The Great South Run was flat! - Marathon Running ...

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The Great South Run was flat!


Apologies but this is woefully long.

I’ve waited a while to write this as the GSR was a strange experience for me, not at all what I was expecting. It was always going to be a day of ‘firsts’ (being both my first ever public run on that scale and my first ever race over that distance).

I knew no-one who was running and no-one who was supporting and traveled to Portsmouth the day before. I stayed in an Airbnb room in someone’s house for the first time - adequate but stressful for various reasons (lodger effing and binding and passionately relating a story about how she got effing angry with someone, room not overly clean, no lock on bedroom door, macerating toilet that liked to start up all by itself every now and again regardless of day or night …).

I laid all my kit out the night before, ate my salmon, pasta and salad from the Tupperware container I took with me (I was so prepared). Didn’t sleep particularly well as lots of people on the street below came home late and loud. Woke before the alarm, dressed, made and ate porridge and struggled to pin on my bib with shaky fingers.

Bags stored in car, I set off to walk the 30 minutes to the seafront nice and early. Met up with a lovely couple and chatted to them en-route. I’d left early to make sure I missed any queues at the bag drop - at 8.30 ish when I got there I would say there were about 4 or 5 staff per runner! It was empty and quiet, way earlier than necessary.

I had 2 and a half hours to kill! The queues for the loos were simply not long enough to fill that time. I struck up a conversation with a lovely lady who’d done the run 2 or 3 times before. I enjoyed the company. I made one last loo trip – determined to stand in at least one queue that day – and made my way to the front-ish of the green pen(good move I think as there were no congestion issues). For at least an hour I’d been shaking like a leaf. My nose was burning in the sun but I was still huddled inside a thick fleece feeling the cold! In the pen I had a good chat with another lovely lady.

The warm up started and felt so good; great to be doing something, great that it wasn’t a cold standing start. Then we were off. At this point I must remind myself that I was happy, excited and enjoyed the first 5k. I knew I was going too fast, yet somehow couldn’t slow it down. I had my first jelly baby at 5K as planned, then a drink from my flipbelt at 7.5k as planned (managed to choke on that as I didn’t stop to drink and felt quite sick).

Being honest, I didn’t really enjoy it from there on in. Gremlins won the day, and I was sure I couldn’t do it. My legs felt heavy and tired. I tried running with bottle in hand but didn’t like that. I took a walking break around 11k (plan had been to wait til 12.5k then walk and drink so that added to the gremlins’ arsenal). Kept going, but don’t remember seeing much, or feeling very inspired by the crowds or the entertainment. Threw in another quick walk around 14k and – worst of all – another during mile 9 (at which point I had stomach pains, probably from choking on my drink earlier – think colicky baby!). I was feeling overwhelmingly disappointed with myself. I did push on for the last mile, loving the 800m, 400m, 200m markers, knowing my time was still good. In fact, I beat my target by a full three minutes – a target set based on timings before being sick for three weeks! I crossed the finish line, neither gasping for breath nor feeling faint. Feet were a bit sore, but legs felt OK. But where was the buzz? Or the euphoria that I was there for? Nowhere to be found. Just flat disappointment. Why? 1h 47m and still standing. A PB for 10k, a PB for 15k and longest ever distance. What on earth was wrong with me? Why didn’t I feel amazing?

The stretch routine was great. The free massage I booked in advance was great. No problem picking up my bag, walking back to the car, leaving Portsmouth. Reasonable drive home. But just flat, emotional, disappointed, sad and exhausted.

Two big blisters are my only problem today, apart from this same flat feeling.

This afternoon I’ve registered for the London Landmarks Half in March (I’d already paid for it, so when the request to register with the race organiser came through today it seemed like the right thing to do, and a symbolic one too).

So why did that happen? Why did I give in to gremlins so easily? I‘d like to understand so I know what to fix. There seem to be many possible reasons. Being ill beforehand maybe left me tired, it certainly interrupted my training plan and the confidence that completing it would have given me. It was warmer than I have been used to. I didn’t have my usual music playing because I wanted to listen to the support. My expectations of the entertainment and crowd were maybe too high. Although I’d introduced the idea of walking and drinking when training, it seems to be the walking thing that has disappointed me the most. I think I also missed having a running buddy or supporter to share my achievement with.

