Baker runs rival close at Barns Green

Runner-up James Baker, winner Neil Boniface and third-placed James Turner / Picture by Derek Martin
Runner-up James Baker, winner Neil Boniface and third-placed James Turner / Picture by Derek Martin

Chichester kept up their fine record in the Barns Green Half Marathon by fielding two finishers in the top four with another three inside the top 32 in a field of more than 1,000 finishers.

This year’s event also hosted the Sussex Half Marathon Championships for 2018 and it was two veteran runners who led the rest home.

Winning in 70min 23sec was former Horsham runner Neil Boniface, who has recently moved to Crawley AC, with Chichester’s James Baker hot on his heels for much of the race finishing runner-up in 72.30, another fine time for the challenging, undulating course around the country lanes of West Sussex.

Baker did well to demote Brighton’s James Turner into third and next over the line was Chichester’s second runner – an excellent run from Chris Bird in 74.32, nearly two minutes ahead of the next athlete home.

Three more Chichester runners were closely bunched in a group not far behind the top 20. Justin Eggins finished 28th in 85.06 followed one place later by Graham Woodward in 85.14 with Seth Wise 32nd in 85.24.

Meanwhile, one of the south’s most iconic races celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Butser Hill Race climbs to the 889m highest point on the South Downs and pre-dates both the London Marathon and the Great South Run as one of the first mass participation races in the south of England.

Chichester has provided many winners of the event but James Baker this year celebrated his 11th victory in the event. The 41-year-old negotiated the three steep inclines over the five-mile course to cruise home in 33min 33sec, exactly 90 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, fellow veteran Julian

Manning of Denmead Striders, the pair leading home a field of more than 500.

Chichester also had two of the junior winners. Logan Cooper, one of the club’s best under-13s, was first Year 8 home and Joe McLarnon romped home ahead of the Year 9 field.

West Sussex Fun Run League

The popular West Sussex Fun Run League is back in full swing with two races in the past two weeks. In each case Chichester have finished high in the standings of the 17 competing clubs in the league with a fourth and fifth despite fielding fewer than some of the other clubs.

In the Tilgate 5 Jason Snow led Chichester home in 34th place but it was three of the club’s top women who were most responsible for the good points score to enable the club to finish fifth with all three scoring maximum ten points for finishing in the top 20 women.

Emma Hughes had another good run in sixth place and was followed by Helen Dean in tenth and Sarah Morris in 11th.

A week later another large field gathered for the Windlesham Run with good packing from Chichester’s top four home. Dan Busher led the way in 41st followed by Mike Moorcroft 44th, Emma Hughes 45th overall (seventh woman) and David Pike 46th, instrumental in lifting the club to fourth in the team standings.

* All eyes will be on Goodwood Country Park this Saturday for the f Sussex Cross Country Relays.

Host club Chichester Runners are anticipating another good entry from clubs across Sussex after last year’s record number of more than 150 teams across the age groups.

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The athletes will have their eye on team placings and on this first opportunity to show early-season form to impress Sussex selectors for representative honours later in the season.

There is certain to be strong opposition from the two Brighton clubs, Crawley, Hastings and Lewes, with improving Haywards Heath and Eastbourne also likely to make an impact.

Chichester’s prospects should also not be discounted with the under-15 girls and under-13 boys on good form in the junior age groups.

The senior men’s and women’s A teams have the youngest average ages in the club’s history with several under-20s having their chance to compete for the seniors for the first time.

All veteran age groups are catered for and are guaranteed to be fiercely contested. Team medals will be up for grabs in all age groups from under-13s to seniors and veterans.

There will be an invitation under-11 race for school Years 5 and 6 at 11.45am, just before the main programme. The courses are excellent for spectator viewing with parking opposite Goodwood racecourse.