RECORD crowds lined the streets of Hastings and St Leonards to help make the 28th annual half-marathon event the biggest and best ever staged.
Thousands of spectators helped create a carnival atmosphere along the entire route as the sun shone on the warmest day of the year. The 3,600 competitors ran, belly-danced or even pantomime horseplayed their way round the undulating 13.1-mile course.
Race director, Eric Hardwick, declared the event ‘the best ever staged’ with tens of thousands of pounds raised for good causes in the area.
As the men’s course winner Kenyan Bernard Chemugo, was returning in just over an hour and six minutes, many fun runners and amateurs were still toiling up Queensway in the midday heat.
And for the first time, there was a band half way along at the Napier Road junction to lift their spirits.
The Battle Town Band played on for several hours as the runners made their way along the toughest section of the course.
Supporters lined almost the entire length of Queensway to give their cheer on the runners, especially those in fancy dress.
Among those who received extra attention was Frenchman Andre Furzeau, from Normandy, who ran and walked dressed as a Norman soldier. Andre wore heavy medieval chain mail and carried a shield and sword weighing 40lb. He also wore the most recognisable number in the field ‘1066.’
As the runners weaved their way along The Ridge, Scouts and Guides groups manned water stations and an army of children and parents handed out sweets and oranges.
Music lifted the spirits of many runners as they made their way past St Helen’s Parish Church.
Dozens of people cheered at the Kings Head pub in Ore which marked the last of the big climbs and the turn for home.
The Old Town was packed with supporters lining the streets waving flags and clapping continuously.
A Popeye character and a group of drummers greeted runners as they entered the sea front at Rock-a-Nore Road to take on the last three miles.
Thousands of people lined the seafront to cheer the runners home in the baking spring heat.
One man aged in his 40s collapsed around one mile from the finish with heat exhaustion and was taken to the Conquest Hospital for treatment.
Phillip Greenhough, aged in his 20s, collapsed just 200 yards from the finish after running in 1hr 20 minutes.
He was also suffering from heat exhaustion and kept in overnight before being released. Race organisers made sure he received his medal.
The oldest entrant in the race was 84-year-old Doreen Offredi from Wimbledon, who completed the course in five hours.
And Lee Bowdler, from St Leonards, set a new event record for the slowest finishing time after visiting all the pubs on the route to raise money for St Michael’s Hospice.
Lee crossed the line at 6.40pm, seven hours and 10 minutes after starting.
Mr Hardwick, 69, said: “It was one of the best days we have ever had.
“The weather was very good and we had record numbers of supporters around the course. Many runners said it was the best they have ever had.
“Everything ran pretty smoothly and I’m sure it is a day many people will never forget. I will keep on being race director until somebody else wants to take over.”
*Mr Hardwick wanted to point out that entrants who did not write their school down on their entry form could not register for a school team in the mini-run.
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