It’s been 10 years since I graduated from Southampton Solent University. The years have flown by and somehow I’ve never got round to visiting my old uni town since I left in 2006. When I heard about the ABP Southampton Half-Marathon and 10k, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally make the trip back down to the south coast.
I intended to run the half-marathon, but as I’m still building up my running fitness after several months of injury, I wasn’t quite ready for the 13.1 mile distance. I was able to switch my entry to the 10k which was being held on the same day.
Southampton is a great city for running with it’s well-kept parks and commons. However, fitness was the last thing on my agenda as a student. During my time at uni, I was around 5 stone overweight and lived on a typical student diet of alcohol and takeaways. The short walk from my house to the uni campus left me out of breath and my joints aching and sore.
The race village was centred around the Guildhall, which was also where my graduation ceremony was held in 2006. The venue and surrounding area have been smartened up with plenty of new bars and restaurants, it was almost unrecognisable when Glen and I arrived on the morning of the race.
I saw Glen off for the start of the half-marathon at 10am, before heading to the bag-drop inside the Guildhall. There was 45 minutes before the 10k was due to start, so I watched the runners head off whilst trying to warm up ready for my race. At around 9.45am, I headed into the starting pen and positioned myself between the 60 and 65 minute pacers- I wasn’t expecting a fast run by any means!
The run was a real trip down memory lane for me. As we ran through the streets I reminisced on the bars and shops I visited as a student- some have long since closed down but some are still going strong. I felt quite emotional as I remembered old times.
The out-and-back over the Itchen Bridge at miles 2-3 is notoriously tough, so I’d prepared myself for this section. However, I didn’t actually find it too challenging at all. The bridge was lined with enthusiastic supporters, some literally screaming encouragement! There is a video of me ‘beating the bridge’ here:
I focused on my technique and form throughout the race. Although I wasn’t listening to a metronome, I tried to quicken my step and shorten my stride. Every time I had a niggle in my shins, it reminded me to lift my knees and heels. I ran at a comfortable pace with no pressure to complete the 10k in a certain time- the aim was to enjoy the run and finish pain-free.
I ran the entire race with a huge smile on my face, taking in my surroundings and reflecting on how I’ve changed since I left this city. Every street brought back memories, both good and bad.
A loop around and through St Mary’s football stadium at mile 4 was a new addition to the course for 2016. I’d never actually ventured to the stadium during my time at uni, although I could always see it in the distance. I must admit the section inside the stadium lacked atmosphere, it would have been great to have music or spectators.
Mile 5 took us along St Mary Street which runs behind the Halls of Residence I lived in during my first and second years. I smiled as I passed by the Chinese takeaway which I used to frequent several times a week- no wonder I was so overweight!
After going through an underpass, we emerged next to the main university campus then turned into Palmerston Park before East Park. The paths were lined with spectators- Southampton had really come out in force to support this race!
I crossed the finish line in 1:01:06, making this my slowest ever 10k run, but definitely my most enjoyable. I felt very emotional as I’d just achieved something I would never have thought possible back in my student days. It also gave me a confidence boost to start building up my running mileage towards my half-ironman in June.
At the finish line, I picked up a finisher’s T-shirt and lovely chunky medal, then caught up with Glen who had finished his half-marathon just minutes before me in 1:34:29. The half-marathon course had been incredibly tough and hilly, his legs were in pieces and he struggled to walk! I was slightly relieved to have done the shorter route!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this race. Only in it’s second year, I thought everything was perfectly organised and supported both on the day and on the lead-up to the event. There’s talk of bringing a marathon to Southampton next year, possibly following two laps of the 13.1 course which I think would be a fantastic addition (if a little tough for me)!
Where did you go to university? Have you been back to your uni town? Did you race last weekend?
I ran the Southampton 10k as a guest of Rees Leisure, but all opinions are my own.
All race photos are courtesy of SussexSportPhotography.com.