Following weeks of training in this harshest of winters for many runners, the Brighton Marathon finally took centre stage.
Billed as the London Marathon by the sea, this year’s race recorded the highest number of finishers in its four-year history.
The event has grown in popularity and is now considered a perfect alternative to London. Although the weather was much warmer on the day, it suited the spectators more than the runners as their preparation hadn’t been done in higher temperatures.
Bognor-based ToneZone had 20 entries and for five of them, this was their first marathon.
Karen Harrison, in her 15th marathon, recorded her second-fastest marathon time, 3hr 30min, and was first home for the club. Louisa Proctor, running her first marathon, finished in 3.57. Proctor finished minutes ahead of her training partner Felicity Paton, whose PB beat by 20 minutes her last Brighton Marathon time.
Also running his first marathon was Gary Bushby, who finished in an impressive time of 3.36. Bushby finished second for the ToneZone men, just behind Jim Simmons. Simmons, who, in his ninth marathon, ran a PB of 3.35, knocking an astonishing 40 minutes off his previous PB.
Competition between the club’s runners was evident.
Chris Gallagher beat last year’s time by more than ten minutes, finishing third for the club’s men in 3.41. Veteran ultra-distance runner David Butler also recorded a PB with a great time of 3.47. Next through, returning from injury, was Gary Pidgeon finishing with a new PB.
Experienced Tony Hancock ran in the Blackpool marathon a week earlier in 3.35. He challenged himself to do the Brighton run and finished in 3.56.
Two ToneZone coaches, Stuart Thompson and Benita Milton, both recorded fantastic PBs. Thompson ran more than 20 minutes faster than his previous best while Milton completed a controlled steady marathon. PBs were also recorded by Grace Natoli and Joan Wooley.
Late entrant Charlotte Seaton had only a few weeks to prepare for this race. But she showed that with determination, it can be done.
Other first-time marathon runners Amanda Worne and Sarah Baker completed great races on this tough course.
Many of the club’s runners had participated in several races leading up to this big event.
In the Cranleigh 21-mile road race, ToneZone had seven runners challenged by snow and sub-zero temperatures. Steady pacing was the order of the day with most the club runners finishing within minutes of each other.
A freezing wind was also in evidence for the Worthing 20-mile road race, in which 11 ToneZoners took part.
Marius Vitauskas was the first man to finish for ToneZone in 2.25. Karen Harrison and Anna Enes finished joint first for the ladies in 2.38, a PB for Enes. Grace Natoli recorded a PB, finishing alongside of running partner Stuart Thompson.
In the Chichester Corporate Challenge, several ToneZone members improved times over the three races. Eleven were involved in the annual event, in which new young runners Louis Mahoney and Jack Penfold displaying outstanding performances.
In the London Marathon, three of the club’s Brighton Marathon runners, Karen Harrison, Ian Bayley and Chris Gallagher, along with several other club runners, will line up.
Brighton Marathon: Karen Harrison 3.30s, Jim Simmons 3.35, Gary Bushby 3.36, Chris Gallagher 3.41, David Butler 3.47, Gary Pidgeon 3.49, Ian Bayley 3.56, Tony Hancock 3.56, Louisa Proctor 3.57, Felicity Paton 4.04, Ian Culton 4.18, Stephen Goddard 4.22, Amanda Worne 4.38, Stuart Thompson 4.41, Jason Rae 4.43, Grace Natoli 4.48, Benita Milton 4.58, Charlotte Seaton 5.07, Joan Wooley 5.14, Sarah Baker 5.16.
Cranleigh 21: Ian Bayley 2.53, Chris Gallagher 3.03, Felicity Paton 3.06, Louisa Proctor 3.06, Colin Hiscock 3.10.
Cranleigh 15: Amanda Worne 2.33, Peter Chittenden 2.53.
Worthing 20: Marius Vitauskas 2.25, Gary Bushby 2.37, Karen Harrison 2.38, Anna Kari Enes 2.38, Ian Bayley 2.40, Felicity Paton 2.51, Colin Hiscock 2.03, Stuart Thompson 3.12, Grace Natoli 3.12, Benita Milton 3.41, Sarah Baker 3.41.
Meanwhile, nine Chichester Runners lined up with the record Brighton Marathon field in favourable conditions.
In the absence of James Baker and Martin Barwood, who both achieved top-20 placings in 2012, it was left to one of the club’s newest over-60 veteran runners, Dave Dorning, to lead the club home.
As was the case with the top Englishman to finish - Jon Pepper from Brighton in a fine 2.20 clocking - Dorning had not abandoned his speed training and had competed for the club over the two-mile lap in the Sussex relay championships two weeks earlier.
Going through 20 miles in 2hr 30min, Dorning kept battling to the end to record 3hr 21min 36sec.
Five more runners were inside the four-hour barrier with Colin Harley on 3.32.21, Ashley Spratt 3.33.23, Darren Knight 3.44.27,
Terry Healy 3.54.49 and Keith Akerman 3.58.46.
The remaining members of the squad were Felicity Paton 4.04.41, Carol Palmer 4.15.09 (at the age of 64), Dave Barty 4.34.46
Carla Wood 5.08.21 and Nigel McNestrie 5.52.02.
Read about the Chichester-based runner who was taking part in the bomb-hit Boston Marathon - in the Observer, out today