VIDEO: Chi Priory 10k is one to remember in many ways

THEY wanted it to be special – and it certainly was.

Expectations were very high that the 25th Chichester Priory 10k was going to be one to remember.

The field soon after the race start / Picture by Kate Shemilt

The field soon after the race start / Picture by Kate Shemilt

And good fortune with the weather, five finishers inside 30 minutes and a record number of runners all contributed to a day to cherish.

All concerned were relieved to wake to a cold but dry Sunday morning – a far cry from the heavy rain and strong winds seen in Sussex the night before and witnessed again hours after the race.

Despite quite windy conditions, the race was a major success, showing why it is recognised nationwide as a top-quality road race and an important part of the English road-running calendar.

Strong winds on certain sections of the route prevented new course records, despite a very strong field. But five finishers inside half an hour showed the high standard of the elite section of the field.

The standard and depth of the race in previous years resulted in a best-ever turnout.

The number of finishers was 1,710 – the highest in the history of the race.

Many were delighted to achieve personal bests and some running for the first time commented on how much they had enjoyed the course and scenery – and on how well organised the race was.

The runners were an impressive sight as they streamed up College Lane from the start and it was a great spectacle as they wound their way along Connolly Road and into Graylingwell Park.

The race had a cracking early pace and it was evident the men’s race was going to be as predicted.

After a kilometre there were a group of 12 runners forcing the pace but the lead kept changing with John Beattie (Newham and Essex Beagles), Scott Overall (Blackheath and Bromley AC) and Phil Wylie (Cheltenham Harriers) taking turns at the front.

The group kept together until the top of Pook Lane when the fierce pace started to take its toll on some.

Pre-race favourite Paul Pollock of Kent AC, an Irish international, pulled away – but not by much. In a thrilling finish at the line he crossed in 29min 42sec, only a second ahead of Luke Caldwell (Dorking & Mole Valley) and Overall.

They were followed by Lee Merrien (Newham and Essex) and Kevin Seaward (St Malachy’s AC) breaking that 30-minute barrier.

A further five were under 31 minutes with Beattie, Chris Zabocki (Chichester Runners), 2014 winner Phil Wylie, Alex Wall Clarke (Southampton AC) and Joshua Grace (Aldershot, Farnham & D) finishing well.

The first 17 runners all finished within 31 minutes – the top 100 in 36 minutes.

The male 40-plus vet title went to Howard Bristow of Brighton & Hove. Stewart Gregory (Holme Pierrepont RC) was first men’s vet-50, Martyn West (Winchester), first man over 60 in an incredible time of 41.30 and Stubbington Green’s Michael Welland was the first vet-70.

In such a competitive field it was good to see three Chichester Runners finish so high in the results – Zablocki, an American international based locally, Peter Concannon in 25th and James Baker 31st.

The Chichester Observer-sponsored Ben Steppel memorial prize, in memory of our late sports editor, went to the first local under-23 man home – for the fourth year, that was Harry Leleu of Chichester Runners in 34.10.

The men’s team event had 89 teams from Hampshire, Kent, South London, Surrey and Sussex and Jersey Spartans from the Channel Islands.

Eventual team winners were Kent AC thanks to Pollock, John Gilbert and James Bowler, followed by Brighton & Hove with Chichester third.

The women’s race was also of a high standard and again the pre-race favourite, Louise Damen of Winchester, did not disappoint.

She had a fine tussle with Leigh Lattimore of Harrow AC, but won by one second in a time of 33.40. Although well known as an English cross-country international, she demonstrated admirably she is just at home on the road.

Third was Amy Clements, a debutant at Chichester, also from Kent AC, with Sussex’s Emma MacCready fourth.

Rebecca Moore of Worthing had to settle for fifth.

Once again Kath Bailey of Winchester took the women’s vet-over-40 prize followed by Sarah Kingston (Worthing).

The first vet-50 home was Clare Elms of Dulwich Runners, vet-60-plus winner was Ros Tabor of Dulwich; vet-70 Carol Killick.

The women’s team event had new champions – the Worthing team of MacCready, Moore and Kingston. Arena 80 were beaten into second with their team of Caroline Hoyte, Julie Briggs and Dani Tarleton, with Hailsham Harriers third and Dulwich Runners fourth.

The Colin Thorne memorial prize for the first local under-23 woman finisher went to Suzy Bennett, who finished in 50.13.

Proving the strength of the race field, the RunBritain rankings for 10k this year show the country’s top three men so far this year as three of the Chichester event’s top four.

In the women’s rankings, the Chichester first three are second, third and fourth in the national table.

Organisers presented the Henry Adams memorial prize to the person with the most memorable story or reason for running.

The winner was Mark Roberts. Despite his learning difficulties, he has started to run races in which he is very determined to overcome his problems. He and his family were particularly proud of his achievements in this year’s 10k. To mark the 25th anniversary of the contest, there were special prizes awarded in categories which recognised a high degree of loyalty to the event.

These went to Paul Whittaker of Southend AC and the more local foursome of Jane Harrop, Kath Bailey, Carol Palmer and James Baker.

Pride of place in the loyalty stakes went to Pine Grove man Michael Bevis, proud owner of 20 of the 25 race mugs that have been awarded. The Portfield Motor Group sponsored the anniversary prizes.

The race was again organised splendidly by the Rotary Club of Chichester Priory, who for the tenth year running had the same sponsors – Brooks, the international sportswear company. Wannops LLP solicitors and Henry Adams estate agents were other sponsors.

The starting party included Rotary vice-president Julian Moores and Chi District Council chairman Nick Thomas, a great supporter of local sport.

Awards were handed out at the prizegiving in the Chichester Festival Theatre.

There were many accolades about the organisation of this highly-successful event and as all the Rotarians, athletes, spectators and officials went home to chill out, they did so knowing they had been part of yet another successful 10k.

GRAHAM JESSOP

See next week’s Observer for news of a possible new route for next year.

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