PLANNING is well under way for one of Chichester’s most popular athletics events of the year – the Corporate Challenge.
Entry forms are out and there are just six weeks until the streets of Chichester city centre will be packed with runners of all ages and supporters for the first night of three in the 2015 series.
Now in its 24th year, it has seen more than 30,000 finishers since the inaugural races in 1992, ranging from Olympic internationals and Commonwealth Games medallists to raw beginners who turn out to support their work or club team.
The series of races takes place on three alternate Wednesday evenings – this year February 25, March 11 and March 25.
Each evening starts with junior races over a short 700m lap starting and finishing outside the Assembly Rooms in North Street.
Such was the popularity of the 2014 series that the race for Year 5 and 6 primary schoolboys had to be split in two, with more than 200 runners on each occasion. The girls’ field of well over 100 runners squeezed into one race.
There was also a new name on the boys’ roll of honour with Westbourne Primary coming out on top in the team event, while Jessie Younghusband lifted the girls’ title.
The secondary-school races have seen some fine racing over the years with junior international Charlotte Browning setting course records in the younger age groups and sharing the older record with Linda Spencer, now living in Australia, who has also gained many honours in her senior career.
For the boys, Harry Leleu from Seaford College and Ben Collins, now at Chichester High School, have set the course alight while team-wise Bishop Luffa have been the dominant force across the age groups.
Each evening’s race programme will conclude with the runners split into A and B races depending on their fitness, although the two races will be amalgamated when it comes to results.
Course records for the fastest individual man and woman have stood for some time with Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion Michael East posting a staggering 12min 39sec in 2008 for the 4,500m four-lap course, while the women’s record goes back to the early years when Zara Hyde Peters clocked an equally-impressive 14.15 for the same course.
Since then many have tried to emulate these times but there are a very select band of men who have broken 13 minutes and very few women have run under 15 minutes.
In terms of sheer consistency two local runners stand supreme with 38-year-old James Baker competing in all but the first two years and notching up multiple race wins and Jane Harrop the first-ever female series winner in 1992 and still scoring in Chichester Runners’ first team nearly a quarter of a century later.
Many local business and other corporate teams will be trying to knock DSTL Portsmouth off top spot while there promises to be a battle between Chichester, Worthing and Portsmouth in the sports category.
Last year’s women’s winners, Bosham School Staff, will be trying to defend their corporate title while Chichester talented under-17s and under-20s will be the team to beat in the sports category.
Entries are welcomed from teams and individuals in all age groups but organisers suggest entries are sent in at least a week before the first races to avoid disappointment.
Forms are available at Chichester-corproate-challenge.org.uk or via links on the Chichester Runners website. Queries can be made to race director Phil Baker at email@example.com or 01243 533784.