Pennicott’s pace is more than plodding in Meon Valley

James Pennicott shone in the Meon Valley Plod
James Pennicott shone in the Meon Valley Plod

Chichester’s senior athletes have been active in a variety of events – including road running and off-road multi-terrain events.

Seven of the club’s braver runners tackled the Meon Valley Plod, which at 20.3 miles of difficult terrain is reckoned to be one of the most challenging events in the Hampshire and Sussex area.

James Pennicott was the first home for Chichester having mastered the mixture of hills and mud to finish fifth out of the 350 competitors in an excellent time of 2hr 33min 11sec.

Not far behind were the pair of Nick Casburn and Lee Neumann in 31st and 35th, both well under the 3hr barrier in 2.50.43 and 2.53.41.

The next two home also finished inside the top 100 with David Pike 58th in 3.03.51 and Colin Harley 83rd in 3.14.11.

And Mark Jennings in 204th and Terry Healy (208th) both dipped inside the 3hr 45min mark.

On the same weekend, David Knight came 36th in the Henfield nine-miler while Angela Carpenter broke her own best time for a half-marathon by recording 1hr 28min 3sec to be eighth woman home out of a combined field of nearly 2,000 runners at Tunbridge Wells.

Carpenter was in good company as the women’s race was won by international Liz Yelling, also winner of the recent Chichester 10k. This must have inspired Carpenter as she has subsequently broken her own 10k mark with a time of 39min 45sec in a Bournemouth race where she was beaten by another international member of the Yelling family, sister-in-law Hayley, now running under her married name of Higham.

The first weekend of March was notable for producing two Chichester winners in two contrasting events.

Just four days after his second place in the first Chichester Corporate Challenge, James Baker returned to Eastbourne, the scene of many previous triumphs, and was once again too good for the rest of the 1,200-strong field in the Eastbourne half marathon to win comfortably in 1hr 14min 18sec.

After the long climb to the top of Beachy Head and strong winds for much of the course, the sub 75-minute clocking was a sign that Baker has put his recent injury problems behind him in his preparation for April’s Brighton Marathon.

Not many athletes can claim to have won a race by more than half-an-hour but ultra endurance runner Lucy Hilton did just that in the recent Steyning Stinger Marathon, coming home in 3hr 30min with the next runner crossing the line in just under 4hr 3min.

What makes her achievement even more remarkable is that the Chichester athlete missed a marker at 19 miles and went on an unexpected two-mile detour before regaining the correct route.

This prevented Hilton from breaking her own course record of just over 3hr 20min and also deprived her of joining a select band of female athletes by winning the race outright as the first male runner came home in just under 3hr 22min.

Four other Chichester athletes completed the more modest but challenging half marathon, led by another of the club’s talented female athletes, Katherine Bond, who finished 44th out of the 220 entrants in 1.54.59, followed by Mark Jennings in 51st in 1.57.02 and Colin Harley in 54th in 1.57.27.

Lynn Harley was pleased to dip inside three hours in 203rd with 2.58.29.

Next week’s Observer will include full results, reports and pictures on the second Corporate Challenge race which took place last night (Wednesday).

PHIL BAKER