Hundreds on the start line for Chichester Priory 10k

Organisers of the Chichester Priory 10k have put up the ‘full house’ signs for this Sunday’s 21st running of the race after receiving 2,000 entries.

In 1991, fewer than 1,000 runners took part in the inaugural event, which has since established itself as a prestigious athletic event and a vehicle for raising considerable funds for charities.

The 10k is one of the major road races in the English road-running calendar and its success means this year’s is again extremely popular, with runners from all over England competing.

The 2012 event, which is likely to see more than 1,600 running on the day, has a number of changes – an earlier start time, a new start position and a revised route for the first 2km. No entries will be accepted on the day.

The 10.30am start is in College Lane and the runners head north before turning into Graylingwell Park and joining the previous route at Barnfield Drive.

The race has strong interest from clubs in the Sussex Grand Prix, including a number in the east of the county, such as Arena 80, Seaford Striders, Portslade Hedgehoppers, Hailsham Harriers, Heathfield Runners, Horsham Joggers and Worthing Harriers.

For the second year running, one of the biggest club entries is from Tone Zone in Bognor, while Chichester Runners have nearly 30 runners entered. Other entrants include those from well-known clubs as Aldershot, Farnham & District AC, Blackheath & Bromley Harriers, Bristol & West AC and Chelmsford AC.

The event has more than doubled in size but remains varied in terms of competitors. There will be runners representing clubs, running for charity or personal bests and some turning out for the first time. Many use it as a pre-London or Brighton Marathon warm-up.

A group of first-time runners or those returning from injury have been attending Sunday training sessions run by Lucy Boynton, Ben Polhill and Graham Jessop. The first-timers include Observer chief reporter Clare Hawkin, who will report on her experience next week.

There is special prize for any male or female runners who break the course record: 29.02 for men and 32.07 for women. There are three special prizes for local runners.

The Chichester Observer is putting up the Ben Steppel Memorial Prize to the first under-23 local man home and organisers will present the Colin Thorne Memorial Prize to the first under-23 local woman finisher.

The inaugural Nuffield Health Prize for will be awarded to the first local team.

About 30 entrants have run or are targeting a time around the 30-minute mark. Many have very high rankings for the 10k distance last year and a number have done well in early 2012 races.

Those challenging for victory include Chris Powner (Winchester AC), winner of the recent Stubbington Green 10k, Jermaine Mays (Kent AC), third in the 2006 race, Neil Gamester (Shaftesbury Barnet), Michael Johnson (Bristol & West AC), fourth last year, and Thomas Payn (Winchester AC), third in Stubbington.

Veteran runner Brian Wilder (Herne Hill Harriers) will try to take the vets’ prize from Andy Morgan-Lee. James Baker is usually the first of the Chichester Runners home.

The women’s race again looks a high-standard contest and there’s a chance Hampshire’s Olympic hopeful Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC), the current English national ten-mile road champion, will race. She was second in the Edinburgh 10k and fourth in the BUPA Great South Run in October.

The 2007 winner Kate Reed (Bristol & West AC) returns while other well-ranked runners include City of Portsmouth’s Karrie Blake (pictured left), Sam Amend (Belgrave Harriers), Kathy Bailey (Winchester), Julie Briggs and Vicki Clark (Arena 80 AC).

A number of these will feature among the veteran prize-winners.

The leading women’s team looks to be Arena 80 AC while the men’s contest appears more open.

For the sixth year running, the race has the same sponsors – local Volkswagen dealership Peter Cooper and international shoe sompany Brooks.

Spectators are welcome at the start and finish in the Northgate Car Park and along the route – out to Westhampnett roundabout, round the Goodwood Airfield to Pook Lane, and back down the Lavant Road.

Organisers have apologised in advance for traffic delays. Motorists should avoid the area between 10.30am and 11.30am.

We’ll have a 10k report on this website on Sunday afternoon - and don’t miss next week’s Observer, out Thursday with reports, pictures and a full list of finishers and their times.