In one of the best races of his illustrious 20-year career in senior athletics, 40-year-old James Baker strode to victory in an exciting finish to the Gosport Half Marathon.
A strong field of more than 1,600 runners assembled for one of the most popular races on the south coast and a strong pace was set from the off by a leading group which, for once, did not include Chichester Runners ace Baker who held back over the first 5k.
Gradually reeling in the leaders, Baker found himself at the front in the latter stages although there was not much to choose between the first half-dozen.
Saving energy for a final push, Baker was delighted to cross the finishing line in first place and achieve his aim of once again breaking the 70-minute barrier to record a time of 69min 51sec.
Behind, there was a good scrap for the runners-up spot with Southampton’s Matthew Bennett just ahead of David Eckersley from Kingston & Poly, both athletes given a time of 69.56, just five seconds behind the Chichester man.
Baker’s time was his best half-marathon time for four years and the 13th occasion he has broken the 70-minute barrier, considered a landmark for good half-marathon runners.
It reinforces his recent form over all terrains just a week after a superb fifth place as leading veteran in the Hampshire Cross Country League at Butser, beating a couple of England internationals in the process.
At Gosport, Chichester did not have to wait long for their second runner home with Chris Bird finishing 14th in 73.49. Justin Eggins had a good run in 118th with 84.07.
There was joy mixed with sadness for Chichester at the Brighton 10k on Sunday with top road-runner Rebecca Moore donning a Chichester vest for the last time in open competition before moving to Southampton City AC.
In her relatively-short time with Chichester after moving from Worthing, Moore has certainly made her mark.
Probably her best performance was in last year’s Great South Run, where she clocked an impressive 56.30 over the ten miles, good enough to earn her an England vest later in the winter and a trip to Bermuda.
More recently a personal best of 34.17 was clocked in the Leeds 10k, which propelled Moore high in the UK rankings.
She clocked a more modest 34.51 at Brighton on Sunday but that was good enough to be 35th overall among the top men’s finishers and the winner of the women’s race by a full minute.
The Chichester club hope she will find time to compete for them in Sussex events.
Chichester Runners & AC annual meeting
There was a changing of the guard at the annual meeting of Chichester Runners at Chichester College. Keith Akerman became the tenth chairman to be elected in the 33 years the club have been in existence.
He takes over from Tom Blaylock, who has presided over expansion of the club in recent years, seeing membership grow to its present record total of more than 550, with 200-plus juniors for the first time.
Mike Moorcroft is another new face on the management team taking over the post of honorary treasurer while the honorary secretary remains the same, John Betts.
With a range of activities from entering national championships through to nurturing beginners’ groups, the club aim to cater for all abilities and have seen some of the juniors come through to be a force in the senior teams.
The club, now based at their winter HQ at Chichester College, are in the middle of the winter cross-country, multi-terrain and road-running season, while plans are already being made for the 2018 track fixtures.