The 28th year of the Chichester Corporate Challenge road race series began in near-perfect conditions with another bumper field of more than 850 competitors tearing round the streets of the city centre.
Since starting in February 1992, the event has seen more than 40,000 runners of all ages take part and the 82nd evening of races certainly lived up to expectations, both in the number of entries and the quality of the fields.
Keith Toop, winner of the first ever Corporate Challenge race, was introduced to the crowds and the Waitrose team captain did not disappoint in finishing this time in a sub 18-minute time. Toop’s time in 1992 of 13min 19sec still holds up well, being seven seconds faster than the winner this year.
In recent years the schools races have become an integral part of the event, accounting for roughly half of the competitors and this was no exception with some of the most exciting finishes fought out among the younger runners.
There was in impressive large pack at the head of the A race going through the first two laps in a steady 14-minute pace for the 4.5k senior four-lap course.
Just after halfway things started to hot up with Jonathan White of new team Solent MD increasing the pace and opening a clear gap over the rest, who were led by Worthing-based duo Jack Woods and Ethan Fincham.
White further increased his lead to finish 18 seconds clear of Woods in 13.26 with Fincham third in 13 47. There was good news for local athletes with Will Boutwood, running for Everyone Active, leading home under-17s Liam Dunne and Ned Potter, all three under 13.55 with former multiple winner James Baker delighted to be back in action after a lay-off and recording his 51st sub-14 minute clocking.
There was a Hampshire 1-2 in the women’s race with Portsmouth-based Cassie Thorp recording 15.49, followed by Katie Hopkins in 16.07 with a Chichester trio occupying the next three places.
Chichester University’s Alice Wright continued her fine form with 16.13 followed by under-20 Alice Cox-Rusbridge in 16.38 and under-17 Maggie King in 16.47.
Team-wise,in the main corporate and business category, Everyone Active hold a slender four-second advantage over former winners Dstl Portsdown with an aggregate four-runner time of 63.46 to 63.50 with Cawley Crawlers Medical Practice third.
In the sports section the Solent MD training group on 55.39 have nearly a minute to spare over Chichester under-20s, namely Conrads Lads, while Oddbins and Chichester Tri Club are battling it out for third.
Bosham Staff lead the women’s corporate team standings over WSCC and Dstl while the Chichester youth team have a clear advantage over CWTC in the sports section. Overall there were 85 complete teams in the four categories.
So popular are the schools races now that the primary section is now split into four races with Years 5 and 6 boys and girls all running separately.
The evening got off to a flyer with the Year 6 boys and a scorching first lap for Isaac Glanfield from Downview opening up a 50m gap after just 700m of running. Even though Glanfield slowed over the second lap, he was still rewarded with a fast time of 4.45 with Sam Cato from Seal in second and Logan Cookson from Lyndhurst third.
In the Year 5 race Stanley Wilkes from Jessie Younghusband ran 4.58, followed by William Brown from Walberton & Binstead and Charlie Stevenson from Oakwood.
In the combined team race with three to score Bishop Tufnell were top with 15.31, just six seconds in front of Parklands with Central a further seven seconds back.
In the girls’ Year 6 race the first three home were under the five-minute barrier with Florence East from Lyndhurst the winner in 4.48, one of the fastest times ever, with twins Laila and Lillie Hellyer from Bishop Tufnell home in 4.51 and 4.56.
The Year 5s also had a competitive race with Poppy Taylor making her journey from Overton worthwhile with a win over Grace Howarth from Great Ballard and Molly Smithers from Walberton & Binstead.
In their team event, it was no surprise that pre-race favourites Bishop Tufnell came out on top but the margin of their win was impressive. With Millie Isitt backing up the Hellyer twins, their overall time was 15.03, a new primary girls’ record and even faster than the boys.
Jessie Younghusband just pipped Bosham for second place with 16.44 to 16.54.
With all four school years running together, Olivia East made it a family double by winning the secondary girls’ race. The Year 9 pupil from Mayfield dipped under the coveted seven-minute barrier with 6.59 on the three-lap 2.1k course and was followed home by Year 10’s Olivia Toms from Bishop Luffa and Isabelle Bryden from Portsmouth Academy.
Abigail Clark from St Philip Howard won the Year 8 race from Freya Dowsell from Great Ballard and Cassie Bailey from Bishop Luffa.
The Year 7 crown went to last year’s primary school winner, Hattie Bond from Petersfield, in front of St Philip Howard duo Sinead Jones and Tilly Brook.
St Philip Howard recorded a clean sweep of the team titles.
The secondary boys’ race produced two of the closest finishes of the evening with Harvey McGuiness of Bishop Luffa having a last-gasp lunge for the line to pip Fionn O’Murchu from St Philip Howard, both athletes given the time of 6.51 for three laps.
Running the same course, Josh Dunne was first home for the Year 7 runners for Bohunt with Mackenzie Van Laun from Ditcham Park and Tristan Jooste from Petersfield making it a Hampshire clean sweep.
With the Year 9 and 10 boys running an extra lap, it was a pair of Year 9s who battled to the line with Cameron Walker-Powell from Mayville getting the better of Joe McLarnon from Ditcham Park by a second with a time of 9.14 for the four junior laps.
Bradley Holder from Chichester High School won the Year 10 race from Ben Wadey from Bourne CC and Angus Matthews from Bishop Luffa while Bishop Luffa’s Year 9/10 team just prevented St Philip Howard from claiming another clean sweep.
The next races are on Wednesday, March 13 and organisers can take a few more entries in all categories on the night.