australia’s World Cross Country champion, flew to a 52:32 win.
In 2005 Ramaala, before going on to defend his New York title, was beaten by Yuda and Tulu, after winning the Great North Run, notched a second women’s title in Portsmouth. Britain’s Jo Pavey showing she had the ability to transform herself from a track specialist into a world class road runner and as the runaway winner of the 2006 race and compatriot Jon Brown just missed out on the men’s title when beaten in a sprint finish by Kenya’s Simon Arusei.
Kenyan’s Luke Kibet and Rose Cheruiyot were victorious in 2007 while Paula Radcliffe setting a UK best performance of 51min 11sec, savoured success the following year when easily thwarting the ambitions of Jessica Augusto and Magdalene Mukunzi, the Portugese and Kenyan runners finishing in 53min 15sec and 53min 18sec. She was also until the six miles marker still well on target to smash the Lornah Kiplagat’s world best performance of 50min 49.6sec but decided because of the gusty wind, to keep something in reserve. Radcliffe said: “I felt in the last two miles it was going to be really windy, so saved a lit bit for that. Actually it wasn’t too bad down the sea front as I was psyched up for it to be.”
Kenya’s Bernard Kipyego added the men’s title to his success at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run in May, destroying the field very early to win in 46min 43sec. Irishman Martin Fagan produced a storming finish to snatch second spot just three seconds ahead of the winner’s fellow countryman and defending champion Luke Kibet in a time of 46min 58sec. In 2009, Mo Farah scored the first ever victory by a British male athlete since Gary Staines achieved his third and final success 13 years earlier.
Farah, in the best ever finish to the 10 miles race recovered to win ahead of Stephen Mokoka by a second in a time of 46:25 with Luke Kibet, the 2007 champion, third in 47:16. Farah waited until 150m before making his final sprint for the line but Mokoka, his country’s number one, refused to throw in the towel to guarantee a nailbiting finish before losing out by a stride.
Ines Monteiro took a leaf out of the book of fellow Portuguese Jessica Augusto, winner of the 2009 Bupa Great North Run, when spreadeagling the field after two miles to win the women’s event. The European cross country bronze medallist, clocking a national record of 52:32, finished 86 seconds ahead of fellow countrywoman Ana Dulce Felix with Australian Benita Willis, the 2004 winner, third in 54:41.
World cross country champion Joseph Ebuya produced the fastest 10-mile run ever seen in the UK in the 2010 event, racing to a stunning time of 45:16 on a lovely sunny and calm day in Portsmouth. The 23-year-old Kenyan raced clear of eventual runner-up Saif Saeed Shaheen of Qatar and fellow countryman Vincent Yator, who finished third, with around three miles to go and comfortably overhauled Benson Masya’s 15-year-old previous best mark by a huge 40 seconds.
Grace Momyani, who had won the 10,000m gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi at the start of the month, made it the first Kenyan double for the three years when taking the women’s title in 52:03. Britain’s Freya Murray produced a great performance to set a UK fastest ever time for the 10 mile distance of 52:27, which was good enough to seal the runners-up birth, with Aniko Kalovics of Hungary third in 53.01.
In 2011 World 10k and 15k record holder Leonard Komen, planning to attack Haile Gebrselassie’s world 10 miles best performance, saw his attempt fall well short of his target of 44:23. Komen, who made his intentions publicly known beforehand but went off too quickly, covering the first mile in 4:12 won in a time of 46:18. He was followed home by fellow Kenyan and World marathon champion Abel Kirui who he beat by by 22sec with Ireland’s Alistair Cragg third in 47:14.
Ethiopia’s former World half marathon runner up Asselefech Mergia won the women’s race in 52:55, ahead of the Kenyan pair of Commonwealth 10000m silver medallist Doris Changeywo and the Games marathon champion Irene Jerotich, who clocked 53:34 and 53:43.
In 2012 Stephen Mokoka and Jo Pavey produced very contrasting performances in their respective victories.
Mokoka, on a damp English morning, toyed with the opposition from start to finish before sprinting ahead of Ayad Lamdassem and Tariku Bekele with just under 250 metres remaining to win the men’s race in 46 minutes 40 seconds.
Pavey, regaining the title she claimed in her first major international road race six years earlier, hammered her rivals when hitting the front from the beginning, taking a runaway success ahead of Jess Coulson and Berhane Adere in 53:01.
In 2013, Kenyan’s Emmanuel Bett and Florence Kiplagat defied gale force conditions to score convincing victories and capture their respective Bupa Great South Run titles. Bett had the tougher contest in his 10 mile race before destroying the threat of South Africa’s defending champion Stephen Mokoka who pushed him throughout the encounter.
Bett had made two determined breaks to rid himself of Mokoka but his rival responded after the first between six and seven miles then again coming onto the leader’s shoulder just after eight miles.
That brought an instant response from Bett who quickly, but in a searing burst of speed, which carried him well clear as the duo both found the massive headwind slow them considerably en route to the finish line.
Kiplagat enjoyed a much easier success at the south coast venue renowned for fast times, but on this occasion never on the cards with winds battering the athletes from all directions.
The 26-year-old just a month after winning a second BMW Berlin Marathon title clocked a time of 53:53 to win at a canter ahead of fellow Kenyan Polline Wanjiku who recorded 56:43 with Great Britain’s Charlotte Purdue an excellent third in 56:57.