A squad of 20 of Chichester Runners were up bright and early for the usual start to the club’s competitive season with the Hangover 5, which involves the challenge of the climb up to Cissbury Ring.
A field of more than 300 runners lined up for the opening fixture of the West Sussex Fun Run League, which also includes a number of guest runners.
One of these, Scottish international Tom Owens from Shettleston Harriers, has in recent years has provided quality opposition for local star James Baker and this year was no exception with the Scot once again coming out on top by just 20 seconds after nearly half an hour of fierce competition.
Such was the quality of this pairing, the rest of the field were more than three minutes adrift.
This did not prevent the rest of Chichester contingent from posting some useful performances with John Leonard next home in eighth with veteran trio of Chris Tucker 28th, Colin Harley 65th and Dave Reading 69th occupying the next three places.
Next followed Darren Knight in 72nd, Jon Healy 73rd, Terry Healy 84th, Dave Barty 118th and Chichester’s first over-60 John Betts in 120th. Tracy Jayant led the club’s women home in 143rd, with Jill Renson 147th and Sue Baker 155th.
The rest of the squad were Robert Sawers in 161st, Tony Cooley 174th, Peter Shaw 186th, Gary Tompsett 189th, Roger Hobbs 191st, Dave Grunwell 224th and Lynn Harley 248th.
The next fixture in the league promises to be a different affair with the Worthing Lido four-miler on January 27 a fast, flat test of speed with runners usually having to combat a headwind at some point.
Meanwhile, Chichester’s veterans are relishing the chance to compete against rivals in their own age group this
Saturday when the Sussex masters take place at Bexhill after the morning’s schools’ races.
With six categories in all, much interest will be on the over-60 men’s race when two of the club’s multiple award-winning over-50s from the past decade step up to the older age group.
Dave Dorning and Rob Wiggins are running as well as ever and should make their mark while the third of their team, Dave Worcester, must wait a few weeks longer before joining them.
Chris Jack and Jim Garland should be up with the leading pack in the over-40 race while the women’s teams will have to do without top county veteran Jane Harrop in the over-45 race but will field full teams in both that race and the over-35s.
With team and individual medals at stake, the performance of all the teams will determine whether Chichester can regain the Sussex combined junior and senior Sussex team shield from last year’s winners Brighton & Hove.