THE town is celebrating the 30th Hastings Half Marathon this year as thousands of runners gear up to take part in the annual road running competition.
Starting in 1985 with just 1,500 runners, last year some 5,000 people took part, raising between £80,000 and £100,000 for local charities.
Eric Hardwick, M.B.E. of the Hastings Lions Club, who has been the driving force behind the marathon, has spent half his life dedicated to organising an event which has raised more than £40 million for local charities.
Eric said: “It has gone from strength to strength and it went from strength to strength very quickly because in third year of the event we were voted the best half marathon in the UK. So we must have been doing something right. And at the same time we were raising a lot of money every year.
“For the first year it was for the Royal Sussex Hospital, raising equipment and beds for the hospital. Each year we’d try to have a project where by the money was being spent on different projects. Although it has to be said, that since then we tended to change that and encourage runners to raise money for their own particular charity and that’s been very successful. I think, at last years count, about 156 charities had teams running in the event, all raising a lot of money for good courses. The Lions Club started the event but we don’t want the money we want the community to have the money, so the two aims of the event are to promote Hastings and to raise money for the community have proved to be very very successful.”
The Half Marathon has also played an important role in promoting the town and each year thousands of people come to Hastings to compete in what is an important event in the athletics world.
Eric added: “We try to give good value to the runners so the runners have an experience coming to Hastings and they go away thinking what utterly fantastic spectators and crowd support there is.
“Crowd support in Hastings is unique. You’ve even got old folks homes joining in. There’s one on particular place along The Ridge where all the old dears and all the old boys come out with their pots and pans and make a real big noise. It’s that kind of atmosphere that makes it.”