December 3, 2006
Williard Chinhanhu, 24:50
Linda Spencer 29:15
No. of finishers
Victory goes to the swift, and the fast course for which Portsmouth AC’s Victory 5 Road Race is known goes some way to explaining the event’s durability. Throughout the decades the race has attracted a following of good club runners seeking an opportunity to record PB times on a fast, flat course.
The event started after World War II as the Portsmouth 5 and this year was the 60th running. Only once did it have to admit defeat, a few years back at the hands of the local council, when the seafront was dug up to the extent of being impassable.
The current race director Gerry North admits to having something to do with the name change. In the early 1980s he ran a local sports shop, Victory Sports, through which he became involved with the race.
The event was traditionally a strong regional race that catered for – compared to today’s standards – a small and swift field of around 200 runners. The swelling ranks of runners in the 1980s were attracted to marathons, then half-marathons, and then 10Ks, but the Victory 5 stuck to its roots and is one of relatively few five-mile races still on offer today. It also stuck to its traditional date – the first weekend in December, just as the cross-country season was getting into its stride.
The Bupa Great South Run – Portsmouth’s main mass race – has shown how favourable the area is for fast running, and the Victory 5 has also maintained the interest of club runners from far and wide.
“We attract 25 to 30 exceptionally good runners,” says North, “as many as much bigger events, like the Great South Run itself.” With the advent of mass road running the field increased, but entries were capped at around 1,300 which, as North points out, is quite a lot for a five-miler.
The numbers made the local authorities nervous about safety. Following police advice the course was moved off the main roads and away from traffic along the sea front. The current course is traffic-free and incorporates a loop around a lake within the extensive grounds of computer company IBM’s estate.
Change brings new challenges though, and the road around the lake is subject to flooding. It’s also not quite as fast as before, and the course records, set in 1995 by Rob Denmark at 22:44 and Neneh Lynch at 25:35, look increasingly hard to beat.
There is £300 on offer for anyone who does, though, and the £2,000 total prize list is enough to maintain consistent interest from the club constituency that the race has always set out to serve.
The race’s organisers did not treat the Jubilee anniversary of the Victory 5 as an occasion for special celebration. They just got on with the job, as in any other year. Their no-nonsense approach is perhaps another reason why the race has lasted so well.