THE coronavirus and three big storms in a row failed to prevent Sunday’s Surrey Half running events attracting runners from many parts of the country.

More than 3,800 competitors and hundreds of spectators turned up for the three races, despite the growing fear that the illness will be spread in large gatherings.

Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge followed each other in February to saturate the land on part of the course, but the organisers manned a pump on Saturday to clear a flooded road.

“Part of Clay Lane, on the half marathon route at Jacob’s Well, was closed last Thursday because it was flooded,” said Surrey Half marketing manager Hollie Light. “We hired a pump and spent all day pumping the water away on Saturday.”

The virus and storms did have one effect on the event though. The factory in China which made the finishers’ medals had to close because of the virus, causing a delay in their despatch by cargo ship. The boat was held up several times by bad weather, meaning the medals could not be delivered in time for Sunday.

“Headline printers in Woking managed to print 4,000 substitute medals made of card in just 48 hours,” said Hollie. “We presented those to the runners and will make sure everyone gets their proper medal as soon as we can after they are delivered.”

A record number of 600 children took part in the three events – a half marathon between Woking Park and Jacobs Well, plus an all-comers five kilometre and a two-kilometre kids run in Old Woking and the park.

“We faced a lot of challenges this year, but 2020 Surrey Half was the best yet,” added Hollie. The event had made big strides in reducing its impact on the environment, with 10,000 single-use bottles of water given out compared with last year.

“We reduced the water stations to just three, introduced a refill station and used compostable paper cups,” said Hollie. “Our thanks go to all the runners who used their own water containers this year.

“We also increased the amount of vegetarian and vegan options in the food catering.”

This year, there again meditation sessions for anxious contestants before the races and yoga “warm-downs”, run by Bonnie Rise life coaching and Lululemon of Guildford.

The overall half marathon winner was Ben Cole, of Tonbridge Athletic Club, in a time of one hour, 10 minutes and 17 seconds. Second was Max Dumbrell, of Horsham Bluestar Harriers, in 1:10:55, and third Alistair Campbell, of Stroud and District AC, in 1:11:11.

The first woman home was Katie Harbon, North Herts Road Runners, in 1:22:38. Rebecca Hair, of Cambridge and Coleridge AC came second in 1:23:55 and Becky Morish, of Tonbridge AC was third in 1:24:37.

Among the teams competing in the half marathon was one from the Parish of St Peter in Woking. They were led in by the Rev Jonathan, whose time was one hour, 44 minutes and seven seconds. He was followed by Chris Heisig, the Rev Sam Waako, Andy Holcombe and Sarah Hewetson-Grubb.

The team is hoping to raise £600 for the Woking-based Your Sanctuary victim support charity.

For the full story and special picture feature, get the 12 March edition of the News & Mail