Headaches long forgotten as Chichester 10k proves a record breaker

Victory for Chris Powner at 29.54 minutes with Jon Pepper in second place.''Photo by Louise Adams  C130158-4 Spt Athlet Chichester 10k
Victory for Chris Powner at 29.54 minutes with Jon Pepper in second place.''Photo by Louise Adams C130158-4 Spt Athlet Chichester 10k

Organisers breathed a sigh of relief after overcoming potential headaches and seeing a record number of finishers make the 22nd Chichester 10k a race to remember.

Rain and roadworks had combined in the lead-up to the event to leave race officials unsure if they would even be able to get the field safely round the course.

But the weather behaved, the roadworks in Broyle Road were successfully by-passed - and everyone seemed to agree the fiercely-competitive race, which had one of its closest-ever finishes, was a major success.

Winchester’s Chris Powner - second last year - took the line honours by just one second from Brighton’s Jon Pepper.

The heavy rainfall of the last six weeks together with the laying of a major gas main on the course - in Broyle Road, opposite Oaklands Park - meant there was always concern that it might not be possible for the race to go ahead.

However, meticulous planning by the organisers together with much co-operation from Sussex Police, Southern Gas Networks and West Sussex highways ensured it went ahead without a hitch.

Sunday morning was cool but dry for the race and the high standard and depth of the race over the previous years resulted in a best-ever turnout of nearly 1,700 runners for one of the most popular and prestigious events in the south.

Many athletes - whether elite, club or recreational runners, were delighted to achieve their personal bests, and some running for the first time commented on how much they had enjoyed the course and the scenery.

The runners made for an impressive sight as they streamed up College Lane and it was quite a spectacle as they wound their way along Connolly Road and into Graylingwell Park.

Running were a number of runners capable of going under or close to the 30-minute mark. It got off to a cracking pace and after 5k there was a large breakaway group of some seven runners.

They went through 5k in 15.15min, which set the pattern for the rest of the run home.

The leading group, apart from Powner and pepper, included Phil Wicks of Belgrave Harriers, Paul Whittaker of Chelmsford AC, Neil Gamester of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, Ian Leitch of Brighton Phoenix and Paul Rodgers of Aldershot.

That group slowly reduced in size. Rodgers was the first to drop back, and then Leitch went the same way - but not before he had made a challenge for the lead.

Wicks was always trying to force the pace but Powner was playing a careful waiting game.

For the next couple of kilometres Wicks, Powner and Pepper were in contention with the lead changing on a number of occasions. Then it was Wicks’ turn to be dropped and for a while it looked as if Pepper might succeed - but as they rounded the CFT, Powner was the strongest to finish by one second in a time of 29.54, with Wicks third in 30.17.

He was followed by another three men in times under 31 minutes - with 21 others achieving sub-32 minutes, an incredible achievement, the same number as in 2012 and a very good indicator of a quality race.

For Powner it was his second time in Chichester after being runner-up last year. He was buoyed by his success in winning last month’s Stubbington Green 10k.

Pepper enjoyed an improvement in position and time from last year and Wicks was pleased to get a decent run behind him.

The male 40+ vet title went to Phil Sanders of Kent AC, followed by Karl Spielman and Mark le Cassick of Stubbington Green. Bryan Camfield of Horsham Joggers, who was third in 2012, had to settle for sixth place this year.

First men’s vet 50 home was Tony Tuohy of Dulwich Runners AC. First man over 60 was Peter Kennedy of Lewes AC and top over-70 was John Taylor of Heaton Harriers.

In such a competitive field it was good to see local runner James Baker of Chichester Runners in 19th place in a good time of 31.53 - an improvement on 2012 for the home city ace.

The men’s team event was won by Brighton Phoenix consisting of Jon Pepper, Ian Leitch and Josh Guilmant with a very low scoring total of 15 points. Bedford & County AC were second with 32 points followed by Brighton & Hove AC in third with 50 points.

In sixth place were Chichester Runners, who in addition to Baker, had Chris Jack and Harry Leleu in their scoring team. They took the Nuffield Health and Fitness prize for being the first local team home.

Don’t miss this week’s Observer (Feb 7 edition) for a list of all 1,673 finishers and their times