Four years ago the Chichester Half Marathon was revived in a different format - as a multi terrain event not a road race – and Sunday saw the staging of this event in its fifth year.
The weather was perfect for runners, organisers and spectators and the atmosphere generated in the race village and around the course surpassed the previous four years.
In many ways 2016 was the best ever - we saw the largest number of entrants, well over 800, taking to the streets of Chichester and out into the neighbouring countryside of Lavant, Goodwood and West Dean, plus the addition of two new races – a ten-miler and a three-stage relay.
The half marathon was for the first time managed by Everyone Active in conjunction with the city-based charity Children on the Edge (COTE). Such was the success of the 2015 event this year’s race exceeded the magical entry number of ,000 runners by some margin with runners coming from running clubs from Brighton through to Southampton with just as many unattached.
Sussex and Hampshire were well-represented as were Dorset, Surrey, Wiltshire, south and east London and Kent. There were also entrants from Cornwall, Cheshire, Lancashire and Humberside. The largest club contingents came from Chichester Runners and the Bognor’sTone Zone Runners.
Runners were sent on their way from the Chichester College, whose principal, Shelagh Legrave, was again a participant. The Starting party included Sally Taylor of BBC’s South Today, Cllr Elizabeth Hamilton, the chairman of Chichester District Council, Ben Wilkes, head of UK Services for COTE and local sporting celebrity Amanda Newton.
The runners streamed along West Street and East Street, across Oaklands Park and out in to the country to take in the Trundle Hill, returning to Chichester by Centurion Way.
A tough and challenging 13.1 miles was most rewarding for the finishers and the sponsoring charity - while scores of runners opted for the shorter 10.5-mile course.
Race winner, for the fifth year running, was popular Chichester Runners member James Baker in a time of 1hr 19min 02sec.
He said: “I was happy just to win the race as I am not as good a shape as 2015 when everything went perfectly.”
Baker was in the lead group from the start and for the first five miles he had Peter Concannon, eventual winner of the ten-miler, for company.
Baker made a break up Chalkpit Lane and from then on his winner’s medal was never in doubt with an eventual winning margin of more than five minutes.
In second and third place were two more Chichester runners - Mikey Neville in 1.24.32 and Charles Rodmell in 1.25.53.
The vets’ 40 category was won by Simon Dunne in 1.28.23, the vet 50 by Richard Howell (1.33.02) and the vet 60 winner was John Miles (1.43.37).
The women’s race was a much closer affair but in the end Anne Sydenham of Chichester Runners in 1.33.46 emerged as the winner.
Sydenham has been runner-up in the past but went one better here.
Second in 1.36.19 was Emma Murray from St Austell RC and third in 1.36.37 was Mel Walton. Sydenham was also the first vet 40 woman home.
Jenny Philips was first home in the vet 50-59 category in 1.46.22 and Jo Etheridge of the large Brighton and Hove Women contingent won the vet 60 category.
There were 330 finishers inside the two-hour mark, compared to 300 in 2015, and 750 runners completed the course, another record for the event.
The men’s team race was, not surprisingly, won by Chichester Runners, followed by Tone Zone Runners – the same one-two as last year, with the women’s team race replicating these positions, also as in 2015.
Many other clubs had complete teams including Arunners, Rotary Road Runners and Mel’s Milers in the men’s event and Victory AC in the women’s.
The King and Queen of the Hill challenge is a competition to see who is the quickest climber of the Trundle between two points and king was Robert Hanmore in a time of 1min 22sec, followed by Baker in 1.32. Queen of the Hill was Sydenham in 1.50, some 15 seconds ahead of Victoria Edwards. The trophy was sponsored by the The Run Company.
The Krowmark Trophy, sponsored by the Bognor-based manufacturer and leading supplier of workwear and uniforms, was won by Chichester Runners, who were the first team to have two men and two women home - again Tone Zone were second.
