Chichester's marathon men break into UK top 100

Jo Corbett, Harry Leleu, Mike Houston and Chris Bird pictured at the 2019 Chi Priory 10k
Jo Corbett, Harry Leleu, Mike Houston and Chris Bird pictured at the 2019 Chi Priory 10k

In a busy road running time of the year, Chichester’s marathon runners have been making a name for themselves around the UK – and the club has three athletes in the UK top 100 for the first time ever at this stage of the season.

Mike Houston had already posted the club’s fastest time of the year in the Tokyo Marathon last month with a fine personal-best time of 2hr 38min 48sec.

In the past couple of weeks, two more members of the club have bettered his time in the UK.

First Jo Corbett set the streets of Manchester alight with third place out of more than 13,000 finishers to smash his previous best with a time of 2.26.12, which lifts him to 17th in the UK rankings.

Corbett was in two minds as to whether to start at all having felt below par for much of the previous week. Feeling he had nothing to lose he decided to start at a conservative pace but soon relalised that he was travelling at 5.30 mile pace and feeling quite comfortable.

This enforced tactic probably worked in his favour in the latter stages as he grew stronger as the race progressed and had more in reserves later on than his rivals.

A week later Chris Bird shone at Brighton with a 2.31.13 clocking which puts him 50th in the UK.

It is all good news for their club, Chichester Runners as, together with Harry Leleu, the three were members of the winning team at the Chichester 10k at Goodwood in February, which gave a good indication of their early season form.

78 runners - 600-plus miles covered
Chichester's two dozen are right on track
In fact the Chichester 10k itself is proving a useful marker of athletes’ form in the south.

Not only was it a case of the Chichester contingent using the Chi 10k as good preparation for the spring marathon season but three of the top five from the Goodwood race now find themselves occupying places in the top eight in the current UK marathon rankings.

Andy Coley-Maud, fourth at Goodwood, is UK number eight after his 2.19.33 clocking at Brighton while Goodwood runner-up Paul Navesey from Crawley had an even better run at Brighton to record 2.18.16.

Perhaps the surprise run was from Bristol & West runner Peter le Grice, who was fifth in the Chichester 10k. The west country athlete was too good for rest of the 15,000-plus field at Brighton, romping home in 2.16.23, the fastest time in the UK this year to put him No2 in the rankings behind Nick Earl from Norwich who ran a sub-2.15 time in Japan in March.

Parkrun success for Chichester

Two of Chichester’s veteran athletes have been posting nationally-ranked age-graded times in parkruns in different locations.

James Baker has run at the new venue at Littlehampton for each of the last two Saturday mornings. Last Saturday Baker set a good time of exactly 16 minutes for the 5k course. This gave him a graded score of over 86 per cent for a place high among the 150,000-plus reckoned to be in action that day at more than 600 locations around the UK.

However, Baker’s score was not the highest for the day from Chichester Runners as over-60 runner Helen Dean ran a time of 22.01 at Lakeside in Portsmouth for a score of over 90 per cent, a rare achievement and one of just 15 to better 90 per cent in the whole of the country.

At the other end of the age scale, two of Chichester’s under-20s are getting themselves noticed over 5k.

Ned Potter ran clear of the rest at the Bognor parkrun where Alice Cox-Rusbridge is frequently first female runner to finish. Then Cox-Rusbridge added to her impressive tally of wins in 2019 by finishing first female at the 5k Splashpoint race at Worthing in a time of 19.30.

Preview

Chichester’s juniors start their National Youth Development League campaign this Saturday (April 27) at the Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth.

With many of last season’s squad having progressed into the senior ranks, there will be many new faces in action, especially in the under-13 age group.

Report and pictures in next week’s (May 2) Observer.