Portsmouth marathon bragging rights go to classy Gemma

Gemma Bragg won the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon. Picture: Malcolm Wells (143601-8873)
Gemma Bragg won the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon. Picture: Malcolm Wells (143601-8873)
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The biggest Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon yet proved a festive smash hit on Sunday.

Anthony Clark and Gemma Bragg wrapped up the victories, while a record total of 1,254 runners completed the event.

It was a cracking pre-Christmas occasion with plenty of fancy dress on show – including snowmen, elves and a variety of Santa suits.

The tricky course provides many challenges with off-road sections to negotiate, including the slippery muddy beach stretch in Eastney and the Hayling Billy Trail.

There is also the infamous Southsea wind to batter into the faces of the runners on the final section, from Eastney to the finish line on the seafront opposite the Pyramids Centre.

Clark, from Poole Runners, paced his race superbly to win in a time of 2hr 41min 33sec, with all the top-five finishers inside last year’s winning time.

John Stoddart secured second place with 2.43.59 and Nathan Montague came third in 2.44.52.

Ben Evans is the only runner who has completed Rob Piggott’s popular event in a quicker time, when he won the inaugural event in 2010 (2.40.46).

The ladies’ race on Sunday was won by Bragg, from Bournemouth AC, with a time of 3.09.42.

Bragg completed the 104-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc challenge in August and her training mileage clearly helped in Portsmouth as she set a new marathon personal best – no mean feat considering the nature of the course.

Bragg said: ‘I felt good all the way around.

‘I haven’t done the course before and I knew it was a bit off-road, so I surprised myself.

‘It’s the head wind as well in those last few miles that just knocks it out of you.

‘I don’t think I’ve come first before. It’s quite nice, I didn’t expect it at all. I’m very happy to get a personal best.’

Meanwhile, Phil Hoy, from Portsmouth Joggers, was the first local club runner home, with a time of 3.05.47.

The 54-year-old, from Clanfield, has now completed all five of the Portsmouth marathons and set his best time this year.

Hoy said: ‘I’m one of the few who has been here every year.

‘That’s the quickest I’ve ever done it and I’m over the moon.

‘I’ve been doing a lot of slow long runs for ultra races and it has given me a good marathon pace and the strength to carry on.’