Just seven seconds separated the top two runners in one of the closest Hastings Half Marathon finishes for years this morning (Sunday).
But ultimately it was another victory for Kenya as Peter Emase pulled clear of runner-up Dean Lacy (Cambridge Harriers) over the final few hundred metres to cross the finish line in 1:06:58.
Matthew Kimutai, another Kenyan, came third in 1:07:39 with Ethiopian runner Hailu Million fourth in 1:08:13. Fifth-placed James Baker (Chichester Runners & AC) won the Sussex Championship, while eighth-placed James Mountford was the second Sussex runner and leading local.
The top four quickly broke clear at the head of affairs before Emase opened up an advantage of around 50 metres by the top of the long uphill Queensway stretch. That didn’t last long, though, because the top four were all back together again by the midway point at Scollays on The Ridge.
It soon became a two-horse race as Emase and Lacy pulled clear in the eighth mile. They remained neck-and-neck over the downhill stretch into the old town and then along the seafront before Emase proved slightly stronger in the closing stages to become the 14th Kenyan winner in the last 16 years.
The East Africa nation also clinched the women’s title for the third year running as Polline Wanjiku proved far too strong for the rest of the field, crossing the line in 1:16:39. Emily Proto was the second lady, with Emma Richards third.
It was the 29th staging of the annual Hastings Lions Club-organised event and surely one of the coldest. Temperatures were barely above freezing point, although the biting easterly wind was at least helping the runners over the closing stretch along the seafront.
Despite the cold, spectators again turned out in good numbers to cheer the runners around the demanding 13.1-mile course. The Mini-Run - a seafront race for children aged 11-16 which took place during the main event - was won by Ryan Higgs. Sophie Markwick was the first girl.
See Friday’s Hastings Observer for full coverage of the event including results and a picture special.
2013 Hastings Half Marathon top 10 finishers (provisional times): 1 Peter Emase (Kenya) 1:06:58, 2 Dean Lacy (Cambridge Harriers) 1:07:05, 3 Matthew Kimutai (Kenya) 1:07:39, 4 Hailu Million (Ethiopia) 1:08:13, 5 James Baker (Chichester Runners & AC) 1:12:09, 6 Tom Collins (Medway & Maidstone AC) 1:12:54, 7 Stephen Soetaert (Grijsloke, Belgium) 1:13:42, 8 James Mountford (Hastings AC) 1:14:05, 9 Chris Minns (Beckenham Running Club) 1:14:08, 10 Daniel Anderson (Hastings AC) 1:14:17.