Happy Harriers delighted with South Downs Relay... trio of Chi Runners teams finish

The prestigious South Downs Relay race is celebrating its 30th year and Chichester was well represented with several teams running including the South Downs Harriers and Chichester Runners.

Two of the Chichester Runners SDR team
Two of the Chichester Runners SDR team

The invitation-only event occurs every year and encompasses numerous teams from around the south. Each team is made up of six runners that have to cover the formidable South Downs Way that stretches 100 extremely-undulated miles from Eastbourne to Winchester.

Each relay member completes three legs of the race which vary both in distance and difficulty.

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Nick Casburn captained the Chichester-based Harriers who spent the day going toe to toe against the Chichester Runners A team. The sides both left Eastbourne at 7.30am and the lead changed hands several times.

Chichester Runners took a three-minute advantage into the penultimate leg but a fine display of athleticism from Neil McApline saw the Harriers overturn this and gain an eight-minute advantage.

The final leg saw Harriers’ Jason Rae cross the line in front of Chichester Runners.

Harriers’ overall time was 12hr 43min to give them 13th place out of 32 in the A race, just ahead of Chi Runners.

Chichester Runners fielded three teams in the popular South Downs Way Relay – in the men’s, ladies and veteran’s categories.

The senior team finished 15th in their category in 12hr 47min and provide a mixture of youth and experience.

Keith Akerman and Mick Palmer were joined by Justin Eggins, Charles Rodmell, Gary Williams and Graham Woodward who all stuck to their task despite a nasty stitch reducing their final runner to a virtual walk.

With the course record amazingly just under the ten-hour mark, Chichester’s own club record is an impressive 10hr 15min with members of that team still competing and now in the over-60 veterans

This team really impressed on Saturday and, with a combined age of 380 years, managed to negotiate the course in 13hr 53min to finish seventh veteran team with many of the runners in their category up to 20 years their junior.

The backbone of Chichester’s medal-winning veterans since the 1990s has been the trio of Dave Dorning, Rob Wiggins and Dave Worcester.

Now all aged 63, their sheer consistency over more than 20 years has been remarkable.

As seasoned cross-country runners, their ability to counter the rough terrain of the South Downs was not in question but to have to run three separate legs totalling over 16 miles during the course of a single day requires great powers of recovery, even for a younger athlete.

Just a year younger than the trio is club chairman Tom Blaylock, who has completed the distance single-handedly in the past as one of the club’s ultra-distance competitors.

Tony Cooley and Jan Hill, youngest and oldest members of the team at just over 61 and 65 respectively, completed the team to give Chichester what may be a unique place in the event’s history.

There was a new look to the women’s team with Tracy Lockyear and Sarah Fenmor Collins the two most experienced members of the team and four relative newcomers to the club filling the other four places.

Nadia Anderson, Lorna Cowan, Katie Quigley and Karen Miles rose to the challenge to bring the team home in 14hr 58mins, ninth in their category.

This included an 18th and final leg from Miles who brought the team home despite having a nasty fall earlier in the day.

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