Lockdown hasn't dimmed Leleu and Baker's thirst for race honours

The absence of competitive racing during the summer has not stopped some of Chichester’s top runners keeping up their fitness levels – as impressive performances in recent weeks demonstrate.

Harry Leleu - pictured in last year's Centurion 5 - has set a new Chi Runners record over 5k / Picture: Lee Hollyer
Harry Leleu - pictured in last year's Centurion 5 - has set a new Chi Runners record over 5k / Picture: Lee Hollyer

The most outstanding run has come from 24-year-old Harry Leleu who has smashed his PB twice in recent weeks over 5k on the road.

His first sub 14.30 clocking of 14.26 came at the Mid Cheshire 5k in August, a time he obliterated at the Mallory Park festival last week.

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In a quality field, Leleu used his new speed to good effect to win the race outright by a couple of seconds with a time of 14.07, a new club record and a time which puts him just outside the UK top 20 rankings.

Leleu is also a promising triathlete and this new level in the final discipline for that event will give Leleu added confidence when triathlons resume.

The past few months have been the longest gap between races that local distance runner James Baker has had to endure for more than a quarter of a century.

With more than 900 career wins over a variety of distances and terrains ranging from 400ms relay legs on the track through to road races from 5k to the marathon, as well as some of the toughest hill and fell races in the south, Baker has always used frequent racing as a sharpener to his fitness.

The hiatus seems not to have affected his competitive edge as he added another race win over the weekend at the Queen Elizabeth multi terrain half marathon. On a hilly course, his winning time of 78mins 33sec was worth a time several minutes faster on flat terrain and in some way made up for not being able to add to his unbeaten run in the Chichester Half which should have taken place a a few weeks ago.

Leleu and Baker were among Chichester athletes who gales at the Goodwood motor circuit in September although both had to settle for runners-up spots against fierce opposition. Leleu recorded 31.19 over 10k, just 18 seconds off his PB and was beaten by Joe Morwood from Aldershot & Farnham.

Baker ran a brave 1hr 56min 33sec over the 20 mile course, having to battle the teeth of the wind for more than eight laps of the circuit.

While the Chichester athlete was five minutes outside his best, he was unlucky to meet South London Harrier Ollie Garrod, who ran a new PB of 1.53.08.At the same event, Aleksandra

Vargin was first over-40 woman in the 5k in 20.03 while Mikey Neville was 21st in the half marathon.

Joining Leleu in the 10k were Mike Houston (9th overall and first over-40 in 34.11), Chris West (24th in 36.14) and Rob de Lacy (38th in 38.42).