VIDEO: Baker makes half marathon grade - but injury almost beat him

James Baker revealed that an injury-hit year left him fearing he would not be able to defend his Chichester Half Marathon crown.

The Chichester Runners ace has won the contest each year since it was revived in 2012 and took the honours again thsi yrear, beating off all-comers for a 1hr 19min 02sec victory.

BBC South Today's Sally Taylor leads the starting party / Picture by Derek Martin

BBC South Today's Sally Taylor leads the starting party / Picture by Derek Martin

But he said until just a couple of weeks ago he was unsure he could last the distance after a season interrupted by a couple of setbacks.

Anyone hoping to take his Chi Half crown from him may have to wait a little while yet.

Baker said: “I’ll have another go next year. I’d like to keep the run going. It’s just an ideal route for me. I train on parts of the course. I’ve been running up Chalkpit Lane since I was about 16.

“It’s one of my favourite races of the year and one I target. Since my injuries have cleared up I’ve been aiming to get around it.

“I was about half a minute a mile slower thus year. I knew I wasn’t in shape to get the course record po I just aimed to win it. I did aim to get the best time in the King of the Hill section.

“It’s been a frustrating year running with injury. It’s been mentally quite tough just doing exercise and rehab.

“As recently as two weeks ago I could only do four miles without any pain.”

Baker had Chi team-mate Peter Concannon for company for the first third or so of the race but Concannon had elected to go for the ten-miler option within the race rather than the full half marathon.

“We were together for about four miles but he was knackered going up Chalkpit Lane so I just edged ahead and we went in separate directions.

“Conditions were perfect today.”

There’s no rest now for Baker. He added: “I’m doing the Sussex Cross Country League at Goodwood on Saturday and then I’ve got a 17-mile race off-road from Pevensy to Battle.”

Concannon, winner of the event’s inaugural ten-miler, was delighted with his honour.

“I didn’t really fancy going all the way up the Trundle this year - I’m not really a cross-country man. I thought I’d leave James to his own devices.

“I really enjoyed the race - lovely weather. I was leading my race pretty much all the way.

“It’s a great addition to the half marathon race. It’s shorter with fewer hills, which is fine by me!”

Women’s half marathon winner Anne Sydenham, another Chichester Runners membeer, was delighted with her title, which came in a finish of 1.33.28.

“It was hard but it was a good race,” she said. “I’ve done it a few times and was second last year. I was trying to beat my time this year but it’s hard - you get older every year.

“Conditions were good today - there was no wind and it was brilliant. There was a lot of support on the course.”

Sydenham paid tribute to the strength of the Chichester club, who had the first four home in the men’s race as well as her winning the women’s event. She said she planned to return next year to defend her title.

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