Baker out to make it a magnificent seven in Chichester Half Marathon

The start of the 2017 Chi Half / Picture by Derek Martin
The start of the 2017 Chi Half / Picture by Derek Martin

The Chichester Half Marathon returns to the city tomorrow (Sunday Oct 7) – and local favourite James Baker is out to keep his vice-like grip on the title.

The seventh multi-terrain Chi Half since the event’s revival in 2012 will get under way from Westgate at 9am on Sunday with nearly 1,000 runners setting off.

The race passes through the city before wending its way 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 different course and under new management.

Since its revival, the race has gone from strength to strength.

Many of the half marathon field are from local running clubs but just as many are unattached. Sussex and Hampshire are well represented together with runners from Dorset, Surrey, South and East London and Kent.

The largest contingents come from Chichester Runners and Bognor’s Tone Zone Runners, who each have 30-plus entrants.

Baker, of Chichester Runners, will be back to defend his title for a seventh time, having won the race every year since it was revived.

It will be interesting to see if he or a rival runner will beat the course record of 1.11.52 he set a few years ago. After last year’s event Baker said: “I just love multi-terrain events and my time over this arduous course is still good and I just keep pushing on to keep ahead of the competition.”

The women’s event looks very competitive but is likely to have a new winner, with victors from previous years not set to enter.

The women’s course record of 1.29.54 has not been broken for a few years.

There will also be team prizes, dominated in recent years by Chichester Runners. The corporate team challenge has been more competitive with a number of different winners including REMCO from Bognor, David Covers & Sons and Chichester District Council.

Everyone Active Chichester help run the event and contract manager Stuart Mill said: “We are excited about this year’s Chichester Half Marathon, which is now in its seventh year, and the two other events introduced subsequently to encourage a greater breadth of runner to take part – a ten-mile race and team relay race.

“We are pleased to be working with such an amazing charity in Children on the Edge to deliver an event that makes a huge amount of money for some great causes and actively encourages people to get active and lead healthy lifestyles.”

Tone Zone Runners summon up best efforts
Ben Wilkes, head of UK services for Children on the Edge, said: ‘We’re really excited to be in our seventh year, with a fantastic number of runners signed up.

“The race has maintained its popularity throughout with a significant number of runners getting sponsored for Children on the Edge, through our Run for Refugees campaign, which, together with the profits 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 both because of the varying terrains and the steep ascents and descents.

Chicester athletes out to make mark in cross country
Runners will take in the major city centre sights and landmarks as well as spectacular rural scenery in the Lavant and Goodwood countryside.

Two new events introduced in 2016, the relays and the ten-miler, have proved popular and feature again. The ten-miler allows runners to start and finish with the half-marathon but cut out three miles.

The team relay goes from strength to strength and the enthusiasm and camaraderie among the different teams is a joy to see. This event will have the same start and finish as the half marathon and be run over the same course but the route will be completed by a team of three different runners.

To be eligible to compete all runners must have been 15 on October 1 and if under 18 have the consent of a parent or guardian to enter. To qualify as a finishing team all three runners must cover the full distance of their leg.

Over the years the number of nordic walkers entering the race has increased and at the time of writing some 40 entries have been received. Much of this interest is down to the initiative of Sylvia May, co-ordinator in the area for nordic walking.

Organisers have again secured sponsorship from Montezuma’s Chocolates and Store Property.

See more about the race at www.chichesterhalfmarathon.co.uk and don’t miss full coverage of the event here on race day and in next Thursday’s Observer.

It is hoped that the people of Chichester will again support the event by taking to the route to encourage the runners on their way.