A fine dry evening greeted another bumper entry in the first of this year’s Chichester Corporate Challenge road races – with nearly 900 finishers over seven races in the space of just two hours.
The event appeals to elite runners, club members and fun runners alike and since the event’s beginnings in 1992, well over 30,000 runners have crossed the line including Olympic athletes, school internationals and a host of runners for whom this has been their first competitive race.
Some beginners have relished the chance to test themselves against the watch and have gone on to compete for club and county.
The crowds at the start/finish line were so big, supporters had to strain to get a good vantage point. Such are the popularity of the primary races, the boys again had to be split into two races for safety reasons.
The Year 6 boys were first away followed by the Year 5 race, with a new name emerging as the combined fastest in the form of Ollie Sanderson from Southbourne.
In the girls’ race, Hampshire-based Ellie O’Neill from Locks Heath took the honours.
Team-wise, Jessie Youngshusband squad have established an early lead in both categories.
Numbers having been growing steadily over the years in the secondary races – organisers can remember the early days when just a handful of runners lined up at the start.
This year more than 80 girls and exactly 100 boys finished the course including a host of county-standard runners at the front of the field.
In the girls’ race, two Hampshire-based girls led, both having been highly placed in the English national cross-country championships the previous weekend.
The biggest margin of any race was in the Year 8 girls’ race with Olivia Wiseman from Bishop Luffa having more than half a minute’s advantage over the runner-up in her age group. There were other notable local performances from Rachel Laurie, runner-up in Year 9 and Charlotte Bullard occupying the same position in Year 7.
Third-placed Lily de Lacy led her Midhurst Rother team to an early lead in Year 7 while Bishop Luffa lead in the other two girls’ age groups.
For the boys Ben Collins, in Year 9 at Chichester High School, produced the stand-out performance winning the overall boys four-lap race in 8min 42sec, one of the fastest times on record, and linked up with Alex Halfacree and Benedict Robinson for a team lead.
Luke Campbell from Bishop Luffa had to settle for second place in the Year 10 race behind Ted Yeates while there was success for James Gardam with a narrow one-second win over Stanley Kingshott in the Year 7 race, leading his Bishop Luffa team to victory.
The faster runners were first to tackle the 4,500m course in the A race, with each of the four laps going as far as East Walls at the end of East Street before making their way back to the start via Priory Road and into North Street.
A small group of four found themselves at the front with early leader James Ellis forcing the pace in front of Brighton-based Josh Guilmant, Chichester’s rising under-20 star Harry Leleu and evergreen James Baker, now in his 22nd year of racing in this event.
The quartet stayed together until halfway round the final lap when Guilmant just outsprinted Ellis, who had the consolation of leading his iRun team to lead the corporate team standings in front of holders DSTL Portsdown.
Worthing’s Brittany Saville led the women home in front of Chichester’s Fay Cripps while Havant Angels lead the women’s sports team standings. Worthing Hares are just in front of Chichester’s under-17s in the men’s section.
There was plenty of spirited competition in a field of more than 300 runners in the B race with beginners and more experienced runners vying for places and times to help their respective teams.
The next races are on March 11 and apart from the primary races, which cannot take any further entries, organisers are prepared to accept a few late entries for race two on the night.