Five years on from the day the Chichester Half Marathon was revived in a new format, a record number of people on the start line showed how the event has gone from strength to strength.
Sunday’s weather was just right and the atmosphere in the race village and around the course surpassed the previous five years.
In many ways 2017 was the best ever, featuring the largest number of entrants – a shade over 900 – taking to the streets of Chichester and the countryside of Lavant, Goodwood and West Dean.
The race was delivered by Everyone Active in conjunction with the local-based charity Children on the Edge.
Such was the success of 2016 that this year’s event drew entries from all the south’s well-known, local running clubs plus entrants from Cheshire, Lancashire and Humberside. The largest club contingents came from Chichester Runners and Bognor’s Tone Zone Runners.
At 9am sharp, the field were sent on their way from Chichester College, whose principal Shelagh Legrave was again a participant.
The starting party included Mayor of Chichester cllr Peter Evans, district council chairman cllr Elizabeth Hamilton and Ben Wilkes, head of UK services for COTE.
The runners streamed quickly along West Street and East Street, across Oaklands Park and out to the country to take in the Trundle Hill, returning to Chichester by Centurion Way.
It was a tough, challenging 13.1 miles, but so rewarding.
In addition to more than 750 half-marathon athletes, there were 20 relay teams – a third up on 2016 – while just short of 100 runners opted for the shorter ten-mile course.
Winner for the sixth year running was Chichester Runners star James Baker in an impressive time of 1hr 12min 46sec. Now over 40, Baker was less than a minute off the course record of 1.11.52 he set himself in 2015.
His closest rival was Chi Runners member Will Boutwood in 1.16.47 – and he believes he will give Baker a much sterner test next year.
Third was Oli Murphy in 1.21.08. The veteran men’s titles were taken by Roy Sievers, Steven Hawkswell and Bob Petland.
The women’s race, relatively speaking, was much closer but Ali Guihen, of Brighton and Hove AC, won in 1.31.08 on her course debut.
Second was Fay Cripps, another Chichester athlete who’s no stranger to podium places, in 1.31.46. Third in 1.35.29 was Penny Brook.
There was good competition in the female vet-40 category which was eventually won by Kari Mack, of Tone Zone, a previous winner of the Chichester Half Marathon, in 1.36.38.
The other women’s vet winners were Tamara Lake and Joan Lennon.
There were 340 finishers in under the two-hour mark (compared to 300 in 2015 and 330 in 2016) and 760 completed the half marathon course, another record for the event – beating 750 in 2016.
The men’s team race was, not surprisingly, won by Chichester Runners, with Wallasey AC and Tone Zone behind them.
The women’s team event was a reversal of the 2016 result, with Tone Zone beating Chichester Runners into second place.
The corporate team challenge was won by Bognor-based REMCO, who included Adam Wise, Christopher Millett and David Ayling.
They were followed home by the Rolls Royce Motor Company, Folling Express and Montezumas.
The ten-mile race was won by Mark Stevens in 1.02.46 followed by Hamish Roper in 1.04.22. Third was Samantha Francis in a splendid time of 1.13.41, repeating her women’s victory in the inaugural ten-miler and finishing ten minutes ahead of the next lady.
The three-leg relay was run over the half marathon course. Some 20 teams finished.
As last year, the excitement and camaraderie which this event generated was amazing.
It was won by Conrads Lads, followed by 3 Men and a Hill, with Promenade Plodders third.
The winning time of 1.19.47 was 12 minutes quicker than last year’s top time, with the 2016 high mark also beaten by this year’s runners-up.
The winning team composed Chichester youngsters Ben Morton, Leo Stallard and Ethan Hartley and the second team comprised Keith Akerman, Graham Woodward and Justin Eggins.
Organisers again welcomed a number of Nordic walkers to the event, largely down to the enthusiasm of local organiser Sylvia May.
She said: “Thirty Nordic walkers completed the race and Chichester’s Howard Ireland and Derek Norden came in first and second, with Alison Page, of Littlehampton, third. We want to remain part of the event and will talk to the event organisers on a few ideas we have.”
Race director Graham Jessop said the event had been a huge success.
“It was a day where praise, excitement, enjoyment and fulfilment were in abundance,” he said. “For many competitors it was a course that gave them so much satisfaction. For Chichester-based international charity Children on the Edge it was pleasing to see their charitable funds swelled by the runners’ efforts.
“For Everyone Active, deliverers of the event, it was satisfying to have a splendid day after many months of hard work planning. We were grateful to main sponsors Montezuma’s Chocolates and Store Property, along with other supporting businesses.
“All involved went home with a determination to be back with a bigger and even more spectacular event on Sunday, October 7, 2018.”
Ben Wilkes, executive director of Children on the Edge, said: “It was amazing to see our local community come together for a fantastic race and to support our projects in such a positive way.”