TOBY LAMBERT was the hero of the day as well over 1,600 runners enjoyed spring-like conditions for another memorable Chichester Priory 10k.
In its 24th year, the race proved as popular as ever – if not even more so – with fast times and a record number of runners completing what is now recognised nationwide as a top-quality race and an important part of the English road-running calendar.
There is always a risk the weather in February can put a dampener on the event – in recent years there have been worries over snow, ice or floods. But this year, there were no such problems.
The race went ahead with its usual efficiency and Sunday morning was cool and dry and a slight wind, with the sunny weather ensuring ideal running conditions.
See reports, more pictures and a full list of finishers and their times in the Observer - out now
And here’sLambert giving us his verdict on his win
The high standard and depth of the race over previous years resulted in a turnout of 1,655 starters.
Many of the field, whether elite, club or recreational runners, were delighted to achieve their personal bests and a number of first-time runners commented on how much they had enjoyed the course.
It took at least three minutes for runners to cross the start line, such was the turnout, and the runners were an extremely impressive sight as they streamed up College Lane and it was quite a spectacle as they wound their way along Connolly Road and into Graylingwell Park.
The race featured a number of runners capable of going under or close to the magical 30-minute mark for men. The race got off to such a cracking pace that the first kilometre was reached in under three minutes, the 2k marker in 5.48.
In the lead was two-time past winner Lambert, of Winchester & District AC. At this early stage only Paul Whittaker of Southend AC was able to stick to the pace and slowly he was hauled back into the pack.
Lambert had thrown down the gauntlet and his brave effort saw him go from strength to strength, passing each kilometre in less than three minutes, eventually coming home the clear winner in a time of 30.03.
The competition for the next places went on behind the winner for the final 8k and eventually it was Paolo Natali, running for the 3rd time at Chichester, now under the colours of New York AC, who achieved second place in 30.37, followed by Ben Cole of Tonbridge AC in 30.38 and Dan Thorne of Reading in 30.40.
Early challenger Whittaker had to settle for fifth in 30.42. Such was the competition behind Lambert that the next ten runners came home in a space of 17 seconds.
The first 20 male runners were all under 32 minutes, compared with 2014, when only 11 runners finished in less than 32 minutes. The same number this year achieved under 31 minutes.
The women’s race was also of a high standard, and was also a one-woman race with Elinor Kirk of Swansea Harriers, a student at Southampton University, winning in 33.57, 44 seconds ahead of her nearest rival Emma Macready of Worthing and District Harriers.
The procession of female runners was completed by Nicola Rogers of Colchester Harriers in 35.47, Sandra McDougall of Haslemere Border AC, Rebecca Moore of Worthing and District and Ellie Monks of Southampton AC.
The male 40-plus vets title went to Malcolm Muir of Ilford, while first men’s vet 50 home was Tony Tuohy of Dulwich Runners.
The vet 60 category was won by Nigel Gates, an ever-present medallist in the early days of the race and one of the select group to have gone under 30 minutes.
In such a competitive field and with the absence of local runner James Baker of Chichester Runners, the first local runner home was Peter Concannon in 33.42 for 36th position.
The Chichester Observer again sponsored the Ben Steppel Memorial Prize – named after our former sports editor, who died suddenly in 2007 – which goes to the first local under-23 man home. This year that was Harry Pink of Chichester Runners & AC in 37.53, winning the prize for the first time.
The men’s team event was won for the first time by Southampton AC, whose aggregate time of 1hr 32min 58sec was six minutes quicker than last year’s winners.
Their team consisted of Matthew Revier, Alex Wall-Clarke and Matthew Bennett. Herne Hill Harriers were second and Brighton and Hove third.
Chichester Runners, who, in addition to Peter Concannon, had Stephen Davy and Mike Houston in the scoring team, could manage only 15th this year.
A fantastic run by Clare Elms of Dulwich AC saw the vet 50 come home in seventh place in 36.24 followed by vet 40 runner Kathy Bailey from Winchester and District in 36.53. Chris Naylor of Arena 80 AC took first place in the vet 60 category.
In the women’s team event good packing by Worthing ensured they took the gold medal for the first time at Chichester. In addition to McCready and Moore, the team included Sarah Kingston.
It wasunusual not to see Arena 80 as the women’s winners – they had to settle for the silver in 2015, with Lewes AC in third place.
The Colin Thorne memorial prize for the first local under-23 woman finisher went to Susie Bennett in a time of 49.15.
For the second year the Henry Adams memorial prize was awarded to the person with the most memorable story or reason for running.
The winner was Ian Robertson, who had been ill for a few years and decided to take up running 12 months ago to speed up his recovery. He recently competed his first 5k and this was his debut over 10k. He was very pleased with his achievement and has set himself a goal of running a marathon.
The race was again organised by the Rotary Club of Chichester Priory, who had Brooks Sports, the international suppliers of sports clothing, as sponsor for the eighth year running. A new sponsor for 2015 were local architects firm John Brown Associates, while solicitors Wannops and estate agents Henry Adams were supporting sponsors.
All the awards were made at the traditional prizegiving event at the Chichester Festival Theatre. The presentation party included the president of the Rotary Club of Chichester Priory, the event’s organisers and representatives of the sponsors –who had also all been present at the race start.
Rotary district governor Doug Price, a member of Chichester Priory Rotary Club, presented some of the awards.
There were once again many accolades about the organisation of this highly-successful event.