Baker leaves Hayling Billy rivals trailing

The start of the Hayling Billy 5 on Wednesday. Picture: Allan Hutchings  (141740-894)

The start of the Hayling Billy 5 on Wednesday. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141740-894)

Abi Parnell with race director Jeff Clark

Runners conquer Portchester Castle challenge

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James Baker set a blistering pace on his way to an emphatic Hayling Billy 5 success.

The Chichester athlete blasted clear of the field from the start and never looked back.

It was a dominant display as he secured the title for the sixth time.

Conditions were good and he finished the fast, flat, five-mile course in 26min 11sec.

Julian Manning, from Denmead Striders, was second with Victory’s rising-star Zack Lahlal third – a very strong performance from the teenager.

Victory also enjoyed success in the ladies’ event as Gemma Corbett crossed the line first and Jo Gilholm came in second.

It’s been a typically busy time for Baker, who clocked a season’s best 15.21 for 5,000m on the track on Saturday and then came third in the D-Day 10k on Sunday.

He was keen to test his legs out on Wednesday with a fast start and set a scorching pace in the opening mile as he ran 4.52.

From then, it was a case of holding on and not looking back.

Baker said: ‘I would have liked to have gone under 26 minutes but it was a good, hard run.

‘It’s a nice event, with a good course.

‘Julian Manning is always there, so you have to keep pushing.

‘I went out hard, so I could probably have done a quicker time if I had run it more evenly.

‘The first mile was four minutes, 52 seconds.

‘Then I had to see how it went from there. I slowed down but I kept it steady.

‘It was good for me to do the first two miles hard because I’m going for a course record at the Alice Holt parkrun on Saturday over 5k.’

Baker clearly relishes the Hayling Billy trail.

He has won on all six occasions he has entered.

And he has also finished first in the Hayling 10 every time that race has included the trail.

Baker said: ‘It’s the sixth time I have done the Hayling Billy 5 and I’ve now won six out of six.

‘It’s nice to remain unbeaten. I won it in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012.

‘In the Hayling 10 I’m unbeaten since they changed the course to include the Billy Trail.

‘There must be something about this trail that is ideal for me.’

The race proved a big success with a record number of entrants enjoying favourable weather.

It was a huge contrast to the stormy winds and rain that battered the runners in 2013.

Meanwhile, the athletics continues tomorrow with the Hampshire Schools Championships at the Mountbatten Centre.

The action starts on the track from 11am, with the final event of the competition scheduled for 5.20pm.

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