IDEAL conditions helped make the third Chichester Half Marathon since the event was revived a huge success – and there was a very familiar face leading home the field.
More than 700 finishers crossed the line at Chichester College as hundreds turned out to support the wide range of serious athletes and fun runners.
Two years ago, the 13-mile event was brought back after a long absence, albeit in a significantly revamped format.
The new half marathon is a multi-terrain event, not a road race, and for the third year was managed by Chichester District Council in conjunction with Chichester-based international charity Children on the Edge.
The weather was ideal – dry and not windy – for runners and organisers alike, and by 8.30am the atmosphere in the race village at Chichester College was buzzing as the runners prepared themselves for the off.
See a full list of finishers and their times in the Chichester Observer - out now - plus reports and pictures from the big day
At 9am, the runners were sent on their way by Sally Taylor, presenter of BBC’s South Today, Chichester District Council chairman Martyn Bell and Chichester College principal Shelagh Legrave.
The runners looked a splendid sight as they streamed along West Street and East Street, across Oaklands Park and out in to the country to take in Trundle Hill, returning to Chichester by Centurion Way.
It was a tough and challenging 13 miles – but a rewarding experience for all the finishers and the organisers.
The winner for the third year running was popular Chichester Runners member James Baker in an impressive time of 1hr 13min 05sec.
He held the lead from the start and his position as winner was never in doubt. He finished more than seven minutes ahead of Graham Russ in second place.
After the second mile, Baker was increasing his lead over second place by half a minute each mile.
In third place was Richard Murphy of Denmead Striders in 1.22.03.
Baker was pleased with his performance, especially as for most of the race he was a lone runner.
There were many similarities between the 2013 race and this year’s renewal at the head of the field.
Baker won in 2013 by defeating Hampshire star Toby Lambert and this year Aldershot & Farnham’s James Ellis provided the strongest opposition, possessing a faster 10k time than the Chichester man.
The first mile this year did not quite have the blistering pace of 12 months ago, when Lambert led through the mile marker in 4min 53sec with Baker on his shoulder.
On Sunday, Ellis and Baker were stride by stride in 5.17 after a mile, still a pace which had accounted for the rest of the field.
When Baker sensed Ellis was not as comfortable going up the relatively-gentle slope of Oaklands Park, he decided to kick on and by the two-mile marker he was 50m clear.
At the top of Chalk Pit Lane, at just over five miles, the gap had grown to more than a minute with the pair a long way in front.
Although the result was never in doubt, it was a shame Ellis had to call it a day at the ten-mile mark, not wanting to aggravate a calf strain.
First over-40 home was Steven Davy of Chichester Runners, with Alan Jones and Mike Pillans second and third. The first three over-50s all finished in times ahead of the over-40 men – with a particularly fast time of 1.23.33 recorded by Andrew Holt of Garden City Runners.
The women’s race was much closer but in the end it was the three local runners who battled for the top places.
Winner in a time of 1.30.44 was Kari Mack of Bognor’s Tone Zone Runners, with Helen Pattinson and Anneliese Shaw, both of Chichester Runners, second and third.
Mack and Pattinson were also the first over-40 women home, followed by Anne Sydenham. The first over-50 woman back was Jenny Philips in a time of 1.41.13.
For Mack, it was her first win in Chichester – but the result meant the gold medal had eluded Pattinson for a third time.
Laura Allen of Denmead Striders – the winner in 2012 – was fifth home in 1.37.35
For the third year running, Chichester Runners were the top men’s team.
In addition to Baker, their team comprised Peter Concannon and Davy. The women’s team prize was also won by Chichester Runners with their line-up comprising Pattinson, Shaw and Kim Nelson and they were followed home in second place by the Bognor-based Tone Zone Runners of Mack, Louisa Proctor and Carolyn Stapely.
Scores of runners came in singing the praises of the superb course with the beautiful views of the Solent and the Downs, the organisation and especially the number and friendliness of the volunteer race makers.
They also praised the number of people, young and old, who came out to support them along the course.
Ben Wilkes, from Children on the Edge, said: “Our charity has a global reach and helps some of the most vulnerable children in the world, so it was amazing to see our local community come together, not only for a fantastic race but to support our projects in such a positive way.” Eileen Lintill, cabinet member for leisure, wellbeing, and community services at the district council, said: “We are very pleased a wide spectrum of the community have taken part, not just elite runners but people taking part in their first half marathon too.”
A new initiative for 2014 was the introduction of the Works Trophy.
This was an opportunity for employees of different work places to pit themselves against each other by signing up a works team.
The result was a very close-fought contest, with Wiggle Cycles coming out on top.
They were closely followed by Thesis Asset Management and in third place were one of the main sponsors of the race – Montezuma’s Chocolates.
Other sponsors included Store Property and Covers, as well as a number of other local businesses.
Another new initiative for 2014 was the introduction of Nordic walkers. Sylvia May’s local group included some ten entries and they were lead home by Charles Farrant in 3.12 with May second in 3.18. At the finish she said her group had enjoyed the experience but the course was a bit tougher than they had expected.
After the race there was the traditional prizegiving with awards being made to the leading individuals by Sally Taylor.
There were many accolades about the organisation of this highly-successful event and once again all the organisers, athletes, spectators and officials went home to relax reflecting on a job well done.
And as they did so, many of them were promising to be back for the 2015 event.