I need to work on my expectations, I need to have music ready, I need to understand my Garmin better (so I not only see an average run pace, but can see current pace too so I feel more in control), I need to make decisions about walking and then stick to my rules, I need a run buddy or supporter in tow. Hopefully I will feel more prepared for LLHM, which of course will have the advantage of not being my first large public race!

But first, I need some short easy runs which I enjoy. And time to reflect on (and big up in my mind) the good parts of the GSR as there were lots – if I can find just one photo of myself smiling or looking relaxed, that will go a long way I think.

I don’t want to put anyone off the GSR – just read everyone else’s posts of this weekend’s race, in so many ways I agree it was great. I think I will probably start to ‘feel the love’ as Sandraj39 put it, as time goes by.

But, if anyone has any similar experiences (and got this far) I would love to hear them.

43 Replies
WhatsappHalf Marathon

Well done Linda. You had a difficult run-up (no pun intended) to the GSR. The good thing to take from this is you are not questioning your love for running. The experience was not what you had hoped. Maybe organised runs aren't your thing? Maybe you would prefer a smaller event? It's all trial and error.

We train for a long time and put in a great deal of effort for a race. They aren't generally cheap either, so when we run we want so much for all the planning and preparation to be worth it - for the day itself to be special.

You've booked another one and that's probably the best thing to do. Post run blues are a known thing, especially when the event didn't go as planned. It will take some time to process your feelings but ultimately, I'm sure, you will come to realise what was missing from your experience.

linda9389Administrator in reply to Whatsapp

Thanks Whatsapp, I'm hoping time - and experience - will sort this too. I did a 5k race for life which I loved and got such a great buzz from. I have done two park runs and loved the after glow of those too. PB's usually float my boat as well and, until yesterday, it's that euphoria that keeps bringing me back for more determination and effort. Really hoping this was a one off.

Sandraj39Half Marathon

Well done Linda, for your very honest review - I know we spoke earlier about how you found it yesterday. Can I just say, what an amazing time though - you should be so proud, especially asI know it was the first time you had run the full 10 miles and after having been unwell. It is so hard to go off at the right pace in these races - I think I always set off too quick! Sometimes, I think the stress of getting to these big runs can be worse than the actual run itself - I don't think I would have felt so good after a night like you had.😮 So glad that you are still going ahead with your HM plans though -I have also signed up for my second one this afternoon (about to post now!). Take care.🙂

linda9389Administrator in reply to Sandraj39

There's a tiny voice inside me whispering 'I'm amazing', with any luck it will get louder as time goes by :)

I'm certainly not feeling complacent about the HM, but it's a while off and one of my boys is doing it with me, so without me doing anything at all, several things will be different about that race. It's all about learning isn't it? I might look for a local 10k between now and then to try to exorcise the ghosts of yesterday.

Will look out to see what you've signed up for next - and really glad everyone else enjoyed the GSR :)

Sandraj39Half Marathon in reply to linda9389

Great that your son will be running with you Linda.🙂

linda9389Administrator in reply to Sandraj39

'Running with' ???? 'Starting with' perhaps! I'm trying to persuade him to start in the same wave, even though there is no chance we will be running together for any more than a few metres! That's fine though - I now understand the value of starting at the same time, yesterday taught me that if nothing else :D

Sandraj39Half Marathon in reply to linda9389

..let's go with 'starting with' then!

SueKenHalf Marathon

Wow - that sounds like you did amazing to me. I think what might be lacking is some positive support to tell your pesky gremlin to “sling his hook”. It’s all to easy to dwell on the odd walking break, but look what you did achieve - 10 miles in that time is fab! Go you, and try to bask in the glory of what you achieved.

linda9389Administrator in reply to SueKen

Thanks. I'm definitely trying :D

I actually feel more positive simply for writing it all down rather than having these random thoughts whirling round my head :)

DuddlesHalf Marathon

Well done on the run. I think what you are missing is company. Someone to talk to afterwards to share the ups and downs, the buzz, what Hill A was like, how you felt. On your own will be flat. I used to work in an exciting job running a team (think Life on Mars) and when we had a great result we would talk for ages afterwards about what happened, go for a pint or whatever. Later the job morphed into me basically working solo, and still sometimes getting great results, but I had no-one to share them with. I just knew internally I had done well, but there was no-one to share it with. So, that flat feeling, as you describe. It is about sharing the experience - which is sometimes why this site is helpful.

