Race is on to make Chichester half marathon a winner

Can James Baker become a local winner of the Chichester half marathon?
Can James Baker become a local winner of the Chichester half marathon?

The newest addition to the local athletics calendar is only a few days away.

Some 25 years after the first Chichester Observer Centenary Half Marathon comes the return of a new half marathon but with a completely different course and under new management.

It is very different because the 2012 event really is multi-terrain, not a road race, and is being managed by Chichester District Council in conjunction with the local charity Children on the Edge (COTE).

For the council the race is one of many initiatives designed to build on the momentum of the Olympics and encourage participation in healthy activities.

It will support COTE, a Chichester-based charity that helps some of the most vulnerable children in the world. The event has local sponsors in Montezuma’s, Store Property and Covers.

Sunday’s race will start at 9am from Chichester College and will take in the city centre and the Lavant and Goodwood countryside.

The race has a good mixture of road, footpaths, cycle tracks and bridleways over chalk, flint, downland grass, fields with heavy mud – real cross country. It is challenging because of the varying terrains and the steep ascents and descents.

The course starts in Westgate and travels easterly along West and East Street to Eastgate Square, where it follows the City walls round to North Street, before the runners make their way across Oaklands Park, towards the rugby club then out through Summersdale and Fordwater into East Lavant village.

Stunning downland scenery provides the backdrop for the runners to tackle Chalkpit Lane before climbing up to the Trundle from Fiveways. At the top, runners complete a circuit where they will experience stunning views.

Running back to Fiveways they will cross over for a steady downhill two-mile descent into West Dean from where the route picks up the Lavant Valley, returning to Chichester along the Centurion Way cycle route and finishing in the rear College car park.

The race limit of 500 runners has been reached and it will not be possible to enter on the day. Many runners are from local clubs, from Brighton to Southampton, but many are unattached. Sussex and Hampshire are well represented with representation from Wiltshire, Surrey, south London and Hertfordshire – and even Nottingham.

James Baker of Chichester Runners was one of the first to enter. He has been the first local man home in the Chichester Priory 10k for many years as well as in many other local races and it is good to see him again taking on the longer distance.

The organisers are expecting the winning time to be between 70 and 75 minutes but the race is open to runners of all abilities and will be fully marshalled for more than double this time.

Further information is available at www.chichester.gov.uk

Coverage will feature in next week’s Chichester Observer. It is hoped the people of Chichester will take to the streets and lanes along the route to encourage the runners.

Children on the Edge spokesman Euan Clarke said: “In this era of disconnected individuals and dislocated communities, it is wonderful to see the emergence of a real community event.

“Many recognised local athletes are participating, but the multi-terrain course is easily accessible to the amateur enthusiast because it embraces the historic centre of Chichester, as well as unrivalled views of West Sussex countryside and coast from the Trundle.

“A specially-created village in the car park at Chichester College by First Steps Nursery will act as focus for the start and finish of the race and we will provide refreshments there, as well as to host stalls belonging to our generous sponsors.

“Phil Packer, war veteran and inspirational charity sponsor, will wave a starting flag to begin the half marathon.

“The intimate nature of the Chichester Half Marathon reflects the ethos and spirit of St Richard, not only by celebrating the city of Chichester but also by raising funds for deprived children living at the margins of society.”

For those unable to come and cheer the runners, donations are most welcome and details of how to do this can be found at www.childrenontheedge.org or on 01243 538530.

GRAHAM JESSOP & PHIL HEWITT