The slightly later date, now one week after the annual marathoners' pilgrimage to London, may well have contributed to an increased entry for ABP Southampton Marathon with more than 7,000 competing in the 26.2 mile race and supporting events yesterday (Sunday 5 May).
Our picture star, seen flying across the line in the 10K, is Dave Bray of Southampton-based Itchen Spitfires, who epitomised the joy of completing a major race. Dave was 1,994th (1:36:12) as 2,032 finishers were closed by his wife Janice Bray (Itchen Spitfires, 2:17:22).
The top three in the 10K were Isaac Farnworth (Reading, 33:33), M40 Stuart Farmer (Fulham, 33:56) and Dan Slayford (Portsmouth Uni, 34:42) on a cool morning with sunny periods, ideal for some pacy running. A close women's race, with local interest at the front, was won by Alice Burch (Totton, 41:44) from Hannah Polden (Southampton, 41:49) and Linden Stocker (44:06).
The most popular racing distance on offer was ABP Half Marathon, with 3,113 finishers in 4:22:15. With a 10K split (34:10) that would have sufficed for third in the shorter race, Richard Lovejoy (Aldershot, 1:15:36) was the class act. Marcus Widdess (1:17:50) and M40 Andy Goddard (Basingstoke, 1:19:24) led the damage limitation exercise in the leader's wake. Cassie Thorp (Portsmouth, 1:25:18) was equally dominant in the women's race, joined on the podium by Amanda Hull (Romsey, 1:28:05) and W40 Annie Emmerson (Serpentine, 1:28:11).
So the scene was set for the arrival of the marathon finishers – all 1,050 of them inside seven hours. Making light work of the tough climbs over Itchen Bridge was defending champion Richard Waldron, who was through halfway in 1:14:33, which would have won the 13.1 mile race. The leader's pace did falter in the second half but he was not alone on this testing course.
Waldron (Southampton, 2:39:44) took a minute off his winning time from 2018 and received a rapturous welcome from the partisan crowd at the finish in Guildhall Square. The runners-up were Joseph Donworth (Frome, 2:43:05) and M40 Steven Nimmo (Orpington, 2:45:50) and the top three women were W40 Kirsty Aked (Denmead Striders, 3:08:16) with a huge 26 minute PB, Samantha Rose (RAF Tri, 3:10:16) and Olga Cherkasova (Gepard, 3:17:41).