Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Stories from Portsmouth's Great South Runners

More than 24,000 runners will pound the streets of Portsmouth in the annual Great South Run on Sunday.

Elite athletes share the roads with club runners and charity fundraisers. They all have their own reasons for tackling the 10-mile course.

Nicki Taylor - 1,000-mile challenge

Image caption Nicki Taylor has completed 140 miles of her 1,000 mile challenge.

Nicki Taylor, 34, is running her third Great South Run as part of a "1,000-mile challenge" to cover the distance - equivalent to 1,600 km - in a single year by walking, running and cycling.

The mother-of-two from Southampton has already clocked up 140 miles (225km) raising money for Basics, Hampshire.

A paramedic friend first told her about the charity, which provides volunteer doctors to respond to critically ill and injured people in the time before they reach hospital.

The challenge started when her husband bought her entry to the Eden Marathon in Cornwall as a birthday present.

"My family think I'm mad but I just wanted to push myself a bit harder.

"I love the atmosphere at the Great South Run. It's the first 'big one' I took part in, so I always feel I should be taking part in it."

Tim Wright - in memory of William Blanchard

Image caption Sapper William Blanchard was killed in Afghanistan in September 2010

Race day marks the first anniversary of the death of Sapper William Blanchard, from Gosport. He was shot while dealing with a suspected explosive device in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Tim Wright, along with other friends and members of Sapper Blanchard's family, is taking part in the Great South Run as a tribute, and to raise money for Help for Heroes.

"It's another activity which is a physical and mental challenge - the stuff Will would always want to do. It's a suitable tribute to the big man."

The 16-person team has already completed the Three Peaks Challenge as part of a £10,000 fundraising appeal.

Colin Barrett - running at 80

Image caption Colin Barrett has run 23 marathons

Colin Barrett, from Bournemouth, began running at the age of 52, and met his wife Sarah when they both took part in the New York Marathon 20 years ago.

He recently celebrated his 80th birthday by taking part in an 8km run along Brisbane seafront while visiting his family in Australia.

Mr Barrett is taking part in the Great South Run with his daughter Helen to support Alzheimer's Research UK, as his mother-in-law has the condition.

He said: "Alzheimer's is a cruel disease, robbing people of their precious memories.

"Everyday tasks became more and more of a struggle."

Darin McCloud - race against weight

Image caption Darin McCloud has lost 5 stone in the run up to the Great South Run

When the 2010 Great South Run was held, 46-year old Darin McCloud was 21 stone (133kg) and making newspaper headlines over a row with Portsmouth's health authorities over his desire to have weight loss surgery.

After "retuning his mind and redirecting his relationship with food", he has lost five stone (31kg) and will be among the thousands starting the Great South Run.

"It's truly amazing. I can't believe I'm doing this, I had enough problems walking upstairs," said the 46-year old traffic warden from Portsmouth.

He started a computer games console fitness programme before moving on to power walking and, encouraged by his doctor, regular training runs.

He said: "My aim is to complete the race, hopefully in a way where I do myself proud and enjoy the day."

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