Great South Run

The annual Great South Run has grown over the past twenty years to become one of the most popular road races in the UK.  It is part of the Great Run series created by former Olympic 10,000 metres bronze medallist and BBC Sport commentator Brendan Foster, which includes the Great North run. 

Unlike the northern version, which is a half marathon, the Great South Run is a 10-mile race.  The first Great South Run was held in Southampton, but since then it has been held annually in Portsmouth. It is one of Europe's most popular 10-mile mass participation races, with the 2009 race having a record field of 21,000 entries.

The elite race is an official IAAF Gold Label Road Race, and as a result it has attracted some top professional runners through the years.  Britain's Paula Radcliffe won the race in 2008, in a time of 51 minutes 11 seconds, a new British record, but the course record of 51:00 is held by Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan, who won in both 2002 and 2003.

There have also been several British winners of the men's race over the years, including Gary Staines, who won the race three times in the 1990s, and most recently Mo Farah, who triumphed in 2009.  The most recent winner was Kenya's Joseph Ebuya, who won the 2010 race is a course record time of 45 minutes, 15 seconds.

If you are thinking of entering the Great South Run, you will need to train appropriately.  A ten mile run falls neatly between a 10k and a half marathon, and can be a good stepping stone for someone who is looking to move up in distance but isn't ready for the 13.1 miles of a half marathon.

You'll need a training program that contains the usual elements of a weekly long run, tempo runs, hill repeats and speed work, but as the distance increases, so too does the significance of the weekly long run.

The long run teaches you to set a steady pace, and to simply keep going.  It builds strength not just in your muscles, but also in your tendons, ligaments and supporting structures.

Furthermore, by running long each week you prepare not only your body, but also your mind for the race ahead.  The confidence you get as you increase your long run week by week will serve you well towards the end of the race.  It's not necessary to run the full race distance in training, but if you've run at least eight miles a couple of times in training, you'll know that you can complete the race – and on the day, with the crowds cheering, there's no way you'll want to stop!