Sarah bids for City of Norwich treble
England international Sarah Stradling will aim to clinch a hat-trick of titles in tomorrow's Larking Gowen City of Norwich Half Marathon at the Norfolk Showground. (11am)
The defending champion finished five minutes clear of Colchester Harriers' club mate Charlotte Smith in 2009 and returns along with defending male champion Ian Kimpton (Lincoln Wellington AC).
The delayed 26th annual run has attracted a record entry list of 3,250 after a pre-Christmas postponement due to arctic weather conditions.
'Yes, we have some notables at the elite end,' said Hugh McGill, race director for the past four events. 'Ian Kimpton is back who won the previous race along with Adrian Mussett who finished second and his wife is in the field as well. Martin Williams is a good athlete as well. They'll be looking to run one hour, seven, one hour, eight with a bit of luck.
'We've got Sarah and Debbie Marsden from Westbury Harriers in the women's race. Sarah will be looking to run one hour, 16 minutes. Debbie is around one hour, 17 or 18 minutes so there might be an opportunity for a race at the front of the women's field. There is a good class of competitor and obviously we have a lot of runners doing it for charity. We've teamed up with Macmillan this year and we have about 260 people signed up to team Macmillan.'
McGill believes the weather-induced four month delay appears to have added to the latest race's appeal.
'We are all looking forward to finishing the unfinished business,' he said. 'It hasn't really posed any logistical problems for us other than perhaps to extend the time we all commit to the event and it also delayed the efforts of the charity runners to get on and raise sponsorship money by running. On the plus side we took the decision to re-open the race and that was very successful. We took almost a record of close to 600 new entries in the five week period the race was re-opened.
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'For the first time ever we had to close the race because it reached its entry limit. Routinely it has been 3,000, but we raised it to 3,250 to accommodate the runners who wanted to enter. Inevitably you will have drop outs and people who don't show for whatever reason but I think we would expect in the region of 2,500 finishers.'
The well established tour of the Showground and surrounding areas is now a firm fixture on the racing calendar following a seasonal switch in 2007.
'The last summer race was in 2006. The following year was the first winter race,' said McGill. 'Bearing in mind we had just under about a thousand for the 2006 race and we're now up above 3,000 so that is a good signal. It's a good time in the racing calendar. For the organisers it's a bit more difficult because you go from sunshine to preparing the race in the cold and the dark nights.
'We also made a decision a few years ago to try and focus on the best of the local runners by changing the prize list and the distribution of prizes. The prizes were heavily weighted towards one big prize but we have spread that out to the top ten in both the men's and women's events to make it a battle of the best county runners, but we also get them from out of the county now.'
• Results will be available on the official web site from Sunday afternoon cityofnorwichhalfmarathon.com.