Aggleton snatches Plod crown from Manning

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The start of the Gosport Half Marathon race as James Baker, wearing 85, hits the front early on. Picture: Neil Marshall

Baker’s perfect timing with Gosport triumph

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Athletes undertook one of the most gruelling challenges on the running circuit in horrendous conditions at the 2013 Meon Valley Plod.

Driving wind and rain made for one of the toughest events in the race’s history, as a field of 317 took on the 21-mile route over hugely-difficult terrain.

Plenty failed to make it around the course organised by Portsmouth Joggers in what is regarded as one of toughest hilly events on the calendar.

Cardiff Harlequins’ Hugh Aggleton emerged as the race winner as he crossed the line in 2hr 41min 55sec.

Julian Manning, of Denmead Striders, was the long-term leader of the race before he was overhauled by Aggleton as he took on Butser Hill.

Manning, the defending champion, clocked a time of 2.42.30 to take second with Stubbington Green Runners’ Andy Simpson finishing third (2.46.41).

Karen Rushton was victorious in the women’s race in a time of 3.04.17.

Rushton was clear of Hardley Runners’ Sue Sleath (3.24.38) and Almost Runners’ Ingrid Harris (3.43.06).

Stubbington Green Runners took the men’s team title with Gosport Road Runners collecting the female crown.

Meon Valley Plod race director Alan Shons lauded the grit of those who took on the challenge.

He explained there has been impressive feedback from those who took part.

And he underlined the sense of achievement they can feel – even if they didn’t complete the course.

Shons said: ‘It’s a huge challenge – and it’s supposed to be.

‘This year was the toughest race we’ve had in 16 years with the weather. But people get across the line and ask “where do I sign up for next year?”.

‘It was blowing a gale and the rain was driving in sideways.

‘It was hard work for those who took part. The weather was nasty.

‘The sense of achievement people get from completing the race is immense. Respect to the people who finish it. In fact, credit if they only got half way around.

‘We’ve had a great response from the people who took part.

‘People say it’s the toughest run of their life and it’s an awesome day. That sums it up.’

Portsmouth Joggers, who organise the event, raised around £2,000 from the event with local charities set to benefit.

Clanfield Memorial Hall and scouts will receive funds thanks to the race as the club look to help in the local community.

Shons was pleased to see a healthy figure raised and heaped praise on the hardy marshals who braved the adverse weather to ensure the race went ahead.

‘It’s good we’ve raised some money and local groups will benefit because of that,’ he said.

‘We have to give a huge thanks to the marshals for allowing that to happen.

‘They stood there in the horrible weather for hours on end.

‘Without them the race simply wouldn’t take place.’