The Works Trophy sponsored by accountancy firm Evans Weir was won by the works team from David Covers and Sons, who included Peter Cairns, Justin Walsh and Sam Cole. They were followed home by Stuart Lyons Haulage with Krowmark, one of the event’s sponsors, in third place.
In the innovative ten miler, the winner was Peter Concannon from Chichester Runners who was second in the half marathon last year. His time was 1.00.37, some four minutes ahead of Peter Bird from Wallasey AC, one of four from a family in Cheshire who regularly attend the Chichester event. Justin Eggins of Chichester Runners was third.
Sam Francis was a clear winner of the women’s ten-miler by some seven minutes in a time of 1.12.41, followed home by Annabel Parker and Melanie Insall.
Organisers were pleased that nearly 90 runners completed the inaugural ten-miler, especially when there was also an increase in the size of the half marathon field.
Also new for 2016 was the three-leg relay run over the half-marathon course. Some 12 teams ran the race as a relay and the excitement and camaraderie which it generated was amazing and it will be back in the programme next year.
The winners were the Trail Trio from Fittleworth of Mari Dash, Liz Cooper and Maria Kowal in 1.31.12, followed by the Westgate Triathlon Juniors and the Threesome.
The number of Nordic walkers competing has increased significantly each year with more than 60 entering in 2016. The winner was Mathew Gibbs in 2.33.33, with Howard Ireland (second) and Claire Pearce (third, and first woman.)
The event is proving extremely popular with different Nordic Groups, largely down to the enthusiasm of local organiser Sylvia May who competed in this year’s event.
It was a day where praise, excitement, enjoyment and fulfilment were in abundance. For many competitors it was the course which gave them so much satisfaction. For the Chichester-based international charity Children on the Edge it was particularly pleasing to be able to see their charitable funds swelled by the runners’ efforts.
UK director Wilkes 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.” For the new organisers, Everyone Active it was satisfying to have such a splendid event after many months of hard work in the planning stage.
Organisers were grateful to main sponsors Montezuma’s Chocolates and Store Property, who along with other local businesses contributed so generously to the race.
At the end of the race there were many accolades about a highly-successful event. Organisers, runners, spectators and officials went home already thinking about the 2017 renewal on Sunday, October 8.
by Graham Jessop
What they said
Men’s HM winner James Baker said: “I’ll have another go next year. I’d like to keep the run going. It’s just an ideal route for me. I train on parts of the course. I’ve been running up Chalkpit Lane since I was about 16.
“It’s one of my favourite races of the year and one I target. Since my injuries have cleared up I’ve been aiming to get around it.
“I was about half a minute a mile slower thus year. I knew I wasn’t in shape to get the course record so I just aimed to win it. It’s been a frustrating year running with injury. It’s been mentally quite tough just doing exercise and rehab.
“As recently as two weeks ago I could only do four miles without any pain.
“We (Peter Concannon and I) were together for about four miles but he was knackered going up Chalkpit Lane so I just edged ahead and we went in separate directions. Conditions were perfect.”
Ten-miler winner Peter Concannon said: “I didn’t really fancy going all the way up the Trundle this year - I’m not really a cross-country man. I thought I’d leave James to his own devices,” Concannon said
“I really enjoyed the race. I was leading my race pretty much all the way. It’s a great addition to the half marathon race. It’s shorter with fewer hills!”
Women’s HM winner Anne Sydenham said: “It was hard but it was a good race. I’ve done it a few times and was second last year. I was trying to beat my time this year but it’s hard - you get older every year.
“Conditions were good – there was no wind and it was brilliant. There was a lot of support on the course.”
Children on the Edge UK director Ben Wilkes 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.”
Graham Jessop, from the organising team, said: “At the end of the race there were many accolades about a highly-successful event. Organisers, runners, spectators and officials went home already thinking about the 2017 renewal on Sunday, October 8.”
Don’t miss the Chichester Observer - out now - for a report, picture special and a full list of finishers and their times
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