Chichester and its surrounding countryside will be a sea of runners on Sunday when the city’s popular half marathon takes place.
At 9am around 1,000 runners will set off from the race village at Chichester College to face the tough multi-terrain race, which includes running up the Trundle before returning to Chichester via the Lavant Valley and Centurion Way.
Some 25 years after the first Chichester Observer Centenary Half Marathon, the race returned in 2012, but with a very different course and under new management.
The 2012 event was managed by Chichester District Council in conjunction with the charity Children on the Edge. Since its revival, the race has gone from strength to strength.
Organisers have the backing of two main notable local sponsors, Montezuma’s Chocolates and Store Property.
One pair worthy of a special mention are Sue and David Barty. Some 30 years ago Sue and Dave took up running again and their first event was the Centenary Half Marathon. Either or both have subsequently run all nine events and Sue will be competing this year.
The council’s involvement has been passed on to Everyone Active and Stuart Mills, contract manager for Everyone Active Chichester, said “We are delighted to be hosting this fantastic event, which has become a firm feature of Chichester’s sporting calendar.
“The Chichester Half Marathon has a real community focus, involving elite runners and people taking part in their first competitive race. Children on the Edge is a truly inspiring charity and we’re delighted to be their partner in the delivery of this iconic local event that not only makes a huge amount of money for some great causes but also actively encourages people to get active and lead healthy lifestyles.”
Ben Wilkes, UK director of Children on the Edge, said: “We are really excited to be in our sixth year, with more runners than ever signed up for the events.
“We have a record number of people getting sponsored for Children on the Edge, through our Run for Refugees campaign, which, with the surpluses from the event, makes a huge contribution to our work. If you live in Chichester, do join us on race day along the route. Having run the half myself I know it makes a big difference having the community turn out and cheer you on!’
The race is a mixture of road, footpaths, cycle tracks and bridleways over chalk, flint, downland grass, fields with heavy mud – real cross country. It is challenging because of the varying terrains and the steep ascents and descents.
Runners will also be able to take in the major city-centre sights and landmarks as well as spectacular rural scenery in the Lavant and Goodwood countryside. Particularly stunning will be the views from the summit of the Trundle.
The half marathon will again include two new events introduced last year to encourage a greater breadth of runner to take part – a ten-mile race and a half marathon team relay race.
The ten-miler offers the possibility of starting and finishing with the half marathon but cutting out three miles – missing out the challenge of the final climb to the Trundle summit and having a shorter route back to the Lavant Valley.
A three-person team relay proved very popular and the camaraderie generated was immense. This event has the same start and finish as the half marathon and is run over the same course but the route will be completed by a team of three different runners.
Leg one is from the start to the Royal Oak at East Lavant; two is from the Royal Oak to the Dean at West Dean, and three is from the Dean to the finish. To be eligible all runners must have been aged at least 15 last Sunday and, if under 18, have the consent of a parent or guardian. To qualify as a finishing team all three runners must cover the full distance of their leg. There are still a few places left for this event but you will need to apply today to secure your team entry. Entries are a third up on last year.
For the overall race, organisers are delighted the magical figure of 1,000 entrants has een broken for the second year running. They are unlikely to take entries on the day.
Many runners are from running clubs, from Brighton to Southampton, but just as many are unattached. Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey, London, Kent, Cheshire, Humberside and Cornwall are all represented.
The largest club contingents come from Chichester Runners and the Bognor’s Tone Zone Runners, who each have some 30-plus entrants.
James Baker of Chichester Runners will be back to defend his title for a sixth time after an incredible five wins in a row since the race was relaunched. It will be interesting to see if he or a rival runner will beat the course record time of 1.11.52 he set in 2015.
The women’s event looks very competitive but is likely to have a new winner as, at the time of writing, the winners from the previous years have not entered. From the current entries Nichola Capes of Midhurst Milers, Dawn Forse of Portsmouth Triathletes, Ali Guitenof Brighton and Hove AC and Alison Brunnock have the best chance.
New in 2014 was the Corporate Team Challenge, again featured in 2017. This is an opportunity for employees of different workplaces to pit themselves against each other by signing up a works team. So far there have been entries from a number of different companies including Montezuma’s Chocolates, the Goodwood Health Club, Rolls Royce and REMCO from Bognor.
Organisers are also grateful to local firms including Covers, Southdown Water, the Body Shop at Home, Revolution in Kindness, Higher Nature, Harwoods and Nature’s Way for supporting the race.
Over the years the number of nordic walkers entering the race has increased and some 60 entrants have been received. Much of this interest is down to the initiative of Sylvia May, co-ordinator in the area for nordic walking.
See more about the race at www.chichesterhalfmarathon.co.uk where the latest training advice and guidance on preparation is available. Full coverage of the event and the race results will be contained in next Thursday’s Chichester Observer, and online at www.chichester.co.uk from race day onwards.