With the new year now upon us, thoughts start to turn towards the Hastings Half Marathon.
The 32nd staging of the annual Hastings Lions Club-organised event will take place on Sunday March 20 and entries hit the 1,000 mark before Christmas.
The 13.1-mile run - held over a tough, undulating course which circumnavigates the town - is widely regarded as one of the finest distance events in the country and runners travel from far and wide to take part.
Kenyan athletes have won the race for 16 of the last 18 years, including all of the last five. Last year Sammy Nyokaye cruised to victory by more than four minutes in a time of 1:05.27.
Six men - Derek Stevens (1985 and 1986), Paul Davies-Hale (1989 and 1990), Sammy Bitok (1994 and 1995), Simon Kasimili (2000 and 2002), Fred Mogaka (2004 and 2005) and Kiplimo Kimutai (2008 and 2009) - have won the race twice, while Birhan Dagne (1998, 2006 and 2007) has been the leading lady on three occasions.
Davies-Hale’s winning time in 1989 of 1:02.10 was the fastest in the world that year and the second quickest in the event’s history.
The course record, incidentally, was set by another of the Kenyan flyers, Samuel Otieno, with a superb run of 1:01.37 back in 1999.
But the beauty of the race is that, unlike in most sports, runners of varying ages and abilities enjoy the opportunity to compete alongside the very best.
Charity is the real winner with tens of thousands of pounds raised for needy causes every year by the numerous fun runners in a field usually approaching the 5,000 mark.
This year organisers are encouraging entrants to don Norman and Saxon costume to help celebrate the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.
A Mini-Run for children aged 11-16 takes place along the seafront during the main event and entry for both can be made by visiting www.hastings-half.co.uk
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