I have not lived in Hastings for more than a decade now but having been raised in the town and still having strong family ties there I still consider it my second home.
Despite my fondness for the town, as a huge sports fan it saddens me to describe the sports scene in the town as at a fairly low ebb. The senior football club is heavily flirting with relegation to the County League. The cricket club unfortunately dropped out of Sussex’s premier competition at the end of last season to cap a fairly forgettable summer. Both the rugby club and the hockey club in the town are fine sporting institutions but have perhaps failed to make the waves that a town the size of Hastings might have hoped they would.
The purpose of my letter is not to demean the town nor its numerous sporting clubs, I only include the above paragraph to highlight the plight of sports in general in a town that has largely underachieved in a sporting context. Year after year however there is one event in the sporting calendar that continues to show what the town of Hastings and its marvellous people are capable of if you get the product right, that is of course the Hastings Half Marathon.
I am a keen runner and have run at numerous events up and down the country and on Sunday I returned for my fourth attempt at the Hastings Half Marathon, yet again I was completely overwhelmed by this splendid event. While it was a shame to see a few fairly thoughtless folk on Queensway protesting against Hastings Borough Council, those involved are entitled to their misguided opinions but it was completely wrong to try and highjack the half marathon for their political crusades. Their negativity had no place in the carnival atmosphere around the course.
The race itself is extraordinarily well-organised by Eric Hardwick and the brilliant volunteers from the Hastings Lions Club but what always strikes me most about the race is the outstanding support that the people of the town offer the event.
I am sure there are lessons in all of this for the various sporting administrators in the town. I appreciate how difficult generating interest in amateur sport is but if the Hastings Half Marathon proves one thing it is that the people of the town are incredibly warm and supportive if you get the event right. To all those who come out to cheer, sing, offer refreshment and encouragement no matter what the weather, year after year I say a heartfelt thank you – you are a credit to this wonderful town.