Chichester’s flying doctor keeps on running... and running

James Baker and Chris Zablocki lead the way at the D-Day 10k / Picture by Habibur Rahman
James Baker and Chris Zablocki lead the way at the D-Day 10k / Picture by Habibur Rahman

Chris Zablocki, the American doctor and speedy athlete who made a name for himself in his year-long stay in Chichester, made a flying visit to Chichester at the weekend.

And he managed to pack in one parkrun, two long training runs over the South Downs and one 10k road race in the 48 hours he was here. His visit was especially welcomed by local star James Baker, who had relished having Zablocki as a training partner when the American was working at St Richard’s Hospital in 2016.

It was soon apparent that no-one else in the field could keep pace with the two Chichester men and they proceeded to pull away from the rest.

Having arrived in the early hours of Saturday after his flight from Poland was delayed, Zablocki joined in the Chichester parkrun about a minute after the race had started and was content to stroll round the course to overtake all but the first three runners home.

First to finish the parkrun was Baker who looked on good form as he sped round in 16 minutes 20 seconds with next home Will Boutwood also inside the 17-minute barrier.

After an afternoon’s rest, Baker and Zablocki went on what turned out to be a 16-mile training run in the afternoon before lining up with just over 300 other runners at the D-Day 10k road race on the Portsmouth Lakeside course on Sunday morning.

It was soon apparent that no-one else in the field could keep pace with the two Chichester men and they proceeded to pull away from the rest to win by over a minute in 33min 28sec, leaving the pair barely out of breath and able to continue on another 10k warm-down before the prizegiving.

Not only were they first two individuals but were able to claim the team prize for Chichester thanks to a fine run from Stefano Cerea in 37th place, finishing just inside 40 minutes.

Since he was last in the UK, Zablocki has made a name for himself by setting a world’s best time for an indoor marathon in New York at the famous Armory track.

He shaved just eight seconds off the previous record set in 2016 to cross the line in 2hr 21min 48sec. This is just under six minutes slower than his outdoor best which he set last year in Valencia at 2.15.53.

The doctor’s next race will be on the same day that Baker will be running for Chichester’s track and field team at Winchester – June 17 – although Zablocki will be several hundred miles north as he prepares to run in the Tromso midnight marathon in Norway later on that day.

No-one can accuse Zablocki of taking the easy option – the good news for Chichester is that he plans to run in the English cross country championships next February when the event returns to Parliament Hill Fields, London.

PHIL BAKER

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