The 29th Hastings Half Marathon is set to take place this morning (Sunday) in surely some of the coldest ever conditions.
Temperatures for the Hastings Lions Club-organised race are expected to barely exceed freezing point and with a biting wind blowing in from the east, it will feel several degrees colder. Fortunately, the snow that has affected much of the country over the past few days is likely to stay away.
The weather - which contrasts markedly from last year when the event took place in plesantly warm sunshine - will hardly be suited to the African runners who, as usual, are expected to battle it out at the head of the field.
While Matthew Kimutai (race number 1) and Peter Emase (2) battle it out in the men’s category, their Kenyan compatriot Polloine Wanyjiku (2) is on paper the outstanding athlete among the females.
The Kenyan men could be split, however, by up-and-coming Ethiopian Hailu Million (3965), who is considered a vastly improving long distance runner. A fourth Kenyan - Daniel Kariithi - had registered to run, but has withdrawn after encountering visa issues.
Of the homegrown competitors, over 320 runners have qualified for the Sussex County Half Marathon Championships and the hot favourite is James Baker (1143) from Chichester.
Baker is considered the most prolific and successful runner in Sussex, but he might be pushed by local lad Daniel Anderson (3157). Jamie Larkin (3158) is also set to compete for the top spots, as is James Mountford (2566).
The top Sussex lady runner could well be Samantha Alvarez (50), who will be targeting the double of county and local victories, as well as being in top five women overall.
Musical bands will be lining the route more than ever this year, giving all participants the best possible support and encouragement. Over 150 charities and needy causes are set to be represented on Sunday, with thousands of pounds expected to be raised.
The 13.1-mile route circumnavigates the town with the hilly course making for a difficult but rewarding challenge for all of the 4,000 or so competitors. The race starts at 10.30am in Sea Road, St Leonards, and the lead runners will return there for the finish little more than an hour later.