The 2015 Hastings Half Marathon today (Sunday) is expected to be a battle between two top African runners.
But the real tussle is likely to happen just behind them because one of the strongest ever contingents of Sussex runners is set to line up in the 31st staging of the annual Hastings Lions Club-organised event.
Encouraged by the Harvey Curtis Sussex Road Race Challenge, for the first time in many years we will see the top runners from the Sussex clubs taking part this year.
They include Neil Boniface (Horsham Joggers), winner of the Barns Green Half Marathon last year and a sub 70-minute man, and Kevin Rojas (Brighton & Hove AC), runner-up in the recent Brighton Half Marathon in a PB of 1:06.46.
Andrew Donno (Brighton & Hove AC) and Matt Bradford (Lewes AC) are 70-minute men, while Patrick Acaye (Phoenix) is always in the mix as a sub 70-minute runner and Philip Gowing (Wadhurst Runners) could make the top 10.
On top of these fine athletes, there is the trio from Hastings AC. Jeff Pyrah produced a blistering run last year to finish a fantastic fourth overall, and win the Sussex title and top local runner.
His clubmate James Mountford was ninth overall and second local last year following an excellent showing in 2013, while the experienced Daniel Anderson has claimed the local honours many times down the years.
As for the African challenge, Kenyan flyer Sammy Nyokaye is the favourite having won the Surrey Half Marathon two weeks ago in 1:02.41 and finished second in last weekend’s North London Half Marathon in 1:06.53.
But he could have great competition from Yared Hagos, who has a PB of 1:03.31. The Ethiopian has been based in the north of England for the last few years, and has won half marathons in places such as Sunderland, Watford, Leicester and Northumberland.
In fact, Hagos won 14 races in 2012, four in 2013, four in 2014 and started this season with a second place at Watford. He’s well-known in the north, but this will be his first visit to the far south of the country.
The women’s race should be won by Mercyline Ondieki with a time in the mid-70s. The Kenyan, who like Nyokaye is part of the team run-fast stable, is coming off the back of a fine second place in the North London Half Marathon.
Again there will be a lot of interest in what is happening behind her from the Sussex runners.
Emily Proto (Arena 80 AC) was sixth overall woman last year and came third at the Brighton Half Marathon this year.
Sarah Gruber (Sittingbourne) finished eighth woman last year, while Rebecca Holdaway, Kate Keeble, Catherine Sharp, Sue Fry, Yvette Grice and Helen Roberts are all good athletes who could make the top six.
The local scene is very unclear and we could see some surprises. Could Claire Burnham (Hastings) be the top local lady and how will Riz Maslem (Hastings Runners) perform?
Total entries are expected to number 3,500-3,600. Claire Maplesden is running the route twice, starting at 7.30am, while Ashley Varley is accompanying a blind runner and Tyrone Collins is pushing a wheelchair in aid of ‘Molly’.
The race will start in Sea Road, St Leonards, at 10.30am.