linda9389Administrator in reply to Duddles

OK. That idea really resonates with me - I think you're right, that was a big part of it. Yesterday, and even this morning, I felt almost 'traumatised' for want of a better word. I do think it's partly because I wasn't able to release and share the experience with someone who could understand. By the time a stranger (several in fact, because everyone truly was very friendly) said 'did you have a good race' it was too late, and too far removed from the experience and my instinctive answer was 'well, no not really .... head wasn't in the right place'.

Thanks. That's helpful. I do hope you made progress with your work situation too :)

DuddlesHalf Marathon in reply to linda9389

Work was fine, continuous adventures, but a while ago now. It was just better when you could share the excitement of a job together. On your own you had no-one to 'boast' to, or share with, but I still have some great moments.


You’ve done a great thing, Linda, and should be proud, it didn’t sound easy on you! We all have different expectations, motivation, skill, mindset (insert a few more in here), and should simply find out and settle into whatever frame suits us best, whatever brings the best out of us.

I cannot run an organised race. Crowds, time frames, rules, chaos, the lot, would all drain the joy out of my main driving force, running itself. And I’m completely unfazed by bling, so there.. I ran a 17K practice spin this afternoon building it up for the full, non stop marathon and it felt natural, devoid of pressure because l knew l would do it when I’m ready, where and when l want to be running, completely on my own terms. Otherwise the deal is off.

Decide what’s best for you, get the most out of your motivation, keep it fresh, simple and enjoyable! Run for the sake of running. :)

linda9389Administrator in reply to mrrun

Good points. I guess the only way for me to find out is to keep mixing it up and trying different things. I'm pretty new to all this so it's reasonable to assume there may be things I like more than others .. I wasn't expecting to dislike it, but you're right, I just need to work out what works for me :) Thanks for taking the time to read this, let alone to reply :D


Running is so mental, I think it is perfectly understandable to feel strange after so much change. You still managed to beat your target by a full three minutes and gather a slew of PBs - so you did what you set out to do in spite of all the adversity. Your numbers are great and you never gave up - now you just have to convince your brain to listen to that voice telling you that you are amazing. If possible, just take what you can from this experience to make the next one better.

linda9389Administrator in reply to Decker

Thanks for your kind words. There is definitely lots to build on and I'm already becoming more hopeful that this isn't a brick wall, just a stepping stone to the next challenge :)

LittleNell83Half Marathon

You sound how I felt after the Spitfire 10km run. I just didn't get into the run and hated it. I finished with nothing left but it was a horrible run and the pictures show me on the brink of tears or just looking miserable. I picked up afterwards and, after talking to people just had to put it behind me and focus on going forwards.

This time I had my boyfriend and parents watching plus friends and running group members somewhere out there running. Yesterday I enjoyed the run, chatting and joking with other runners en route, including a woman I heard struggling. We had a chat and laugh. She said no one else chatted to her all run. After all the stress of getting there in time and making sure I knew what I was doing, and a wobble before hand, once the warm up started i was okay.

It was the first run I let myself enjoy it and just went with it.

Maybe see if you can find a Christmas run or something to focus on before March as well as giving you a positive experience x

linda9389Administrator in reply to LittleNell83

Thanks for sharing that. You're a shining example of how one tough run doesn't mean the end. I think a less stressful event between now and my HM is a really good idea. I knew I was hugely out of my comfort zone (for all sorts of reasons) when I left home on Saturday - I need to find something much lower key, less pressure on myself, that I can enjoy. So glad GSR was a great experience for you though :)

LittleNell83Half Marathon in reply to linda9389

We did it! 10 miles is a long run and it was warm too. Just think how far we have come. This time last year I was running first 5km was in November or December.

We are amazing Linda and your time was really good. Bad runs happen but we won't be beaten by them. We won't give in. Who knows, next week you will do a short run and end up smiling to yourself.

(least that's what I try and convince myself after a bad run :))

Just remember, you are amazing!

linda9389Administrator in reply to LittleNell83

You are so right!

