First winner and Commonwealth champion sign up for Chichester races series

There will be two nice doses of nostalgia when this year’s Chichester Corporate Challenge begins its 28th year next Wednesday (Feb 27) evening.

Friday, 22nd February 2019, 1:36 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 1:40 pm
Keith Toop (second from left) and his winning Corporate Challenge team at Waitrose in 2003

In the first ever race in 1992, the individual winner was Keith Toop, who led his Waitrose squad to team victory. Toop retained his individual title in the following year, then ten years later led a new version of the Waitrose team to another team victory.

He has been working out of the area for several years but a return to the Chichester branch has prompted him to enter the 2019 version.

While not expecting to be able to replicate his personal best of 13min 16sec, one of the fastest ever over the 4500m four-lap course, the 55-year-old has kept in good shape and will be out to prove he is a match for his younger team-mates.

Whether the Waitrose squad can be a match for the top corporate teams of recent years is a matter to be seen but the organisers of the event are delighted to see them back in action 27 years after competing for the first time.

Another surprise entrant, for the first time since 2008, is former Commonwealth Games 1500m champion Michael East, who has decided to join in with the three other members of his family, his wife Claire and two daughters, who are also among this year’s entries.

East, now just into his 40s, will be able to give a good account of himself and his participation will bring back memories of his run 13 years ago when he scorched round the senior course in an amazing 12min 39sec, a record which stood for ten years until American doctor Chris Zablocki shaved a single second from it in 2016.

This year’s Corporate Challenge race nights take place next Wednesday and on March 13 and 27. The action begins in North Street at 6.30pm and spectators are welcome.

The Challenge races have always attracted experienced runners and relative newcomers to the sport and a good example of the latter category is Chichester Runners’ Foundations team.

With most members coming from a beginners’ group, the Foundations have gone from strength to strength under the guidance of coaches Vicky Balandis and Mark Ring.

Such has been their progress that 11 of their number tackled the recent Portsmouth Coastal half marathon with Balandis leading her team-mates home in a highly impressive 1.49.10, easily a personal best and a huge achievement from someone who would have had difficulty running for even five minutes a few years ago.

Many of the other ten runners also set personal-best times with Jo Brinning next in 1.52.57 followed by Trevor Baker 1.54.30; Emily Bye 1.54.34; Jane Taylor 2.03.21; Simon Thompson 2.11.24; Sarah Freeman-Smith 2.24.25; Helen Wilkins 2.24.26; Claire Solliss 2.26.29; Claire Snow 2.31.40; Clare Boxall 2.46.39.

Sussex Sportshall League

A team of eight athletes from Chichester competed in the final Sussex Sportshall event of the winter at Tanbridge House School recording several winning performances.

Once again the under-11 boys’ squad caught the eye by notching a relay win at the end of the match to keep up their unbeaten record of the season. James Taylor was again too good for the rest in the two-lap sprint A race while Sam Cato was just edged into second in an exciting B race.

With the other two members, Henry Court and Ethan Cooper, having set good times in the non-scoring individual races, the quartet were confident going into the relay but had to be at their best as they were pushed all the way by strong teams from both Brighton and Horsham, who were second and third respectively.

In the girls’ events under-15 Fleur Hollyer, in her last Sussex League match before going into the under-17s next season, Hollyer had set her sights on the speed jump record of 87, currently shared by three athletes. After one of her best performances at this gruelling event, the Chichester athlete fell just one short with a personal best and club record of 86 jumps.

Earlier Hollyer had shown good form in the two-lap sprint and long jump while there was also success for the under-13 girls with Grace Bishop recording a win in the vertical jump.

Bishop also tackled the six-lap race with Amelie McGurk in the four-lap and the two were joined by Lucy Hollyer in picking up useful points in triple jump, shot and sped bounce.

Half marathon news

After his recent good run in the Chichester 10k, Chris Bird used his speed and endurance in the Barcelona Half Marathon which this year boasted one of the strongest fields in Europe.

His 77th position was rewarded with a new personal best of 69min 23sec for the 13.1 miles.

In the same race Chichester club-mate Justin Eggins also recorded his best ever time of 1 hour 20 minutes 17 seconds. Closer to home a group of 8 Chichester Runners lined up for the Worthing Half Marathon held in dry but windy conditions.

University student Joe Godwood was first home in 1.19 for 20th place out of the large field of more than 1,400 finishers. Also making the top 100 was Seth Wise, 37th in 1.22, followed by another Chi Uni student Alice Wight in 94th overall in 1.27, an impressive fourth lady to finish.

Marcus Haammerton led the rest in 209th in 1.35 followed by Kate Stillwell 401st in 1.43; Colin Entiknapp 402nd in 1.43, Nadia Anderson 409th also in 1.43 and Paul Ford 473rd in 1.46.