THE HEAVENS may have opened over Eastbourne on Sunday, but it didn’t stop a record number of runners taking part in the town’s half marathon.
Almost 1,500 people entered the annual race – the highest in its eight-year history.
Despite the fact the 13.1-mile course fell foul of torrential rain and strong winds, almost everyone who set off from Princes Park at 10am on Sunday managed to make it back to the finish line.
James Baker, of the Chichester Runners AC club was first round the route, narrowly missing out on his own course record of one-hour 11 minutes – finishing in an impressive one hour 12 minutes despite the terrible weather.
Four minutes further back was second placed Russ Mullen of Haywards Heath Harriers, while Tom Morris finished third in one hour 16 minutes and 51 seconds.
It was the second triumph in a row for Baker, who has made the Eastbourne race his own in recent years.
A slight change of route added some extra hill climbing for runners and together with the less-then-perfect conditions, the course proved challenging for both serious runners and fundraisers alike.
Some ran in fancy dress, with Peppa Pig proving particularly popular with the crowds who braved the weather to cheer on the field, while another man pounded the streets with little more than a ‘mankini’ covering his modesty.
So far the event has raised more than £100,000 for charity, and organisers were hopeful of adding another sizeable chunk of cash to that amount as well as individual racers who had been busy collecting sponsorship.
Rupert Ashford, speaking on behalf of the half marathon team, thanked everyone who took part of volunteered to help out on the day.
He told the Gazette, “The rain didn’t dampen enthusiasm at all. We had an impressive turn out from hardy runners, joggers and walkers, with an amazing 1,442 completing the course – our most ever.
“Many still turned up in crazy costumes, raising money for their chosen charities and our thanks go to them and the many volunteer marshals who braved the weather to support this event.
“Our congratulations must also go to winner James Baker who completed the new course in just one hour 12 minutes, winning for the second year in a row and just one minute away from breaking his own record set in 2007.
“This was an impressive achievement in the rain – well done.”
• See this Friday’s Herald (February 9) for full results.