Chichester athletes rack up miles across South Downs

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Having to face a full range of weather conditions and battle strong winds throughout, the three Chichester teams acquitted themselves with much credit in the annual 100-mile South Downs Relay.

The famous long-distance footpath is more usually tackled by groups of walkers taking up to a week to cover the distance.

But once a year teams from all over the south assemble from 6am at Beachy Head to aim to arrive at Winchester by the evening.

The best-placed Chichester team at the finish were the women’s team, who did remarkably well to finish with a bronze medal after having to bring in a number of reserves.

This meant extra training for the replacements but more importantly needed careful reconnoitring of the various stages as it is very easy for competitors running at speed to miss the correct path – as did happen to more than one team.

The team were led from the front by Jane Harrop with faster times than when she was part of Chichester’s winning team from 2011.

She was well supported by Helen Pattinson, Sue Barty, Tracy Jayant, Amanda Godfrey and Becky Froome to reach the finish in a time of 13hr 43min 6sec just after 8pm, having opted for a 6.30am start.

Deciding not to enter a separate veterans’ team this year, Chichester’s men instead fielded an A and a B team.

With stalwarts of previous campaigns Dave Dorning and Dave Worcester and two more over-50s, Tom Blaylock and Terry Healy, in their six-man squad, the two junior members were Andy Maynard and James Woodward.

Despite a relatively-lowly tenth place, their time of 12hr 13min 20sec was outstanding given the average age of the team.

There was a mixture of relative youth and experience in the B team where Tony Cooley and Colin Harley were joined by Jan Hill, Mark Jennings, Mike Moorcroft and Nick Palmer to cross the line in seventh place in the B category in 13hr 15min 56sec.

In all the 18 tired pairs of legs and 300 miles covered without injury or mishap represented another outstanding day for the club.

PHIL BAKER