It was another memorable day for organisers of the Chichester Half Marathon – and for winner James Baker.
The eighth staging of a race revived in 2012 proved a major success, with the number of entries continuing to grow but no one able to get the better of Baker, who has won it in each of those eight years.
Following a wet and windy Saturday, race day dawned crisp and sunny, a perfect autumn morning. Conditions helped the runners although the wind was blustery in places and the climb and descent of the Trundle needed careful negotiation with some areas slippery underfoot.
See scenes from the day in our video above - and don't miss today's Observer for full coverage including a list of finishers and their times from the half marathon, ten-mile race and three-person relay event.
The conditions meant Baker could not beat his own course record of 1hr 11min 52sec, but he was way ahead of the rest as he finished in 1.15.28.
In many ways the 2019 race ranks among the best. It saw the largest number of entrants taking to the streets – more than 900 runners crossing the finishing line in the half marathon, ten-miler and three-person relay.
Runners came from local clubs like Chichester Runners and Tone Zone, who had the largest contingents, and from Brighton through to Southampton and from Dorset, Surrey, Wiltshire, South and East London and Kent. Plenty of unattached runners took part.
Furthest to travel were entrants were from Lancashire and the north east and there were nearly 30 relay teams, an increase of a third on 2017, while more than 100 runners opted for the shorter ten-mile course.
The race was organised by local leisure providers Everyone Active in conjunction with Chichester-based charity Children on the Edge.
At 9am the runners set off from Westgate, outside the Chichester College race village. They streamed along West Street and East Street and across Oaklands Park and into the country to take in the Trundle Hill, returning to Chichester by Centurion Way. It was a tough and challenging 13.1 miles but rewarding too.
Race winner was Baker, who said: “I’m proud to have won eight out of eight races and my aim is to carry on and take ten titles. I’m quite happy with my time. I was aiming for a sub -74 minutes but the ground conditions in Chalk Pit Lane and West Dean Woods, where I am usually flying, made this impossible.
“I had people with me for the first few miles but I pulled away as we started the climb in Chalk Pit Lane. From there the gap kept growing.”
Second was Jacob Maddison from Bognor, who had previously finished ninth at Chichester, coming home in 1.22.47, some seven minutes behind Baker.
Third was Matt Jolly of Chichester, a fitness instructor from the Goodwood Health Club, who was also third last year. He said: “It was hot out there and it was tough. I was about a minute slower than last year but it’s a lovely course, well-run race and it’s for charity. I’ve not done a lot of running recently so to get third was great.”
Baker won the veteran-40 category ahead of Roger Norris and the vet 50 class was won by Christo Oosthuizen in 1.26.03 , six minutes quicker than the winner in this category last year.
The women’s race was extremely competitive and after a real battle Fay Cripps of Chichester Runners won in 1.30.59. She demonstrated the strength of the field by beating last year’s winning time by more than a minute.
She said: “I don’t know how I’ve managed it! It was a nice course, very well organised and the support along the way kept me going.”
Second was another first timer on the Chichester podium, Chichester’s Alice Sowden in 1.31.42, closely followed by previous winner Kari Mack of Tone Zone Runners, 14 seconds behind.
In the women’s V40 category Cripps and Mack took the first two places with Juliet Stallard of Tone Zone third in 1.34.20. Tracey Lloyd-Jones of Fareham Crusaders won the over 50 category with a time of 1.50.49.
A significant number of runners recorded personal bests and although there are now so many running events in the area, the half marathon had 764 finishers – an increase of 14 per cent on last year. There were also increased numbers in the relay and ten-miler.
The men’s team race was won by Chichester Runners as it has been for the previous seven years. Backing up Baker in the scoring trio were Ivan Prince and Matt de Lacy in an aggregate time of 4.27.47. Tone Zone were second, Chichester Westgate Triathlon Club third and Denmead Striders fourth.
In the women’s team race Tone Zone retained the title they took from Chichester Runners in 2018, their aggregate score 4:44.38. Tone Zone Mack, Stallard and Jessica Thomson won it for them and Lordshill Road Runners from Southampton were third.
The corporate team challenge was won by one of the major sponsors – Montezuma’s Chocolates.
Ten-miler winner was Richard Murphy in 1.03.38, three seconds quicker than last year’s winner, followed by Tom le Lievre of Chichester Runners in 1.04.29 with Dean Simmons third. Winner of the women’s race was Lucy Rochford in 1.18.50 followed by Rebecca Robertson and Clare Bartlett.
The three-leg relay again created plenty of camaraderie with nearly 30 trios competing. It was won by ‘George, Jeffery and Zippy’ from the Promenade Plodders, namely Flynn Jeffery, Georgina Cobby and Damon Jeffery. Failed Olympians were second and Running for Chocolate third.
A number of Nordic walker participated in the ten miler. The race is popular with numerous Nordic groups, largely down to the enthusiasm of the local organiser Sylvia May.
Ben Wilkes, executive director for Children on the Edge, said: “The race has been the biggest and in many ways the best to date. On a perfect day for running, the event got off on a high with the Fitjoy warm up which started the camaraderie which ensued for the next three hours.
“What was so pleasing was to see a steady stream of runners crossing the finish line, demonstrating just how inclusive the race is for both competitive and recreational runners.
“The half marathon is quite a challenging course and we were so pleased all the 900-plus runners came home safely. They loved the goody bags (courtesy of Covers), the white chocolate drops from Montezuma’s, the fruit bags from Natures Way and bottled water from South Downs, not to mention the other local businesses which help make the event so successful.
“The race has maintained its popularity and a significant number of runners get sponsored for Children on the Edge, through our Run for Refugees campaign. Together with the net surplus from the event, this makes a huge contribution to our work and we are really grateful for the local support we receive.The fruits of this event help us to protect some of the most vulnerable children around the world.”
Stuart Mills, from Everyone Active, said: “It was great to receive so many accolades for a fantastic event. One particular aspect which gives us much pleasure is that there is just as much enjoyment from the event for all abilities from the top runners to the first timers.
“There is an amazing community feeling about the race. The event has now caught the imagination of many people in Chichester and there was great support not only at the Trundle but at West Dean, Binderton, Mid Lavant and Centurion Way.”
Main sponsors Montezuma’s and Store Property were thanked, along with other local businesses, as organisers – andthat man Baker – start to think about the 2020 race.