Waddle beats the weather - and Chichester ace Baker beats the field

duck pond
duck pond

UNUSUALLY for cross country and other distance events, the weather caused race organisers to call off many events over the weekend including the Hampshire League meeting near Basingstoke and the Crowborough 10k, part of the Sussex Grand Prix series.

One event, however, which did beat the elements was the 15 kilometre, multi-terrain event at Worthing, known as the Duck Pond Waddle, a friendly sounding name which belies the severity of the course.

And first home in a stunning new course record was Chichester Runner James Baker, who made light of the conditions to fly round in 51mins-37secs.

Race officials had delayed a decision on the race until the weekend, which gave the thaw time to enable the fixture to go ahead.

A mixture of muddy sections, slippery styles and sharp inclines, the race is not for the fainthearted at the best of times.

Add to that the combination of the recent cold snap, it posed an extra challenge for the hardy field of over 200 runners, 14 of whom were in the colours of Chichester Runners.

And with many races being cancelled because of the adverse weather conditions, ninety of the runners entered the race on the day itself.

Baker claimed victory by just under three minutes from second-placed James Walker, from Steyning AC, who finished in 54-03.

The talented athlete has never shirked from training and did not let the recent snow prevent him from keeping up a 100-mile a week schedule, which resulted in his third race victory in nine days.

With a cumulative total of 24 miles, mostly off-road, from these three events Baker has been racing for just over two hours and 10 minutes at sub five minute 30 second pace for each mile.

Behind Baker on Sunday was an excellent run from James Pennicott in eighth place, and one of only eight athletes to dip inside the one hour barrier.

Nick Casburn followed in 17th and was followed home by veteran over-60 Don Faircloth in 36th, who is showing glimpses of his star quality of the early 1970s when he was one of the country’s top marathon runners.

There was close packing from Terry Healy in 74th, Dave Reading 76th, Kevin Batt 93rd, Mike Moorcroft 95th and John Betts 96th.

While the rest of the squad all made the top 150 with Alan Rowley 113th, Tracy Jayant 123rd, Dave Knight 135th, Catherine Betts 141st, and Sue Baker 144th.

The veterans in the race were finding conditions useful to prepare for the Sussex Masters Championships, which take place at Denne Park, Horsham, on Sunday, December 19.

* For seniors and juniors there will be an opportunity to tackle the postponed Hampshire League fixture at Popham Airfied near Basingstoke which has been rearranged for the day before, on the Saturday.

* This weekend (Dec 11-12) there will be no thoughts of cancellation as the juniors from Chichester Runners travel to Tanbridge House School, Horsham, for the second of the Sussex Sportshall fixtures.

It will give athletes a chance to impress the county selectors in advance of the Inter County match in February as well as giving Chichester a boost.

PHIL BAKER