Just like 950 years ago, there was an away winner of the 1066 Way to Battle race yesterday (Sunday) morning.
James Baker, of Chichester Runners, held off the home contingent to win the one-off event to celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Hastings Athletic Club had to settle for second, third and fourth in the form of Jeff Pyrah, Rhys Boorman and Daniel Anderson respectively.
Approximately 17 miles in length, the race gave runners the rare to opportunity to follow the route of William The Conqueror.
After a drizzly 9am start at Pevensey Castle, the weather brightened up as the runners roughly followed the ‘1066 footpath’ via Hankham, Rickney, Herstmonceux Castle, Boreham Street, Brown Bread Street, Ashburnham and Catsfield to the finish outside Battle Abbey.
The challenging cross-country route was made more testing by all the rain of the preceding 18 hours or so, particularly over the various styles, which were somewhat slippery.
Baker and Boorman, in fact, both fell at some point on the route, and there were certainly plenty of muddy legs by the time the runners crossed the finish line.
The leading four male runners ran pretty much together for the first 10 miles or so until 39-year-old Baker, who has won more races than any other distance runner in the country, gradually pulled away to triumph in a time of 1:48.40.
The ageless Pyrah, 44, finished more than a minute-and-three-quarters behind in second having overhauled Boorman around two miles from the finish.
Boorman, who also finished third in the Hastings Half Marathon during March, looked utterly exhausted as he crossed the line, illustrating the difficulty of the challenge the runners faced.
Pyrah said afterwards that he expected Baker to win the race and was pleased with his second place. He added that he, Boorman and Anderson had been talking about the event all summer.
There was a local winner of the women’s race, however, as a jubilant Hastings AC talent Karen Murdoch crossed the line arms aloft in 2:13.25. Jenna French, of Hastings Runners, was second in 2:20.03.
Battle-based shooter Steve Scott, proudly sporting his Olympic bronze medal at Team GB clothing, started the race and was there at the finish to hand out many of the finisher’s medals.
In all, 816 runners passed over the start line (from an entry of 1066) and there were 810 finishers, all of whom received a unique ‘Battle Brass’ featuring Battle Abbey. Many embraced the spirit of the occasion by donning Norman and Saxon costumes.
The last entrants to finish, in 6:12.49, were Brian Nuttall and Debbie Cranfield, who were the official race sweepers. Two male runners were disqualified for running with race numbers given to them by female runners, without notifying the race organisers.
Having parked his car at Pevensey for the start, one entrant actually completed the race and then ran back to Pevensey from Battle, a total of nearly 35 miles!
The event organisers were pleased to report that no major injuries were suffered by participants, although one marshal did have a medical problem and was attended to by the medical team.
It was a tough event, but the beauty of the countryside and the history runners were involved in took away the pain of the tremendous effort made by all entrants.
The Battle and Villages Lions Club wishes to thank all concerned with putting on the event. All money raised will be used in the community for those in need and anyone interested in joining the lions club should contact the organisers.
Top 10 finishers: 1st James Baker (Chichester Runners) 1:48.40, 2nd Jeff Pyrah (Hastings AC) 1:50.26, 3rd Rhys Boorman (Hastings AC) 1:53.02, 4th Daniel Anderson (Hastings AC) 1.53.28, 5th Stuart Mills (Uckfield Runners) 2:01.17, 6th David Kofoed 2:01.24, 7th Sacha Reeves 2:05.20, 8th Dale Anderton (Meads Runners) 2:05.39, 9th Ross Brocklehurst (Run Wednesdays) 2:05.48, 10th Stephen Hudson (Wadhurst Runners) 2:06.33.
Top 3 ladies: 1st Karen Murdoch (Hastings AC) 2:13.25, 2nd Jenna French (Hastings Runners) 2:20.03, 3rd Ali Farrall (Kent AC) 2:20.35.
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