With a month to go before the first of this year’s Corporate Challenge city-centre road races, team managers are busy getting their athletes into good shape.
The event - starting on Wednesday, February 27 - will follow the same pattern as in previous years with the senior event split into two races to avoid congestions around the city’s streets.
The A race will cater for those who can complete the four-lap 4,500m course in less than 18 minutes, roughly equivalent to a sub-40 minute 10k pace, while the B race will be packed with medium-paced club runners as well as occasional runners and complete novices.
The beauty of the series is that all runners, of whatever standard, are able to track their progress with three races two weeks apart.
At the front of the field, all eyes will be on local favourite James Baker to see if he can keep up his remarkable record of top-three places over all but a few early years of the event’s 22-year history.
Last year promising Portsmouth athlete Harry Carter took the individual spoils while team-wise the consistent DSTL Naval Systems squad from Portsdown have dominated the event in recent years.
Spanning the whole history of the Corporate Challenge has been Compton resident Jane Harrop, who is still a leading Sussex athlete more than 20 years after winning the inaugural Chichester title in 1992.
In the schools’ races which start the programme at 6.30pm each evening, all eyes will be on two outstanding stars of last season to see how they fare in the older age groups.
Both Ben Collins and Josie Czura smashed the primary school 1,400m records in 2012, beating marks which had stood for many years, and will now tackle the longer secondary 2,100m race.
Another of last year’s record holders, Harry Leleu, finds himself too old for the junior event and will now line up with the seniors and, with James McKenzie and Josh James, will give the senior runners much to think about. The girls’ races should see Chichester trio of Rose Ellis, Tara Bage and Charlotte Reading at the head of the field in their last year in the juniors. They will have to watch for a strong challenge from younger athletes in the field, especially Saskia Gardam in the Year 9 age group - she has shown excellent form in the winter cross-country season.
Runners are encouraged to get their entries in well before the closing date as the series has been near to capacity in recent years with more than 600 runners taking part on each of the three evenings, the second two of which fall on March 13 and 27.
Entry forms can be downloaded from the Chichester Corporate Challenge website or from the Chichester Runners notice board at Westgate Leisure. For more, contact race director Phil Baker on firstname.lastname@example.org