Brian Daugherty: Author                                 email -

Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon 2010

The last Portsmouth Half Marathon was run in 2000 and that proved a sad day in more ways than one - the race was eventually shortened to just over 11 miles as a result of an ongoing police investigation into a crime the night before somewhere in the Guildhall Walk area. Since then the Petersfield Half and the Thorney Island Half have also gone, leaving someone like me with a very small selection of half-marathons to compete in (very different from how I remember it even farther back when it seemed you could run half-marathons very regularly).

So I was made up to hear about the new Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon, although I then heard reservations from local running clubs who ended up giving no official assistance to the race. As I write this, I am unsure of how this will alter in the future, but all other things being equal, I hope they can be persuaded to take a different view.

Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon

I thought the race itself was superb, although I was suffering personally from lack of fitness and possibly also the effects of the appalling weather (which mostly struck before the race, rather than during it, but I got caught in it anyway).

The reservations I had heard were to do with lack of official sanction for the race and statements about insufficient insurance (I can't say exactly the grounds upon which this was based). Posters put up to publicize the event were taken down by council contractors. Doubt was expressed that the 700 claimed entrants would pour out of Ferry Road and still keep to the pavement along the promenade, and that if they did then pedestrians would suffer. Since I live in Southsea, this was readily believable, and I was expecting to be running on the road myself (or on the new cycle track being built). Doubts were also expressed about other aspects of the course.

My mistake on the day was to go down there early to pick up my timing chip rather than suffer the 'perceived wait' later on (this is why I was caught in the weather). I think now I would probably have been perfectly alright to go arrive at the 'normal' time - chip distribution appeared to be fairly straightforward. Bag storage consisted of just 'throwing' your bag into a reserved area.

Anyway, race headquarters was the Lifeboat Station adjacent to the Hayling Island Ferry, with the Start and Finish (both at the same point) down the side of the Station.

We hit the Promenade at about 1 mile and proceeded perfectly well along the pavement. Pedestrians mostly seemed to be happy to have became spectators. Just as I reached the Hovercraft Terminal, we were shepherded down the inside as the leaders came down the same pavement on the outside.

After 7 miles, the course veers off the seafront and crosses Ferry Road, which appeared to be the only point where cars had to be stopped (for a matter of seconds), and then entered Bransbury Park. Some kids shouted at me, with sincere encouragement : "Come on number 570 - I know you're old but you can make it". This was just what I needed given I had been feeling bad since 5 miles.

We exited the park via a bog, which was our first taste of the 'Multi-Terrain' aspect of the race. We then descended on to the foreshore. I remember falling along this stretch whilst out training once so this is where I began to think about the claims of lack of insurance. We exited the foreshore 'early' because we circled the last section in the opposite direction to that shown on our maps.

Essentially, we crossed Locksway Road and up Moorings Way, taking a path on to the cycle track along Eastern Road (although by this time I was so 'out of it' I had to look at the map later to see exactly where we had actually gone). My mate Sascha, who was running his first half-marathon, also managed to pass me along Moorings Way.

Turning into the 'Bird Reserve', jelly beans were on offer which proved invaluable, if only psychologically probably. The weather ensured that this stretch was true 'cross-country' stuff. It was also the one area that the organizers might have to be aware of, given that most people, because of the mud, were running for a fair distance along the narrow 'sea wall' with a drop on the one side of a good two meters or more.

We entered the foreshore again by the 'Thatched House' where the marshall kindly told us it was about two miles to go (we had already passed the 11 mile marker a way back). He was possibly talking about kilometers - on which subject, since Portsmouth lies 'close' to France etc. perhaps some thought could be given to taking the inevitable step and start marking distances exclusively in kilometers.

Heading along the foreshore (which, by the way, was also a complete mess by virtue of the weather -normally it is just gravel with the odd stream or puddle), we met a few poor sods who were still coming the other way.

Anyway running along the road again (Ferry Road), I was unsure (for reasons already stated) whether we were going to turn left into the finish or whether we were going to be taken on another loop, but fortunately it was the former option.

We received a small goody bag and then some soup (which, since I am trying to be fully honest in this account, tasted very unpleasant). Cake was promised in the program but I never saw any on offer (I definitely could have consumed some at the time if it had been offered).

Walking back home along the same promenade, I could see the weather coming in from the Isle of Wight, so got cold and wet again before arriving home. Nevertheless a good day - I can highly recommend the race.

The course of the old Portsmouth Half Marathon was : start on Winston Churchill Avenue, loop around by the University and return on the opposite carriageway, turning up Holbrook Road past the old Co-op (now the site of Asda, the building of which involved re-sited the road a bit to the west), into Arundel Street, past the Railway Station, down Queen Street, past the Hard and into Park Road (then a very quiet road, before Gunwharf Quays was built), Burnaby Road, down the High Street into Old Portsmouth, along Pembroke Road and on to the Prom. Right along the Prom returning via Henderson Road and Cromwell Road. Going back along the Prom, across Southsea Common on to Duisburg Way and then via Hampshire Terrace. Although the finish was only just down Guildhall Walk, when we reached the top of Hampshire Terrace, we were sent right down Winston Churchill Avenue again as far as the roundabout at Bradford Junction (where we turned left before, up Holbrook Road) and back before being allowed down Guildhall Walk and the finish before the Guildhall.