Chi Half is here to stay - 2015 race proves it

IN 2012, the Chichester Half Marathon was revived in a different, multi-terrain format, not a road race. No-one could be quite sure how it would be received by runners.

Well, three years later, a record field proved evidence that the new event has bene a major success - and is surely here to stay.

Sunday saw the staging of this event for the fourth year in weather perfect for runners, organisers and spectators and the atmosphere generated surpassed that experienced at the previous three.

This year also saw the largest number of entrants taking to the streets of Chichester and out into the neighbouring countryside of Lavant, Goodwood and West Dean.

The new half marathon is managed by the Chichester District Council in conjunction with the locally-based charity Children on the Edge (COTE). Such was the success of the 2014 event this year’s race was fully subscribed with runners coming from well-known local running clubs from Brighton through to Southampton – but just as many entrants were unattached.

Sussex and Hampshire were well represented together with Dorset, Surrey, London and Kent – and the furthest entrants were from Cheshire and Humberside. The largest club contingents came from Chichester Runners and the Bognor Tone Zone Runners.

The first four home - winner James Baker is second from the left / Picture by Kate Shemilt

The first four home - winner James Baker is second from the left / Picture by Kate Shemilt

See our video of the whole field at the start

See James Baker and his closest rivals cross the line

Hear what James Baker had to say about his win

See Cassie Thorp talking about his win in the women’s race

The runners looked a splendid sight as they streamed along West Street and East Street and across Oaklands Park and out in to the country to take in the Trundle Hill and returned to Chichester by Centurion Way.

See the Sussex By Air Aerial Filimng video of the race here

At 9am the runners were sent on their way from Chichester College, whose principal Shelagh Legrave, was again a participant in the event - despite having taken part in a sponsored sleepout at the Cathedral the previous night.

The starting party included Sally Taylor of BBC’s South Today, Councillor Nick Thomas, the new chairman of Chichester District Council, Ben Wilkes, head of UK Services for COTE, and Mark Ponsford of Krowmark, one of the race trophy sponsors.

The runners looked a splendid sight as they streamed along West Street and East Street and across Oaklands Park and out in to the country to take in the Trundle Hill and returned to Chichester by Centurion Way. It was a tough and challenging 13.1 miles – but most rewarding for all involved.

The race winner, for the fourth year running, with a new course record of 1hr 11min 52 sec, some 30 seconds faster than his time in 2013, was popular Chichester Runners member James Baker.

He held the lead from the start and his position as race winner was never in doubt after he made a significant break in Summersdale at two miles. Baker was absolutely delighted with his performance - those watching highly impressed.

In second place, also from Chichester Runners, was Peter Concannon, not normally a half marathon runner, in a time of 1.18.28. He was nearly two minutes quicker than Graham Russ of iRun who was also the first veteran-40 home in 1.20.08.

In the same vet category was Richard Howell in 1.28.18 and third Peter Lee of Tone Zone in 1.29.09. In the senior event, Christopher West was third, Arnold Rogers fourth and Hamish Roper fifth.

There were also good runs in the other vet categories, where Brian Canfield of Horsham Joggers won the vet-50 category in 1.30.35 and Peter Cross of Belgrave Harriers won the vet-60 in 1.40.37. Vet-70 winner was David Crook of Rotary Runners, a regular rronman competitor, in 1.55.

The women’s race was a much closer affair but in the end it was Cassie Thorp, in 1.29.52, who took first. Thorp is no stranger to races in Chichester but was returning to racing after a break of a few years. She was formerly coached by British international and athletics stalwart, the late Gerry North.

In second place in a time of 1.33.25 was Anne Sydenham of Chichester Runners and third place in 1.37.18 was Naomi Wyatt of Reigate Priory AC.

Sydenham was also the first vet 40 home. There was close competition for the vet places with Joanna Curtis of Winchester AC emerging as first home in the 50-59 category in 1.42.42 ahead of the second vet 40-49, Sarah Loy, in 1.43.08 followed closely by third vet Kate Buchan.

The winner of the vet-60 category was Virginia Collins of Totton Runners, who narrowly failed to beat the two-hour mark by some 50 seconds.

In all, there were more than 300 finishing in less than two hours – and 734 runners completed the course, another record for the event.

The men’s team race was, not surprisingly, won by Chichester Runners, followed by Tone Zone with the women’s team race replicating these positions. Many other clubs had complete teams but special mention should go to the Brighton Women’s Running Club, whose support of the event has increased each year and in 2015 numbered 14 runners.

New for 2015 was the King and Queen of the Hill challenge - a competition to see who was the quickest climber of the Trundle between two points.

King of the Hill was Adam Whitmee of Worthing Striders some five seconds ahead of James Baker in 1min 32sec.

Queen of the Hill was Sydenham in 2.04, seven seconds ahead of Naomi Wyatt. The trophy was sponsored by local sports shop i-Run.

Another new venture was the Krowmark Trophy, sponsored by the Bognor-based manufacturer and leading supplier of workwear and uniforms. The trophy and cheque were won by Chichester Runners, the first team to have three men and three women home with, again Tone Zone second.

The Works Trophy, sponsored by accountancy firm Evans Weir, was won by the team from Chichester District Council by a small margin of six minutes over the team from Mercer. The CDC team comprised Sam Golder, Ian Baker and Will Christian.

It was a day where praise, enjoyment and fulfilment were in abundance. For many of the competitors it was the course which gave them so much satisfaction. For the Chichester-based international charity Children on the Edge it was particularly pleasing to be able to see their charitable funds swelled by the runners’ efforts.

Wilkes, of COTE, said: “Our charity has a global reach and helps some of the most vulnerable children in the world, so it was amazing to see our local community come together not only for a fantastic race, but to support our projects in such a positive way.”

For the council it was satisfying to have such a splendid event after many months of hard work in the planning stage. They were all grateful to the the main sponsors Montezuma’s Chocolates and Store Property, who along with other local businesses contributed so generously to the race.

At the end of the race there were many accolades about the organisation of this highly-successful event. Organisers, runners, spectators and officials went home determined to be back in 2016 with a bigger and even more spectacular event. October 9, 2016 – make a note in the diary!

GRAHAM JESSOP

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