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Royden sets pace yet again

BARRY Royden set an unofficial British record for successive annual victories when he won his 14th Hempstead Half Marathon title.

Royden led a Medway & Maidstone AC clean sweep of the top places but had to work hard to stay ahead of a determined Gareth Williams. The constant pressure from his friend and training partner pushed Royden to his fastest time on the course for over seven years to secure the win in 68min 43sec.

The two main protagonists were joined by the young pretender, Darren Mitchell, for the early miles but it was down to two at the front on the climb up Deanwood Drive onto the Maidstone Road.

At this point, Pat Curran moved powerfully into third place and Chris Knight began to close on Mitchell as Lee McMeekin held a lonely sixth place.

Royden first drifted into a 10 metre lead on Bredhurst Road but Williams responded and the gap remained constant until the loop round Darland Banks.

As the athletes emerged at the top of Star Lane a smiling Royden diced with the traffic before pulling clear for a margin of 13 seconds at the finish over the gallant Williams who had a shoe lace flapping for over two miles in the closing stages.

Almost four minutes passed before quality athletes Curran and Knight finished ahead of the game Mitchell and an isolated McMeekin.

Michael Poppy (Sittingbourne Striders) finally brought another club vest home ahead of veteran winner, Ray Pearce (Istead and Ifield) as the top eight finished under 80 minutes in cold and windy conditions.

Royden was 22 years old when he first won this race in 1989 but the women's winner has an even longer relationship with the event.

Sue Martin-Clarke won the inaugural race in 1982 and proceeded to rack up five wins in the 80s and seven in the 90s before winning her 13th Kent Today trophy in 2002.

After barely recovering from the London Marathon the Larkfield midwife still had sufficient energy to dip under 90 minutes as she enjoyed a comfortable cushion over Michelle Flaxton, of Dartford Road Runners.

The 21st anniversary half-marathon was sponsored by Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre and supported by the Medway Messenger and Medway Today.

It's estimated that more than £750,000 has been raised for charity since the first event in 1982.

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