Chichester Half Marathon wins plaudits - as does local winner Baker

Runner-up Ben Evans, winner James Baker and Gareth Leighton, who was third  Picture by Spencer Gale
Runner-up Ben Evans, winner James Baker and Gareth Leighton, who was third Picture by Spencer Gale

It’s revamped, it’s back – and it looks like being here to stay.

Chichester staged its first half marathon in more than two decades on Sunday, and the event’s success looks like making it a firm fixture on the Sussex athletics calendar.

Conditions were perfect and close to 500 people took part and were highly praiseworthy of the course and the way it was organised.

At the Westgate start line, local war veteran Major Phil Packer waved the flag to set the field off on a route through the city centre and out to the Goodwood and Lavant countryside.

The winner was Chichester Runners member James Baker in an impressive 1hr 15min 27sec. He led from the start and his win was never in doubt.

Baker was more than five minutes ahead of nearest challenger Ben Evans (1.21.00), himself well ahead of Gareth Leighton (1.22.09) in third.

The first over-40 was Neil McAlpine from South Downs Harriers in 1.25.02.

The women’s race was closer and was taken by Laura Allen (Denmead Striders) in 1.36.22 ahead of Nerys Walters (1.37.16) and Micaela Floyd (1.37.47).

There was an enjoyable contest in the Vet 40 women’s race between Liz Ware and Helen Pattinson, with Ware winning in 1.41.57. Chichester Runners member Pattinson is one of the event’s sponsors.

The men’s team event was won by Chichester Runners, whose B and C teams were second and fourth, with Tone Zone Runners third.

Chichester Runners also won the women’s team event.

The multi-terrain race was organised by Chichester-based international charity Children on the Edge in conjunction with Chichester District Council. And the compliments were plentiful.

Runner Su Leeming said: “It was a fantastic event. The course is superb and the organisation and cheerful nature of all the correspondence has been fabulous.”

Scores of runners came in singing the praises of the volunteer marshals.

Children on the Edge and the council are confident it will grow into an annual event.

One runner, Mark Ponsford, said: “This will become an iconic south coast race – a must for every serious runner.”

It was sponsored and supported by Montezuma’s Chocolates, Store Property, Covers and other local businesses.

Ben Wilkes, from Children on the Edge, said: “It was amazing to see our community come together for a fantastic race and to support our projects.”

The council’s Ben Polhill added: “We’re delighted so many people took part. We had a mass Zumba-style warm up led by Natalie Owen from Fitjoy. We had over 100 volunteers and I’d like to say a big thank-you to each one.”

See the Observer - out now - for a full list of the finishers and their times, plus more reports and pictures