You did an amazing thing. You are amazing. Things (especially the overnight) didn’t go as you envisaged so you were disappointed, not surprising. Also not the best of days to have a less than inspiring run. That was bad luck but you did it! And it hasn’t put you off that is great. I’m sure the next event will have you flying.

I think you know you are amazing but I’ve found that knowing something isn’t the same as actually taking it on board. Believe it, we all do.

linda9389Administrator in reply to AnnieW55

Haha. I think you're right, I do think I'm amazing ,I keep repeating it to myself ... but there are louder negative voices that are stopping me believing it. Posting here is a great way to get those negative voices drowned out. Thank you :)

A couple of weeks ago I liked the GSR facebook page, so today I have had a constant stream of posts from people saying what a fantastic day they had and how they have already signed up for next year - but one of them was from a dad who completed the run hobbling behind a pushchair for the last 3 km, whose final photo is of his leg in a long surgical boot with .. you guessed it .. a stress fracture in his leg! I thought of you and hope you are healing well :)

AnnieW55 in reply to linda9389

Thanks Linda. Recovery moving on apace. Physio’s this afternoon were surprised at where I am so soon! Fingers crossed it keeps going forward.

Linda I think you did a fantastic run and your time was super !! I would love a time like that for my 10k this Sunday. I sort of understand some of what you were saying as although I enjoy running on my own I think entering a race with a run buddy would be nice.

You run your race and achieved a brilliant time, nothing can detract from that.

What part of the country do to you live? May be an opportunity for us to get together for a 10k race together, chatting and laughing all the way.

I think you did great and if I could run that time I would be very happy. :) :)

linda9389Administrator in reply to Lorijay

Many thanks for the encouragement. I'm trying to persuade a friend to do a 10k with me soon. I'm in South Bucks so am looking to find somewhere that doesn't involve going into London if posaible - ideally somewhere with lots of parking and a reasonably short drive 😀

You did well! Especially taking into account being ill. I’ve lost count of the the number of races I’ve done; I’ve loved the majority of them but a few felt flat. And I couldn’t really put my finger on why as there wasn’t any obvious reason. Possibly before arriving very early at the start is part of it. I’ve done before and all the standing around getting cold with not many runners around can detract from the buzz of a race. But I would just move on and if possible do another race, maybe a 10k, as soon as you can. Try smaller local races as well as big events. My favourite races have been the more low key ones.

linda9389Administrator in reply to Hillrunner2201

'Hillrunner responded to great south run is flat' made me smile 😀

Waiting around was very draining and it seemed to take an age for the event to fill up. It's good to hear I'm not the only one who has had a 'bad' race despite there being no obvious reason for it, and even better to know it doesn't mean all future races will feel the same. I think a low key 10k is a good idea - there's one nearby in a month which I might try - so long as these blisters disappear in time 😀

Hillrunner2201Marathon in reply to linda9389

Lol! I hadn’t thought of that!

Definitely do the 10k, that sounds like a great plan!

SqkrHalf Marathon

Ach Linda, it sounds not dissimilar to my GNR, that day I just had a horrible run and although there were lots of external issues as well I know most of my disappointment and frustration came from myself. I finished with an OK time but I would rather like to erase the run from my memory. It was a struggle from 5k right to the end, after the first smiley half an hour I fell apart a bit and just wanted to get through it and kept texting my pal saying 'I hate this' 🤣 It was kind of compounded by the fact I felt guilty for not enjoying it, as it's such a big calendar event and everyone else seemed to have a great time! Bad runs happen though, sometimes we just aren't in the zone and it really sucks when that coincides with a race day. I fell out of love with running pretty hard that day. Creeping doubts and gremlins set in. But after allowing myself a small break I got out there again, ran a route I love with no expectations of myself, did some gentle, easy runs to keep up my fitness, and then for some reason the Scottish Run a few weeks later was such a different story. I was elated at the end and had a brilliant day.

