The latest West Sussex Fun Run League race – held at Lancing – had special significance for the winner in particular and for his club, Chichester Runners.
The Steepdown Challenge is aptly named as it is one of the most challenging of the 17 events in the West Sussex Fun Run League calendar.
Starting and finishing at the Lancing Manor Leisure Centre, the runners make their way high on to the Sussex Downs in the five-miles course before the sharp descent to the finish.
Exactly 20 years ago a 20-year-old James Baker was first across the line at the start of his amazing career as a senior athlete which has since seem him head the field in well over 700 races over a range of distances from 400m to the marathon and over road, track, footpaths and hills.
This year’s race was a repeat of the 1997 event with Baker much too good for the rest of the field of 350 runners, coming home in 27min 54sec, a full two minutes clear of the runner up who was only two years old in Baker’s triumph 20 years ago.
Baker was followed home by another dozen members of the club, with improving Claudia Milburn next home in 83rd place overall and a fine 12th in the women’s field.
She was followed by Tom Blaylock 101st, Kevin Lockyear 103rd, Tony Cooley 119th, Jan Hill 126th, Nadia Anderson 128th (22nd female), Amanda Godfrey 137th (25th F), Elizabeth Robinson 147th (32nd F), Peter Anderson 181st, Tracy Lockyear 194th (52nd F), Jill Renson 223rd (70th F) and Sue Baker 229th (74th F).
The final race for 2017 in the league is this Sunday with the aptly-named Gunpowder Trot at Denne Park, Horsham. Full details are on the West Sussex Fun Run League website.
Chichester had two of its female members lead the rest home in Saturday’s parkruns.
Established senior Rebecca Moore took time off from her doctor’s duties to cross the line at Poole in a speedy 16min 54sec while, closer to home, 13-year-old Olivia Toms was first female at the Oaklands Park run in Chichester but led all the men home as well.
She was just outside her best time of 19 minutes but conditions underfoot were not ideal for fast times, making the performance all the more impressive.
On Sunday another two Chichester Runners members were the first two home in the junior parkrun in Priory Park, Chichester, with Logan Cooper finishing in front of Rose Potter.
Following a successful introductory session last Sunday, Chichester’s juniors will be in action this coming Sunday (Nov 5) in the first Sussex Sportshall league fixture of the season at the usual venue of Tanbridge House School near Broadbridge Heath, Horsham.
There will be track-and-field action for three age groups – under-11 (school Years 5 & 6), under-13 (school Years 7 & 8) and under-15 (school Years 9 & 10).
The emphasis will be mainly on sprinting speed on the track with a stamina-sapping six-lap race for the endurance athletes.
In the field event programme there will be a mixture of jumping ability, agility in events such as the speed bounce plus strength in the shot putt.
Competition is certain to be fierce with top Sussex clubs Crawley, Brighton, Horsham and Haywards Heath also in action. The match starts at 2pm – watch out for a report in the Observer.