Hastings Half Marathon: Opportunity knocks for rare local winner

Gary Foster crosses the line to finish third in last year's Hastings Half Marathon. Picture courtesy Roberts Photographic
Gary Foster crosses the line to finish third in last year's Hastings Half Marathon. Picture courtesy Roberts Photographic

The town is coming alive for the 35th Hastings Half Marathon tomorrow (Sunday), with an expectation that we could see a local winner.

The recent half marathons around the country have shown that the formidable Kenyan athletes are not coming over to the UK this spring, giving domestic athletes a chance to shine.

Kenya has produced 20 of the last 27 men’s winners in Hastings, although the African nation hasn’t been represented in the town since 2016.

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In their absence, there are at least three local athletes - all from Hastings Athletic Club - who stand a chance of becoming the first local winner since Tony Graham in 1987 (last year’s winner Adam Clarke wasn’t classed as a local having moved out of the area in adult life).

Gary Foster (race number one) is running better than when he finished third last year, as illustrated by his personal best time and high finish at a windswept Vitality Big Half in London two weeks ago.

Rhys Boorman (2022) was second in Hastings two years ago and his new PB at the Vitality Half shows he too is in decent form.

Jeff Pyrah (2946), who seems to have got better with age over the years, was third in Hastings in 2015 and is still running well at 46.

Another Hastings AC member, Daniel Anderson (2106), has made the top 10 in Hastings many times down the years, with a best placing of fifth in 2016.

It’s a shame that Hastings Runners talent Matt Edmonds, a top 10 finisher in each of the last two years, cannot run due to a knee problem.

Ashford & District RRC ace Robert Latala (2228), who finished fifth last year, and Middlesex-based Josseli Polini (1677) are capable of 70 minutes, while David Winston (2834) is a fast late entrant.

The women’s race looks to be wide open, as it was last year when Maria Heslop won in her mid-50s, although again there appears to be a good chance of a local winner.

Hastings Runners triathlete Laura Addie (2187), who came fifth last year, is aiming to improve her long distance performances and could be a real threat.

Rachael Mulvey was third last year and has been in fine form so far in 2019, while her Hastings AC clubmate Jenna French (2538) is aiming to keep up her high standing in the race.

There may well be some late entrants as entries are taken up to 10am on race morning. The race will start in Sea Road, St Leonards, at 10.30am.

The Lions Club of Hastings-organised event is for everyone to enjoy, however, and more than 3,000 runners of all ages and abilities have entered so far. Many will be raising money for a charity or needy cause close to their heart.

They include the Jury family from all over the world - Tim (101), Ashley (102), Tom (103) and Robin (104) - Christina Dearle from Spain wears race number 1066, Lisa Peterson (1969) is celebrating her 50th and Simon Lake (2158) is his ATCSquadron number.

This will be the 35th running of the popular annual race, which always attracts large numbers of spectators around the 13.1-mile route.

The Buckswood School Mini-Run - for children aged 7-16 - will take place along the seafront during the main event. Entries for that event have now closed and won’t therefore be available on the day.

Race programmes are available, and souvenirs will be for sale on the day and online at www.hastings-half.co.uk

* Full coverage of the event will appear in next week’s Observer. To order a copy to be posted to you, call 0330 403 0066.