All these things are learning experiences for us though, and even if the only things you take away from your GSR (aside from a great time and a fancy medal! Not to be sniffed at 😀) are a list of things you know you would like to work on, well, that's brilliant. You know exactly what to do for next time!

linda9389Administrator in reply to Sqkr

Thanks. I could have written all that you've said there about the GNR! I too feel grumpy and ungrateful for moaning about what was essentially a very well organised, flat, perfect weather event. On the day it just didn't match the hype for me - half the bands were resting when I went by, I couldn't really see much of the scenery for all the bodies and focus needed not to run into someone or trip over the feet of barriers or runners (we weren't too crammed together but you were in the midst of a group the whole time). I do remember reading your posts at the time, but they mean a whole lot more now and certainly give me lots of hope. I do still crave that after race buzz. As you say, I've learnt a lot, and am beginning to accept there doesn't have to be a single reason for this flatness - and that's OK because it means several small changes may be all it takes to enjoy it again 🙂

AnnieW55 in reply to linda9389

Your last sentence is, I think, what I mean about your (anyone’s) brain “knowing” something and actually “getting” it.

linda9389Administrator in reply to AnnieW55

Ordered a hydration vest last - there's one change made already 😀

SqkrHalf Marathon in reply to linda9389

I've got enough distance from it now that I can laugh about my first awful half, and after a few weeks I bought the awful accompanying photo too. Because it's all part of my bigger running picture, and I personally learnt about fuelling, and being a bit more realistic and humble, and both realisations served me so well in the Scottish Run. I'd definitely not have had such a brilliant day then if I'd not had a bad one a few weeks earlier! You'll grow fond of your South run, on its own merits—it might not have been what you thought it would be, but it's still your run and you can be super proud of it. It's flipping ten miles! 😎

linda9389Administrator in reply to Sqkr

Thanks sqkr. Your post went a long way to turning me round last night. I don't feel such a failure today and the future is bright, I can believe what you say. I've made my HM fundraising page and sent it out so I have to commit and I've selected a possible Dec 10k. No running this week to give my toes some time to recover, then Parkrun with pacers a week Saturday. My rehab is planned and I do like a plan 😀

Thanks so much for your help x

Huge Congratulations to you Linda. You ran the GSR, and finished with a brilliant time! In my eyes you are awesome, that's not something I could do!

I hope you start to feel very proud of yourself once your achievement sinks in. xxx

linda9389Administrator in reply to Bluebirdrunner

Thank you so much. I bet you could run it, without a shadow of a doubt! but I won't hype it up too much as I now know that's not a good path to take :D

Currently looking at local 10k races to try to rediscover my groove :)


Congratulations on doing so well! And thanks for such an honest report. I think it's really important, especially for those who haven't run for long, to read about how things aren't always really easy and fun. I hope you're able to look back on it more positively soon.

linda9389Administrator in reply to C3PO

Many thanks. The responses I've had here have really made an amazing difference - in particular hearing that other people have had mixed feelings too, but still run, still race. I've tried to emphasise the positives of my day as well as the negatives, and to throw in some practical stuff too (no need to get up as early as I did :D ). Hopefully I will be shouting loud and proud of my next positive experience very soon :)

aliboo70Half Marathon

Linda you did really well! I'm sure I'd feel much the same with your pre run experience (that b and b description had me on edge just reading about it!) For me being with club mates and family on occasion is what makes the run, and if I'm honest these really big runs are not the be all and end all by any means, I am at my happiest at smaller events especially local ones with lots of friendly support! And more and more I'm heading to loving trail running much more than road. I think you should be very proud and impressed with yourself and tackling this without support is a really big thing to do especially with illness thrown in beforehand ! and your result is excellent so congratulations ! It's all a big learning curve xxx now on to your next challenge......

linda9389Administrator in reply to aliboo70

Thanks Aliboo. I'm beginning to realise there are many elements at play in this running lark. The biggest lesson for me from the weekend is how important that buzz is to me - it's what has kept me running this amazing road. Time, experience and new challenges will hopefully help me figure out which is the right way forward for me - not to mention the all important insights and inspiration from the lovely people here 🙂

aliboo70Half Marathon in reply to linda9389

Great attitude Linda x 😊


It’s a pity it didn’t go as you’d hoped but runs are like that Your BnB sounded rough so not the best of starts

Your next one might be fantastic. We can’t know can we so we keep on entering them 😃💪🏃‍♀️🏅

linda9389Administrator in reply to misswobble

I reckon the next one will be fantistic! I already had London Landmarks HM booked (GSR was a stopping point on the way to the HM), so no choice but to try another one :D

Lots of things will be different. GSR was definitely a learning experience :)

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