BAD weather? What bad weather? It might have been very windy, but the rain that has marked out this miserable winter stayed away to help ensure the 23rd Chichester Priory 10k was a resounding success.
There were fast times and a record number of runners completing what is recognised nationally as a top-quality road race and an important part of the English road-running calendar.
The heavy rainfall, storms and flooding of the past few months meant there was always concern it might not be possible for the race to go ahead. But meticulous planning by the organisers ensured the race went ahead as planned.
Sunday morning brought cool and very windy but dry and at times sunny conditions for the race.
The high standard and depth of the race over recent years resulted in a best-ever turnout of nearly 1,700 runners, who enjoyed one of the most popular and prestigious events in the south.
Many athletes - whether elite, club or recreational runners - were delighted to achieve personal bests, despite the windy conditions, and some running for the first time commented on how much they had enjoyed the course and how well organised the race was.
It was once again organised very efficiently by the Rotary Club of Chichester Priory and had the same two sponsors - Peter Cooper, the local Volkswagen dealers, and Brooks Sports, the international suppliers of sports clothing.
The starting party included the President of Chichester Priory Rotary Club, Mike Dennett, and the Chairman of the Chichester District Council, Martyn Bell.
The runners were an impressive sight as they streamed up College Lane and it was quite a spectacle as they wound their way along Connolly Road and into Graylingwell Park.
The race was always likely to be competitive with a number of runners capable of going under or close to the magical 30-minute mark for men.
It got off to a cracking pace and after 5km there was a breakaway group of four runners. They went through 5k in marginally over 15 minutes and this set the pattern for the rest of the run home, with many changes in the leading places among these first four runners and in particular the first three.
Along the Lavant straight, the first of the four to be dropped was Peter Huck, running for Barrow AC. The leading group included Phil Wylie of Bristol and West AC, Jon Pepper of Brighton Phoenix and Paul Whittaker of Southend AC.
In the second half of the race, the leading group slowly increased their lead over the rest of the runners. For the next couple of kilometres it was Wylie, Whittaker and Pepper in contention with the lead changing on a number of occasions.
Down the Midhurst road, the experience of Wylie began to show as he moved ahead of the other two, who then had a wonderful tussle for the silver medal.
Eventually Wylie came first in 30.23 - followed three seconds later by Pepper, just metres ahead of Whittaker to take second place for the second year in a row. Huck, in fourth, was 40 seconds down on third place.
Despite the wind Wylie was pleased with his win at his first attempt at Chichester. He had hoped to get under 30 minutes but said the wind had not helped and a leading group of about ten runners would have been necessary to meet that landmark.
Usually the leaders complete the second half of the course more quickly than the first - but 2014 was an exception
All the first ten runners were inside 32 minutes, an incredible achievement in the conditions and a very good indicator of a quality race. Third-placed Whittaker took nearly a minute off his time from last year.
The male 40-plus vets’ title went to Mark le Gassick of Stubbington Green, followed by Spencer Hempsted of Ilford AC and Jason Harris of Woking AC.
First men’s vet 50 home was Bruce Warren of Brighton Phoenix; first man over 60 was Paul Gasson of Arena 80 in 40.32, followed closely by Chichester’s in-form David Worcester in 40.45.
In such a competitive field it was good to see James Baker of Chichester Runners coming home strongly in 22nd place in a time of 33.06, a minute down on 2013, again reflecting the tough conditions.
The Sussex rivalry between Baker and Neil Boniface of Horsham Joggers continued and on this occasion the Horsham man came out on top in a time of 31.33.
The Chichester Observer-sponsored Ben Steppel memorial prize - named after our former sports editor, who passed away in 2007 - is given to the first local under-23 man home and this year that was Harry Leleu of Chichester Runners in 33.32 - nearly half a minute quicker than his 33.57 in 2013, when he also won this coveted prize.
The women’s race was also of a high standard, but to some extent rather a one-woman race with GB international Charlotte Purdue of Aldershot, Farnham and District AC leading from start to finish for a comfortable victory in 33.37.
Purdue is the current English ten-mile road champion and last won the race in 2012. Purdue was very pleased with her run as she is just returning to form after a lengthy spell out injured.
She finished nearly half a minute clear of her nearest rival Jess Andrews, also from Aldershot, and in third place was Ava Hutchinson from Cardiff - another Chichester debutant - in 34.42.
See Wylie and Purdue talking about their successes on the video at the top of this article
Rebecca Moore of Worthing was fourth with Caroline Hoyte of Arena 80 fifth and the first women’s veteran overall, and Kath Bailey was sixth and second vet in a time of 36.52. Julie Briggs, also of Arena and a previous Chichester winner, was third vet.
Top men’s team were the Horsham Joggers trio of Boniface, Maxwell Dumbrell and Gareth Leighton in a very low-coring aggregate time of
1hr 39min 4sec. Worthing and District Harriers were second and Brighton Phoenix third.
Chichester Runners, who, in addition to James Baker, had Harry Leleu and Stephen Davy in the scoring team, were 11th.
In the women’s team event, Arena 80 - who missed out on a top-three place last year - had no close rivals: in addition to Hoyte and Briggs they had Fiona Clark. Chichester Runners were second thanks to Jane Harrop, Fay Cripps and Emma Maynard.
Hailsham Harriers were third with the Arena B team fourth.
The Colin Thorne memorial prize for the first local under-23 woman finisher went to Emma Maynard of Chichester Runners in 42.20 - a minute quicker than last year’s winning time.
New this year is the Henry Adams memorial prize to the person with the most memorable story or reason for running. The winner selected was Victoria Lovelock, who ran with her brother Matt Herbert.
Matt suffers with an illness called FSGS and has suffered complete renal failure since the age of 15. He has been on dialysis and has had about 15 operations on his arm.
In August 2012 Matt decided to try to make himself fitter and started to swim one mile a week. He now regularly rides his bike once a week for 15 to 20 miles and also runs.
As a keen runner herself Victoria mentioned to Matt in November that maybe they could run together in the 10k and they achieved their goal on Sunday, with Matt edging home by two minutes.
All the above awards were made at the traditional prizegiving event after the race at Chichester Hockey Club.
The presentation party included the Rotary president and Cllr Bell.
There were once again many accolades about the organisation of this highly-successful event before all the athletes, Rotarians, spectators and officials went home pleased they had been part of yet another successful Chichester Priory 10k.