Door open to UK athletes in Hastings Half Marathon

Ben Fish will be aiming for his second Hastings Half Marathon victory.

Ben Fish will be aiming for his second Hastings Half Marathon victory.

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With no high class African athletes expected to compete in the 2017 Hastings Half Marathon today (Sunday), the door is firmly open to the UK competitors.

It looks as though the Hastings Lions Club-organised event will have a domestic winner of both the male and female competitors for the first time in seven years.

Rhys Boorman will be buoyed by his third place finish last year.

Rhys Boorman will be buoyed by his third place finish last year.

Ben Fish was the last non-Kenyan men’s winner when he triumphed back in 2010 and ‘the Blackburn flyer’ (race number 2) will be the favourite this time around.

Fish, who was also the runner-up in 2014, has made the long trip south full of confidence after winning last weekend’s Bath Half Marathon in a time of 65:16.

Having focused primarily on training during February, Fish recently set a course record at the Ron Hill Accrington 10K with 31:42 and ran 68:04 at the Four Villages Half Marathon in windy conditions during January.

The 34-year-old Fish has been targeting Hastings since the turn of the year and considers it one of his favourite events. He said after the 2014 race that the crowd support made him feel like a local athlete.

On the subject of local athletes, a fascinating battle lies in store between a crop of strong runners from Hastings Athletic Club who could well be very much in the thick of things.

Rhys Boorman (2795) finished second in the Eastbourne Half Marathon a fortnight ago and will have happy memories of his splendid third place finish in last year’s race.

Jeff Pyrah (2938), who entered this Monday, came third in 2015 and is still running well at the age of 44.

Gary Foster (3) is a vastly improving athlete and may well be in close company with Boorman, while Daniel Anderson (2803) is a hugely experienced campaigner and can’t be discounted.

Kieron Booker (540) has made rapid progress of late and claimed his maiden race victory at the East Sussex Sunday Cross-Country League event in Pett last weekend.

The female race looks to be wide open, but if Karen Murdoch - winner of the 1066 Way to Battle race last October - decides to be a late entry, she could well take the title. But watch out for Lucy Martlew (2133).

Premier Travel Chauffeurs is again offering £1,000 for beating the male and female course records, but with those marks having been set by top class athletes and having stood for many years, it’s highly unlikely they will come under threat.

The leading lights will be joined on the challenging 13.1-mile route which circumnavigates the town by a few thousand other runners, all with their own goals and motivation for taking part.

Among them is Andy Chadwick (107), who will seek to get round in under three hours running backwards, and the Mayor of Folkestone, Martin Salmon.

More than 50 charities will be represented and there will be plenty of entertainment around the course. The Oresome Sounds will be playing at nine miles and a Dolly Parton tribute act at Azur in the final mile.

The race will get under way from Sea Road, St Leonards, at 10.30am and the leading runners will be back there for the finish an hour-and-a-bit later.

The Saga Insurance-sponsored Mini Run for children aged 9-16 will take place during the main event. That race will start at 10.45am from approximately 200m west of Hastings Pier and finish at the half marathon start/finish line.

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