IN sweltering conditions, Tipton Harriers’ Mark Powell raced well clear of the field to easily win the 30th Mansfield Half Marathon at Berry Hill Park today.
With the sun shining bright and temperatures hitting 26 degrees, the town produced a massive turn-out of spectators to cheer on 791 Half Marathon runners followed by almost 1,800 Fun Run participants in a noisy and colourful spectacle.
Despite a breeze, the brand new Half Marathon route proved gruelling with most front-runners well short of personal best times and Powell winning in 1.12.43, three and a half minutes ahead of Notts AC’s Tim Hartley in 1.16.17 with Notts team mate Chris Rainsford third in 1.16.37.
Matlock AC’s Christine Howard, twice a past ladies’ winner, was first lady home again, after two years in second place, in 1.26.26, almost five minutes in front of second lady Julie Lamb (Wigston Phoenix) with Belper Harriers’ Stephanie Ilsley third.
Fun Run winner was Mansfield Harriers youngster Lewis Ashmore, son of Harriers’ veteran Terry, with Stephanie Oakes first female home.
For a change the race did not attract any late entries from international runners, leaving it open for local and club level athletes to challenge for the crown, although there was one international star present in GB hurdler Perry Shakes-Drayton, who was there as an ambassador for McCain Foods’ McCain Home Grown Talent scheme.
The mighty Tipton Harriers are national cross country and national road relay champions and this was winner Powell’s third Half Marathon triumph of the summer, having already triumphed at Buxton and Hinckley.
“I was really pleased to get away and the lead just grew,” he said. “It was a slow time but it was tough out there, especially with the heat.
“It was a fabulous course to be honest. I did this one three years ago but this was a totally different course and much tougher
“In the last three miles the legs were really starting to feel it. There were a few climbs that caught up with me before the end.
“It becomes more of a challenge when you are away on your own. You have to get the mindset right and keep pushing on.”
First lady home Christine Howard won the race in 2000 and 2006 and after two second places in the last two years was delighted to be over the line first again.
But she also felt the strain of the new course in the intense heat and said: “That was a really tough course.
“It was very hot and hilly as well as windy and there was no shade anywhere.
“You were very exposed and there was nowhere to cool down. It was just a case of surviving rather than worry about getting a good time.
“I am in training for a triathlon in the French Alps on 27th July and the half marathon there will be held at attitude so this will do me good today.
“It isn a fantastic crowd here who support you all the way round the course. Everyone is in their gardens cheering you on. It’s lovely.”
One again the tide of humanity pouring round the course included large numbers of people in fancy dress, suffering eve more in the heat in their elaborate costumes, as well as people running for a huge variety of charities.
It all proved too much for a couple of runners who collapsed just over the finishing line and needed medical treatment for dehydration and heat exhaustion.
The turn-out for the big race this year was up on last year with some of those who booked to run last year dropping out on the day due to the hot weather and England’s World Cup football campaign on the TV.
Back again for 2011, the Chad and Mansfield Building Society are the two sponsors who have stuck with the race through every one of its 30 battles, conceived as it was within 24 hours of the finish of the first London Marathon in 1981.
It was first called the Mansfield Stars and Stripes Half Marathon and held in the first week of July near American Independence Day, starting from just outside Titchfield Park.
Berry Hill Social Welfare Centre, Available Car and Howarth Timber are now also among the sponsors along with new partner McCain, whose Home Grown Talent scheme is designed to identify youngsters with passion and talent and reward them with a prize package including membership of their local athletics club.
Pricipal partner of UK Athletics, McCain ambassador Perri Shakes-Drayton met many of the youngsters before and after the Fun Run for which she sounded the official starting claxon.
Post race presentations were made by Mansfield Building Society chief executive Nigel Quinton.
Steve Shatwell, chairman of the organising committee, said: “It would be obvious to anyone here today what a success it’s been.
“We had so many people of all ages. It has been a lovely day, which helps, though it makes it harder for the runners
“But I don’t think there are many events in the country where you get everyone from seasoned runners to a woman pushing a buggy round the course.
“Everyone fits together so well. I believe we are one of the biggest annual fun runs in the country. We are very pleased. It was an absolute success.”
Don’t miss this Wednesday’s Chad for a seven page Half Marathon and Fun Run special with more photographs and a full list of results from both races.