The Great West Run saw its 31st Anniversary this year as nearly 3,000 runners took to the streets of Exeter to tackle this infamously hilly 13.1 mile route. Early on the morning of the 18th October the streets of Exeter were closed as preparations were made for the annual half marathon. Officials and volunteers arrived and dotted themselves around the course, mile markers were put up, and the start/finish line in Sidwell Street slowly became a-wash with athletes and observers.
Runners dressed as Spiderman, Superman, and even a Tequila bottle joined the hundreds of charity runners who piled behind the starting line in readiness of the 9am start. Music pumped through the speakers, and a distant group of local dancers guided the athletes through a pre-race warm up. As the minutes before the sounding claxon approached the nerves of those racing could be sensed strongly; laces were needlessly tightened, watches were set up, and racers zoned out of the noise and hum-drum, tuning into the calm of their own music. With only minutes remaining four-time Olympian Jo Pavey gave the athletes some final advice, 'don't push yourselves too hard in the first few miles;' strong advice that many would prove to leave at the starting line!
As the claxons sounded the swarm of athletes burst into action, eager to cross the line as their adrenaline reached a maximum. The race was under way, and as the first couple of miles ticked by the crowd of runners began to thin out into a narrowing stream. Small groups clustered around the flag runners, volunteers whose job it was to run to a specific time.
Weaving its way first through the country roads surrounding Exeter, the course was certainly tough. Dotted with what seemed a continuing stream of uphill and downhill stretches it was by no means a fast race, and the struggle on the faces of many in the approach of an oncoming hill was clear. The expectation surrounding the Prince of Wales Road was particularly noticeable, and athletes either sprung up the weaving hill with an eager and obvious energy, or held back into a steady trudge, panting heavily in anticipation of the next water point.
Having emerged from the outskirts of Exeter and back into the familiarity of the city centre, the welcome faces of supporting crowds re-appeared, cheering on family and friends with banners, sweets and flags. Children thrust sweets into the hands of needy runners, and a sports drink company handed out cups of thick orange liquid, the contents of which splashed over the faces and tops of fast moving athletes.
Most gratefully welcomed were the 5 water points dotted at 3, 6, 8.5, 10 and 12.5 miles. An efficient army of volunteers, they lined up along the road with opened nozzle bottles ready to plunge into the hands of thankful runners. With no more than a few chugs most were strewn onto the side of the road as further volunteers marched backwards through the course picking up the throwaway sea of bottles.
As EUAC club runners reached the 8.5 mile mark we were particularly enthused to see the faces of our very own friends and members, cheering us on with bottles at the ready as we reached the top of the Prince of Wales Road. Having started the morning at the bleary eyed time of 7.45am their commitment was to be commended, and certainly spurred us on as we reached one of the hardest parts of the course.
13 miles on and the race came to a long anticipated close. Having completed a tortuous stretch up and down the bumps of Pinhoe Road, the course flattened out, crowds and cameras re-appeared and live commentary blared out from speakers once more. Crossing the finish line in an overall 5th position was EUAC's Phil Bridge, gaining a new PB of 1:13:13. Following closely behind in 7th position was Joachim Tranvag with an impressive time of 1:14:28.
The effort from the EUAC girls was strong, with each of us achieving a new PB. Eleanor Johnson finished as the 8th senior female with a time of 1:34:21, while Charlie Tromans finished 13th with a time of 1:39:25. Hannah Kilby scratched 6 minutes off her previous PB with a time of 1:44:47, and Charlie Cornwell and Sophie Knight crossed the line at 1:47:35, and 1:57:24 respectively. Credit goes to EUAC's Anna Woolf and Harriet Conti who raced together throughout, and raised a total of £640 for The Giraffe Project.