'Welcome to the sunshine coast', proudly proclaims the information boards on all main roads leading to the Victorian coastal resort of Eastbourne in Sussex. Well, this particular bedraggled runABC reporter and 875 finishers in yesterday's Eastbourne Half Marathon (3 March) would beg to differ!
Eastbourne Half Marathon is now in its 15th year and hopes for a record field were dashed by Storm Freya that arrived during Saturday night and certainly made her presence felt during the race on Sunday morning.
There was a vibrant atmosphere around the tented race village in Princes Park but spectators were spread thinly at the extremities of the course, in the shadow of the South Downs at the western end of the promenade and Sovereign Harbour at the eastern end.
Race winner, Ben Cole (Tonbridge AC – pictured) led a group of four into the teeth of the wind and rain and established an insurmountable advantage on the 437 feet climb to Beachy Head Road. As he negotiated the helter skelter descent towards Holywell Tea Chalet at five miles he was looking composed and eventually stretched his winning margin to four minutes.
Cole (1:14:42) was followed by local favourite Richard Jones (Eastbourne Rovers, 1:18:21) and all-round athlete, Billy Mead (Leighton Buzzard, 1:19:19), who races everything from 100m to 13.1 miles and takes in a range of field events for his club.
The women's race was much closer as Melanie Stemper (1:29:18) came through strongly in the second half for victory over Swiss triathlete Coralie Antille (1:31:15) and defending champion Katie Stephens (Meads Runners, 1:31:40).
One of many courageous efforts on a difficult day for running was the half marathon debut by Shaun Finlay (3:05:13), pushing his six-year-old daughter Summer in her specially adapted wheelchair. Summer was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and she has faced many challenges but is now confounding her medical team and family with her amazing progress.
Although Summer is officially far too young for a half marathon she was awarded a finisher's medal and is pictured below with her proud father. Eastbourne Half Marathon donated £250 in recognition of their effort and to add to Team Summer's charity fund for local children in need, you can visit their Just Giving page here
Images courtesy Herman Leach (above) and Shaun and Summer Finlay on Facebook (below).