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Ben Fish took the lead from the start and never relinquished it.

Ben Fish took the lead from the start and never relinquished it.

Fish cruises home in wind-blown half marathon

Under overcast skies with strong winds gusting, Blackburn’s Ben Fish won the men’s race and Sarah Gruber the women’s in the 2017 Hastings Half Marathon. Nearly 3,500 entered the popular event, which as usual is expected to have raised thousands of pounds for charity. Nick Terdre reports.

Ben Fish of Blackburn Harriers has done it before – he also won in 2010, after which the race, both men’s and women’s, was won by Kenyans for the following six years. But this year the Kenyans have gone in pursuit of more profitable prizes, allowing Brits to come to the fore.

Triumph for Fish

First female: Sarah Gruber after the race.

First female: Sarah Gruber after the race.

Ben Fish won in one hour, nine minutes and 52 seconds. Fresh from victory in the Bath half marathon the previous weekend, he took the lead from the start and eventually finished five minutes ahead of the field. It was, in the words of race director Eric Hardwick of Hastings Lions, a “one-horse race.”

Second home, five minutes behind him, was local lad Rhys Boorman, of Hastings AC, in 1:14:49. Local runners took five of the first 10 places.

Among the women Sarah Gruber of Invicta East Kent AC came first, in 1:26:35, followed by Sue Fry of Hailsham Harriers (1:28:32).

Five of the top 10 women were aged 40 or over. “That’s not unusual in long-distance running, for men and particularly for women,” Mr Hardwick told HOT. “There’s no reason why you can’t go faster after you’re 40. I ran my best marathon when I was 44.”

Flying the flag for Oz.

Flying the flag for Oz.

Win for Salmon too

The junior version, a 1.5-mile run along the sea-front from close to the pier for 9 to 16-year-olds, was won by Toby Salmon (6:43) for the boys and Maya Ramnarine (7:05) for the girls.

In the strong winds there was no chance of any course records being broken.

“For the last three miles, when the runners hit the sea-front, they were running into a wall of wind gusting at up to 40 mph,” Mr Hardwick said.

Braving a few disasters

The conditions also posed problems for the organisers. “We had a few disasters, all our barriers blew down, and the starting arch blew down,” Mr Hardwick said. “We were put to the test, but I like to think we had such a good team, even in the bad conditions we put on a great event.”

Runners were entertained by a Dolly Parton tribute band outside Azur (photo: Imagine Nation).

Runners were entertained by a Dolly Parton tribute band outside Azur (photo: Imagine Nation).

The half marathon attracted 3,493 entrants, of whom 2,720 took part and finished. Among the charities represented more than 50 turned out for St Michael’s Hospice in its 30th anniversary year. Demelza, which provides hospice care for children and is in the process of moving its East Sussex base to St Leonards, had 12 adult runners and one child. RNLI , which was participating for the first time as a group, had six runners following one late drop-out.

The top prizes were presented after the race, but the bulk will be awarded at a prize-giving evening to be held on Sunday 16 April at Azur, when the guest of honour will be local international heptathlete Elise Lovell.

By then some estimates of the amounts raised for charity should be available. It is normally in the range of £100-150,000, according to Mr Hardwick. Last year Hastings Lions raised £50,000 for donation to local good causes and people in need.

Posted 17:25 Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017 In: Sport

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