There’s something about the Bognor Prom 10k that puts a smile on the face of everyone involved in it in any way.
You don’t have to win to enjoy the occasion – although Chichester ace James Baker had one of the broadest grins of all after claiming the 25th anniversary race on Sunday.
You don’t even have to be running, though finishing the fast, flat course, which many people did in personal-best times, is very satisfying.
It’s fair to say that if Bognor is the sunshine capital of the UK, then the town’s Prom 10k is the feelgood event of the year. Even if the sun didn’t shine quite as brightly this year.
The spectators enjoyed it – the stewards enjoyed it.
The junior fun runners loved it – especially this year, when they started and finished at the same spot in Silverston Avenue as those in the main race.
And the blind, partially-sighted and wheelchair racers – the latter group given their own Bognor Prom race this year for the first time – were delighted by the recognition they got.
See the Observer - out now - for a report, photos and a full list of finishers and their times - and see some more footage from race day, above
Video of all the starters
Organisers delighted - plus see video of the junior fun run start
Winner Baker makes it 889 victories
Picture special part one
Picture special part two
Tone Zone turnout is a triumph
The 10k has gone from strength to strength in recent times – growing from the solid foundations it was given by previous organisers the Rotary Club of Bognor Hotham and now enjoying an even greater lease of life under the management of the local Tone Zone Runners.
This year a new record number of runners – 1,864 – took part, remarkable when you think that the inaugural race back in the mid-1980s drew just a few hundred.
Although the main race didn’t start until 10.30am, the participants and the crowds were out early to watch the 1.5k junior race, the warm-up in West Park and the early start for the wheelchair racers and one blind athlete who got round the course with his guide runner.
There was a party atmopshere across the race village as food vans, athletics club tents and other outlets all welcomed a steady stream of visitors.
There was a long queue to park at one point, making a few runners late – an issue the organisers will look at next year.
The junior race, involving 195 youngsters, was won by Chichester Runners’ Cerys Dickinson, less than 24 hours after she’d won the 800m at a junior league match in Winchester.
Excitement grew as the race start loomed and as town crier Jane Smith and Bognor mayor Phil Woodall – both of whom fully entered into the spirit of the day – set the masses on the way it was clear who the leaders were going to be.
No-one was too surprised when the lead bike returned to the finish half an hour later closely purused by Baker, winning in 33min 25sec, only four seconds ahead of fellow Chi athlete Will Boutwood.
Baker told us: “It went really well. I led from start to finish and just stayed strong all the way.
“I was out on my own all the way but I didn’t realise I had Will Boutwood in second and he was coming back at me at the end.
“I thought I had a bigger lead – someone said 300m at one point – so I probably chilled out a little bit too much.”
Baker won the Bognor race in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and added: “I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest winner of the race now.
“I’m just motivated to win as many races as possible - that’s my main motivation. I want to win 1000 races and I’m up to 889 now, that’s since 1994.”
Baker praised the organisation of the Prom race.
“It’s always one of the best races to come back to and it’s only five miles from my house. I’ve done every one since 1997 so I’ve nearly done all 25.”
Worthing’s Jamie Corbett was third, Chichester’s Mike Houston fourth.
The women’s race went to Helen Buller of Worthing Harriers in 38.00, ahead of Emma Navesey 16 seconds back.
A total of 45 finished inside 40 minutes.
Delighted with the day’s success was race director Jude Bazeley, who thanked the huge team of volunteers who made the event tick and said of the race: “It’s grown really well over the years.
“We’ve increased our social media presence and that has really helped. And we’ve had amazing input from our sponsors and partners and through local businesses and the Rotary Club.
“Fine weather always seems to be with us and that certainly helps.
“This year we changed to fun run so the start and finish is at the same spot as the main race. There’s a great family presence for that.
“The wheelchair race is a new thing too. Amanda Worne has been a Tone Zone Runner for a long time and has pushed that side of things.
“Inclusivity is really important to Tone Zone and to me. We would hope the wheelchair element would really grow.”