By Ben Cornwell

Having been cancelled for the past two years, Hastings Half Marathon is back on Sunday 20 March. Organised by the Hastings Lions Club, it’s a major fund-raising charity event with more than 5,000 runners taking part. But for athletes with competitive ambitions it’s also a popular race in the calendar due to its date falling a month before the London marathon. Many consider the difficulty of the course – its sloping sections and strong headwinds – to be good preparation for the double-length run across the capital.

For local runners, even those who have run internationally, there’s the added pressure of competing in their home town. 

CREDIT: Sussex Sports Photography

Over the last six to eight weeks, the Hastings Athletic Club (HAC) has been making sure that all their runners are sufficiently prepared, with level 3 endurance coach Dylan Janetta coaching specially constructed sessions. Many have spent the winter months running cross-country, and they have had to get re-accustomed to road running and longer distances by increasing the volume of their runs. 

But only some from the endurance group and a handful of the more mature athletes from the club are taking part as  senior middle-distance coach Peter Baker admits he does not advise any athletes in their late teens or early 20s to sign up. He feels that the course is too much to put their bodies through while they are still developing.

Having run the course several times himself, he says that the key to successfully finishing the course is even pacing. “The most important thing is not to go off too hard. If you do, you will pay for it later. It ‘s very easy to get sucked in with the atmosphere when the Chariots of Fire music comes on. But there is a very steep hill within 300-400 metres of the start, which is totally sapping, and so you will only make the rest of the course harder for yourself.”

Runners are unlikely to achieve personal bests or their fastest times compared to flatter routes. But there are other rewards. “One of the bonuses is the amazing support that people in Hastings give it,” he says. “I think it is up there amongst the top half marathons in the country.”

Runners will be setting off from the Sea Road at 10:30am (10:45am for the younger contestants in the mini-run).

1985…and 1066

Former chairman and now a trustee of HAC Lionel Parr was involved in the first staging of the event run back in 1985 and helped record by hand the timings of every athlete running that day. Club stalwart Reg Wild was also involved, sponsoring and creating the mini-run, a shorter race of 2km along the seafront for under 17s. The first two half marathons in 1985 and 1986 were won by HAC club legend Derek Stevens with his 1986 result making all the headlines when he finished in a time of 1.06.6 whilst wearing the race number 1066. It’s true!

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